Solving Cities

Housing near transit uses less energy than suburban 'green' homes

Housing near transit uses less energy than suburban 'green' homes

Posting in Cities

Energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs are great, but can a city dweller who doesn't care about the environment save more energy than a contentious suburbanite? Find out.

Sure, having a green home makes a difference, but what really matters when it comes to saving energy is where the home is located. The closer to transit the better, no matter how green the dwelling.

That's according to a new study by Jonathan Rose Companies, with assistance from the U.S. EPA. The study finds that no matter how you look at it, living in housing near transit is more energy efficient than living in the suburbs.

This graph tells it all:

In each case -- single family detached, attached (townhouse), and multi-family (apartment) housing -- non-green housing in transit-oriented development uses less energy than green housing in conventional suburban development. So even if people aren't going out of their way to save energy, the transit-oriented location inherently leads to more efficiency, even compared to housing in suburbs where energy efficiency is a priority.

As Kaid Benfield explains, on the NRDC Switchboard blog, green technology, while not insignificant, isn't the answer to energy efficiency.

We cannot fix our energy use and global warming emissions problems by looking only at building and vehicle technology; we also have to look at land use and transit.

And because transportation and buildings account for 70 percent of energy use and 62 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions in the U.S., cities that make transit-oriented development a priority can have a huge impact on our nation's energy usage and greenhouse-gas emissions.

Graph: U.S. EPA

Photo: La Citta Vita/Flickr


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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure