September 17 2007

How green is your ride?

Tailpipe_Image_01 The latest issue of BuildingGreen has a great article by Alex Wilson and Rachel Navaro that discusses impact of our daily commutes on energy consumption relative to new green office buildings. Alex begins the article discussing the topic of commuting to work vs. the energy efficiency of an office building by looking at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Philip Merrill Environmental Center.

First, I must say that the Merrill Center is one of the best examples of sustainable design in the country. That said, the author makes an interesting point when he notes that many CBF workers in their old building-- located in downtown Annapolis MD-- commuted to work on foot. Now however, because of the bucolic location of the Environmental Center, the average commute is nearly ten miles for the office workers. He speculates that the energy consumption used for transport may outweigh energy savings by the building!

The article goes on to propose that "Transportation Energy Intensity" can be used as a building performance metric. In the charts below, he compares Transportation Energy to Operational Energy for buildings. The figures are very enlightening, as I was expecting to see a greater impact from building operation energy when compared to transport.

Transport Energy / Transport Pollution / Energy Intensity

The authors go on to point out ways in which the problem can be reduced through strategies such as density, mass transit, mixed uses, parking management, walkability, connectivity, and bike access.

I agree with his final general point.  He says, "It is unconscionable to do any new development that's auto dependent."

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