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Location Matters as Much as Materials When Building a Green Home

2/24/2011 12:00:00 AM

Tags: Environmental Protection Agency, environmental footprint, green homes

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnail 

Earlier this week I listened in as Colorado State Professor Brian Dunbar’s graduate students presented green house case studies. As each house was presented, I was struck by the students’ holistic perspectives; they understand that materials and design aren’t the only aspects of a green house. They also looked carefully at location, and there was much discussion about the benefits of walkability, mixed use and public transportation. Smart kids.

This morning Kaid Benfield reports on a new analysis performed by the Jonathan Rose Companies, with assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency, which shows that superior location substantially reduces a household’s environmental footprint. “in particular, a comparison based on national averages indicates that the energy consumption (and thus, global warming emissions) of a typical household in a transit-oriented location is likely to be less than that of a household in a conventional suburban location (i.e., ‘sprawl’), even if the household in a conventional suburban location employs energy-efficient building technology and drives fuel-efficient vehicles,” Benfield writes.

Buildings and transportation together account for about 70 percent of the United States’s energy use and are responsible for about 62 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA reports. The new report illustrates the relative energy-use impact of different development approaches: locating homes where less energy-intensive transportation options are available; constructing homes that use less energy because they share walls, which reduces heat loss; and 'greening' homes and cars through energy-efficient home construction techniques and fuel-efficient automobile technology. The most significant gains in household energy efficiency can be achieved when all of these efforts are combined.

“How and where we construct our communities has an enormous effect on our energy consumption. Creating more energy-efficient communities and buildings would reduce our impact on climate change and save people money on household energy costs,” the EPA concludes. “It could also help the U.S. to become less reliant on foreign fuel and other non-renewable sources of household energy.”

The CSU students already get that. Gives me tons of hope for our future.

development chart 

The Jonathan Rose Companies examined all aspects of green housing and found that location matters. 


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