The realization of net-zero exergy districts can be supported by urbanization options for district density and building characteristics. This research work formulates an urbanization algorithm to minimize the carbon dioxide emissions responsibility of districts based on energy usage and aspects of embodied energy to tackle multiple drivers of urban emissions. The combined method is implemented to scenarios that contribute to a net-zero exergy district target with 6 options for district density and the selection of building materials. Based on a comparison of scenarios for a case study in the province of Ankara, Turkey, the scenario in which on-site exergy production is about 9.5% of the annual exergy consumption will be responsible for about 13,731 ktonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in a timeframe of 30 years. Conversely, a near net-zero exergy district in which on-site exergy production is 75% of the annual exergy consumption will have about 2967 ktonnes of carbon dioxide emissions during the same timeframe, including embodied energy in buildings. The sensitivity analysis with 9 different combinations provides differences in trade-offs based on timeframes and scenarios. The research work has ramifications for local decision-making to avoid locking-in of carbon dioxide emissions by prioritizing an integrated approach to urban energy solutions on the supply and demand sides, district density, and building materials while reaching net-zero targets in the future. (C) 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.