Green your home, but consider location, location, location


The old “it’s all about location” mantra holds especially true when considering your impact on the environment. An interesting new study reveals technology can only go so far to reduce energy consumption.

The study is the result of a partnership between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Jonathan Rose Companies, and it lends a great deal of credence to transit-oriented development. It is called “Location Efficiency and Housing Type-Boiling it Down to BTUs.” It draws comparisons between the energy (measured in British Thermal Units, BTUs) consumed by typical suburban developments, and energy consumed by a typical transit-oriented developments. TOD, by the way, is development located near transit lines, which is usually dense development in urban areas.

According to the EPA, buildings and transportation account for 70% of America’s energy usage. This report takes a look at both of those things when comparing developments. A detached single family home in a typical suburban area consumes 240 million BTUs of energy, with 108 million consumed by the house and 132 million consumed by transportation. If you green both of those things with energy efficient retrofitting (or replacement), that figure plummets to 158 million BTUs.

That doesn’t reach a typical detached single family home in transit-oriented development, which has the same household energy usage of 108 million BTUs, but a transportation usage of 36 million BTUs. If you green that home and transportation, the figure sits down at 110 million BTUs. Unsurprisingly, the smallest energy footprint is created by efficient multi-family housing in transit-oriented development, which sneaks by the competition unnoticed with 67 million BTUs. 

Living in transit-oriented development, then, is a green decision even if you don’t make any other green decisions for efficiency. The federal government has realized this, and used it to develop an interagency partnership for sustainable communities. The EPA, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are partnered in this effort to emphasize smart growth, especially through grant distribution.

Of course, it is important to ‘green’ your home and transportation no matter where you live. But if you are really considering your impact on the environment-and trying to reduce your energy bills at the same time-location should be the first criterion on your mind.