Measuring the impact of sprawl and housing stock characteristics on greenhouse gas emissions from home energy use
Williamson, Scott T.
Thesis (M.P.P.)--Georgetown University, 2009.; Includes bibliographical references. This paper investigates the strength of the statistical relationship between various urban form characteristics and the carbon emissions that result from household energy use. Using data on characteristics of the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the United States, taken in 2000 and 2005, OLS regression methods are used to measure the correlations between emissions from household energy use and indicators describing both housing form and urban sprawl. After controlling for differences in energy supply, energy price, and income, the research finds significantly higher emissions associated with a greater incidence of detached single-family housing when compared against high-rise buildings containing twenty or more units. Notably, it does not find the same effect for houses in buildings containing ten to nineteen units. It also finds significantly lower emissions associated with an increased incidence of row housing when compared against detached single-family homes. With regard to sprawl, the research finds a significant positive correlation between higher household energy emissions and both a history of greater rates of land conversion, as well as the current pattern of greater auto emissions from highway driving. This paper does not prove any causal mechanisms, but it concludes that the literature regarding urban form, smart growth, and new urbanism to should expand its focus to explore potential impacts on household energy consumption in its discussion of urban sprawl, rather than simply considering impacts on VMT and auto emissions. It is likely that failure to do so results in an under-estimation of the potential emissions-cutting benefits of denser urban design.
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