published a piece the next day, coincidentally, on Density as Efficiency, reporting on research
comparing the energy efficiency of
“high-density urbanism” to Energy Star-rated homes. The result was
surprising, even to people already inclined towards dense urban
environments: even the maximum Energy Star savings was beaten by
moderately-dense development of 12 housing units per acre. At 48 units
per acre — a moderate apartment or condominium complex — the energy
savings were double that of maximum Energy Star. The savings arise
largely from efficiencies in infrastructure and transportation. The
combined effect of higher-density living and usable non-auto transit is
called location efficiency.

Jamais Cascio offered a stack of questions on how to extend and propagate those advantages:

  • How much could household energy savings be improved using design
    elements such as R-2000, phase-changing wax insulation, and White LED
  • How can communities now heavily dependent upon autos transition to more energy-efficient characteristics?
  • What steps have the best payoff in terms of encouraging location efficiency?
  • How can higher-density urbanism attract [the] same desirability [as single-family home ownership]?
  • What aspects of higher-density urbanism are in most need of re-evaluation?
  • How can we reduce [the] financial cost [of higher-density urbanism]?
  • To what degree [are high prices] a function of too little supply
    and too much demand, and therefore mitigated by increased
    higher-density urbanism in periphery locations?
  • How much of an improvement would come from applying Energy Star
    (or better) efficiencies to higher-density urbanism? That is — just
    how good could we get, if we really tried?

This posting triggered LOTS of comments from readers (don’t know
whether because of the subject or holiday-time-on-folks hands)
including this little gem from Laurence Aurbach:

The Lincoln Institute’s Visualizing Density
website is a great resource for understanding what density looks like.
It’s a database of aerial photos showing U.S. neighborhoods at a wide
range of densities.

We were discussing density at dinner tonight. One person speculated
that people don’t like density. They do in Paris, I suggested. Yeah, on
vacation, he offered. Ah, but Parisians do too, I responded. I haven’t
scanned the polls, but I do know this: design, vitality and
conviviality have a big impact on how a place feels.

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