Thursday, June 9, 2011

Where it's at matters

On Tuesday, May 24, the Center for Housing Policy hosted a webinar on the importance of location-efficient development, which is characterized by walkable neighborhoods in close proximity to transit, employment centers, schools, and other amenities that allow residents to reduce the frequency and distance of trips taken by car. The webinar, entitled, Not Just Where, but How and What: the case for location efficient development, featured three speakers that provided information on the need to consider location as a critical factor for sustainable and energy-efficient development. From an affordability standpoint, location-efficient development can offer significant cost savings to households by reducing the overall cost of transportation, the second highest expense after housing.  

The first speaker, Danielle Arigoni, Division Director of the US EPA's Office of Sustainable Communities opened her presentation with an overview of different development principles that promote location-efficiency, including compact, mixed use development and green building practices. Ms. Arigoni discussed the EPA’s role in the Sustainable Communities Initiative, a formalized partnership between the EPA, the Department of Transportation, and the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development to transform policies across agencies to encourage sustainable development. As part of this effort, the EPA is developing guidance to incorporate sustainability principles into the environmental review process, is providing technical assistance to states and localities, and is establishing a set of performance measures to evaluate sustainability efforts.  

Matthew Lister, Senior Project Manager at Jonathan Rose Companies provided the second webinar presentation. He reported on the findings from a paper he co-authored, called Location Efficiency and Housing Type- Boiling it Down to BTUs. The report is the first to analyze the energy use (measured in British thermal units (BTUs)) associated with a range of development approaches in conjunction with housing type. The study estimates the BTU score and associated annual energy costs for households in auto-dependent, location-efficient and transit-oriented developments; multifamily, single-family detached and attached homes; and conventional cars and homes with their energy-efficient counterparts. The study finds that the most effective way to reduce energy consumption is to locate homes of all types in areas where households could replace some automobile use with transit use, leading to energy reductions between 39 and 50 percent. 

The final speaker, Ellen Dunham-Jones, Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, touched on the health, environmental and economic imperatives to location-efficient development.  She discussed the possibilities of retrofitting the suburbs, in particular “dead” malls and other empty commercial spaces, by adopting entirely new land use patterns that embrace mixed-use and compact development.   Her presentation included several examples of how formerly sprawling and isolated suburban areas have been converted into thriving, walkable downtown centers.  

 Click here to download the webinar recording and to access the presenter’s slides        

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