Is sprawl really so terrible? Of course we are trying to make greener buildings, and many think that efficiency improvements in buildings are the most important part of the solution. But the distance a home is from facilities, services and workplaces is a significant factor in the amount of energy that a home uses.As the old real estate maxim says, location matters! In fact, the energy needed for transportation can be a bigger portion of the total energy used than the amount used for the house itself.
In conventional suburban development, an average American home uses 108 million BTUs (British Thermal Units--a measure of energy consumption) per year for operation (heating, cooling, lighting, etc.). But that same house uses 132 million BTUs per year in transportation energy use--for a total of 240 million BTU/year. In other words, for that average home, 55% of its total energy use is for transportation, and 45% is for operations.
A very green and energy efficient building can be more than undone by locating that building in a remote area. Even a net-zero energy house can be more of a drain on energy infrastructure if it is remotely located. Furthermore, the amount of energy and effort needed to extend infrastructure (roads, sewer and water lines, electricity and gas lines, etc.) is also an enormous drain on resources and materials.
Recently, the same complaint has been raised with the planned relocation of the EPA's Regional Headquarters in Kansas City KS, which is being moved from the downtown to a more isolated, suburban location, where transport emissions are expected to be 3 times as much as for the previous location.
Buildings need to be greener, but paying attention to the larger systems is also crucial in making meaningful change needed to get to a more energy efficient future.
written by Eletruk, May 06, 2011
written by Jessica Janes, May 19, 2011
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