Policy Paper: Energy and Smart Growth: It’s about How and Where We Build

Energy and Smart Growth: It’s about How and Where We Build

This paper was commissioned by the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities. The collaborating author on this paper was Naomi Friedman, a consultant to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. This is the fifteenth in a series of translation papers published by the Funders’ Network to translate the impact of sprawl and urban disinvestment upon issues of importance to our communities and environment and to suggest opportunities for progress that would be created by smarter growth policies and practices. Other issues addressed in the series of translation papers include water, community development, arts, health, biodiversity, children and families, education, aging, transportation, agriculture, civic engagement, parks and open space, workforce development, and social equity.

By efficiently locating development, smarter growth land use policies and practices offer a viable way to reduce U.S. energy consumption. Moreover, by increasing attention on how we build, in addition to where we build, smart growth could become even more energy smart. The smart growth and energy efficiency movements thus are intrinsically linked, yet these two fields have mostly operated in separate worlds. Through greater use of energy efficient design, and renewable energy resources, the smart growth movement could better achieve its goals of environmental protection, economic security and prosperity, and community livability. In short, green building and smart growth should go hand in hand. Heightened concern about foreign oil dependence, climate change, and other ill effects of fossil fuel usage makes the energy-smart growth collaboration especially important. Strengthening this collaboration will involve overcoming some hurdles, however, and funders can play an important role in assisting these movements to gain strength from each other.

This paper contends there is much to be gained by expanding the smart growth movement to include greater attention on energy. It provides a brief background on current energy trends and programs, relevant to smart growth. It then presents a framework for understanding the connections between energy and land use which focuses on two primary issues: how to build, which involves neighborhood and building design, and where to build, meaning that location matters. The final section offers suggestions to funders interesting in helping accelerate the merger of these fields.

The full paper is available in pdf format below:

2004_energy_smartgrowth_paper.pdf524.41 KB