Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saving Energy in Urban Areas: Community Planning Perspectives, 1978

Raymond J. Burby III

Urban environments account for a major portion of total energy consumption in the United States. Energy use in urban areas is in large part a function of where we live and the ways in which we live, both of which have been shaped by the unprecedented personal mobility associated with the automobile and an abundance of low-cost fossil fuels. As these fuels have become more precious and energy costs have begun to rise, researchers have started to explore ways in which we can build more energy-efficient communities. This article summarizes some of the findings that have emerged to date and highlights major remaining, unanswered questions. Energy Conservation in Buildings The basic building blocks of the urban environment are the structures in which we live, work, and pursue our daily activities. Because space heating and cooling in buildings consume about 20 percent of the nation’s energy, building design and operation have been major research targets. Initial study results suggest that large savings in building energy use are possible through structural and equipment modifications, but that achieving the savings will be difficult. In a recent study prepared for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Hittman Associates, Inc. simulated the energy requirements of four types of residential structures- single-family detached, townhouse, lowrise apartment, and high-rise apartment— that were typical of those being built in each of eleven geographical locations with varying climates, design practices, energy prices, and income levels.1 This analysis indicated that single-family residences required the most energy for heating and cooling, followed in turn by townhouses, high-rise apartments, and low-rise apartments. For each type of residential unit being built, energy savings between 30 and 60 percent could be achieved through technically feasible modifications in design and construction. Key modifications to current practices included reducing the glass area by approximately 25 percent; using double glazing or reflective glass; installing weatherstripping and caulking; increasing wall, floor, and ceiling insulation; and utilizing more efficient heating and cooling systems. Similar energy savings, ranging from 11.3 percent in single-family dwellings to 59.7 percent in office buildings, will accompany adoption of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers standard (ASHRAE 90-75) for new construction. 2 An economic analysis of related standards indicates that by the year 2000 fuel bill reductions will exceed additional construction costs by almost $8 billion, with a benefit/cost ratio for energy-conserving construction standards of 2.9.

More reading about urban environment:

Low energy building design in high density urban cities

Modelling Policies for Urban Sustainability


Urbanization, Urban Environment and Land Use: Challenges and Opportunities

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