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Energy-efficient buildings will reduce the energy requirements of low-carbon cities.



Studies indicate newly constructed attached housing and multi-story structures using the latest energy efficient design, materials and techniques will ALWAYS be more energy efficient than single-family construction or retrofitting existing buildings.

This Building Sector plan for a low-carbon compact city will have the following goals.

  • Reduce average United States daily energy use of 30kwh/day per housing unit to 20kwh/day or less.  (33% improvement)
  • Similar energy-efficiency improvements to newly built commercial, warehouse and other buildings.
  • Take advantage of the fewer resources needed to build and maintain a compact city’s infrastructure.
  • Engineer the most energy-efficient cooling and heating possible.  (possible use of grid level cooling and heating)
  • Require use of the latest energy-efficient appliances and lighting technologies.
  • Plan for the increasing energy requirements of home electronics.
  • Reduce energy use during construction with latest low-carbon materials and technologies.
  • Continue incremental energy efficiency improvements during the generational timeframe of the project.


The United States building sector typically plans for 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 million new housing units per year and the carbon emissions for their construction is already included the various GHG pathways.   It is imperative that all new construction is highly energy-efficient, but any new housing requiring fossil-fueled transportation for jobs or shopping will negate reductions to the GHG pathways. The inherent energy efficiency of a compact city allows the energy efficiency savings of these new buildings to count as a direct reduction to the current GHG pathways as a replacement of the planned construction already included in the GHG pathways.  

What actions do you propose?

This proposal does not attempt to tell building professionals which materials and methods to use. This proposal assumes the latest practical ‘all-of-the-above’ materials and technologies will be evaluated by building professionals as part of engineering a low-carbon compact city. 

Who will take these actions?

Building sector corporations, academics, and professionals to design and engineer the buildings of a low-carbon compact city along with the organizations and contractors needed to actually site, finance, plan and build new cities.  As explained in the United States Regional Climate Action proposal for building low-carbon cities from the ground-up, new cities can be started today without waiting for public acceptance, taxpayer subsidies or excessive developer profit. 

Where will these actions be taken?

The “EPA Greenhouse Equivalencies Calculator” is used to calculate average daily energy savings of 10kwh per household from energy efficient buildings.  This is a 33% improvement over the 30kwh/day (900kwh/month) average U.S.A residential housing unit. Additional energy savings from commercial and other public buildings is not included for expediency.

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

What are other key benefits?

Environmental Benefits:  Reduced need for fossil-fueled energy sources with energy efficient buildings.  Reduced environmental impact and land-use of a compact city with fewer roads, increased green space and other benefits.

Social Benefits:  Building of large amount of highly affordable housing.  Jobs created to build and serve a new city.

Economic Benefits:   The construction of new buildings will create wealth and provide a high economic multiplier to the general economy.

What are the proposal’s costs?

The plan estimates that $100,000 per inhabitant, or $2.5 billion per year, will be spent on buildings and infrastructure.   Fortunately, this construction can be easily financed via traditional private bond and mortgage markets without taxpayer subsidies.  

Another benefit to the compact urban form is that multi-story attached housing and mixed-used commercial structures with shared foundation, walls and floors can be built for about 50% the cost of equivalent quality single-family housing. 

Energy, transportation and water will have their own capitalized costs and revenue streams that can be paid as taxes or part of city services.  

Additionally, economy-of-scale of repetitive construction methods and low land costs will reduce overall costs allowing larger sized housing than new construction in an existing city with high land costs, excessive impact fees, demolition and other cost factors. 


Time line

This plan to build new cities will take a generation, or more.    By increasing each new city’s population by 25,000 annually, it will take a city 10 years to obtain a population of 250,000, 20 years for 500,000 and 40 years for 1,000,000 inhabitants.   This plan is most likely to be executed over the project’s lifetime by those currently in their early 20s who will most likely be most impacted by the disruptions from climate change. 

Related proposals

There does not seem to be any publically known project to build a larger low-carbon compact city from the ground-up in the United States.   Most larger-scale projects are traditional development requiring cars for transportation, or eco-village transportation hub projects serving as bedroom communities to larger cities with high-density multi-family buildings, mixed-use limited to higher-rent corporate chains, and an absolute minimum of greenspace, parks, large public spaces, schools, or the desired walkable amenities of a larger city or resort community. 


Fuzhong Li, K John Fisher, Ross C Brownson, Mark Bosworth.(2005) Multilevel modelling of built environment characteristics related to neighbourhood walking activity in older adults. J Epidemiol Community Health 2005; 59:558–564. doi: 10.1136/jech.2004.028399

Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.