Sprawl There’s a lot of talk here on Jetson Green about the (adverse) impact that architecture and materials choice can have on the environment.  So it’s nice to know that housing can actually be an essential factor in combating climate change according to a new study from Smart Growth America.

While attending the recent EcoCity World Summit in San Francisco, I heard panelist Reid Ewing, research professor at the National Center for Smart Growth, discuss urban development and its (negative and positive) effect on climate change.  The study, published by the Urban Land Institute, documents how key changes in land development patterns could help reduce vehicle greenhouse gas emissions. 

The numbers speak for themselves.

First the bad …

  • Transportation accounts for a full third of CO2 emissions in the United States;
  • Since 1980, the number of miles Americans drive has grown three times faster than population and twice as fast as vehicle registrations;
  • Sprawling development is expected to cause a 48 percent increase in the total miles driven between 2005 and 2030;
  • Even with most stringent fuel-efficiency proposals being considered, vehicle emissions would be 34% above 1990 levels by 2030 due to sprawl.

Now the good news …

  • Two-thirds of development expected to be on the ground in 2050 is not yet built;
  • Shifting 60 percent of new growth to compact patterns would save 79 million tons of CO2 annually by 2030 or the equivalent of increasing vehicle fuel efficiency standards by 28% (to 32 mpg).

The Smart Growth America coalition coordinated the review of dozens of studies published by the Urban Land Institute.  The review found that compact development reduces driving 20 to 40 percent. The results of the comprehensive work are published in a book available for purchase from ULI, with the opening chapter free to download.  Both purchase and download are available here

When it comes to tackling climate change, the old real estate adage still rings true: location, location, location.

P.S. For an interesting 321-photo slideshow of Phoenix, AZ sprawl, click here.

P.S.S. [ed. note] – read more at Top 10 Problems with Sprawl.