Tuesday March 1, 2011

We spend a lot of time and money making our homes more energy efficient. Whether adding insulation, upgrading windows, replacing incandescent light bulbs, or replacing appliances, efforts we make to use less energy save us money and help the environment. But what about where we live?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just released a report on "location efficiency" -- the idea that where we live has an impact on our energy consumption. The findings are clear and profound. 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 percent of its total energy use is for transportation, and 45 percent is for operations.

Now, if the house is located in a "transit-oriented development" (a pedestrian-friendly place where residents can walk to restaurants, basic services, and public transit), the transportation energy use drops to 39 million BTUs per year -- just 26 percent of that home’s total annual energy use of 147 million BTU/year. The study was conducted by Jonathan Rose Companies, which has long championed "Smart Growth" and affordable housing. You can read about this new study on