Buildings End-Use Energy Efficiency Research - Community-Scale

Community-scale building and land use design practices impact energy use and environmental quality both directly and indirectly. The direct impacts relate to energy use based on building envelope design, lighting power density, and the efficiency of building mechanical and water heating systems. Indirect effects on building energy use are those that influence ambient temperature, humidity, air quality, and the amount of natural light and air flow around buildings.

Some of the community-wide land use- and site-related design features that affect building energy via indirect effects include:

  • Reflective properties of materials used on urban area surfaces (roofs, walls, pavements, streets)
  • Surface characteristics that affect outside envelope moisture and stormwater runoff management.
  • The amount of vegetative cover, such as trees that shade buildings
  • Other structures that shade buildings
  • Characteristics and number of solar energy systems on or around buildings; typically photovoltaics and solar water heating equipment
  • Building orientation in residential subdivisions and its effect on implementation of passive and active design strategies on a community-wide scale
  • Urban heat island effects

See community scale research projects.

All of the characteristics noted are a function of land use practices and building-related requirements that affect the energy sustainability of a community. However, another major area of community design that affects energy sustainability and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated locally is the transportation network. Senate Bill 375 requires regional planning agencies to create land use plans that demonstrably meet emissions reduction targets. A method of successful implementation is communities intentionally designed to provide viable alternatives to automobile travel for work commuting, shopping, and recreation.