The power of suburbia

Byrd, Hugh (2017) The power of suburbia. In: Infinite suburbia. Princeton Architectural Press, New York, pp. 604-614. ISBN 9781616895501

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Research on the relationship between sustainability and urban form has tended to focus on the connections between urban density, transport fuel consumption, and household domestic energy consumption. One of the most influential studies on transport energy and urban form is the work by the Australian academics Peter Newman and Jeffry Kenworthy. Their analysis of fuel consumption in different cities graphically illustrated a correlation between the high gross density of a city and a low per capita petroleum consumption.
With such clear and measureable correlations between density and energy use, suburbia and urban sprawl were seen to be the culprits of high transport energy, with consequent adverse issues of pollution, poor health and economic welfare. The compact city was thus advocated as a means of reducing fossil fuel consumption and improving energy efficiency, as well as bettering the environment and health. Intensification of urban form became synonymous with sustainability.
This notion became an integral part of planning policy in Europe, America, and Australia. Over the past two decades, various forms of ‘compact city’ policies have been accepted and implemented around the world. The European Commission was one of the first to promote such a view on environmental and quality-of-life grounds. The United Kingdom incorporated the policy in their Strategy for Sustainable Development to reduce transport energy consumption. Even in the United States, renouncing the American-style urban sprawl and instead promoting growth management policies—smart growth—became the more conventionally accepted theory, with increasing support from urban economists such as David Chinitz and New Urbanists such as James Kunstler. However, for all the attempts to have compact development, it still does not address the fact that suburbia exists, will continue to do so and begs the question; what do we do with all the low density urban form?
Although suburbia has been condemned for its high-energy use associated with sprawl, the research that led to this conclusion is based on internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs). While research on the impact of emerging technologies on urban form has started, little research has been done on the overall impact of emerging smart energy technologies such as residential distributed energy generation (DG) by solar photovoltaic panels (PV), smart meters, and electric vehicles (EV) that are being developed and are now available for mass deployment. What are the implications if a predominately EV driven transport system is adopted that, moreover, is fuelled by renewable energy sources from DG in suburbia?

Keywords:urban form, Suburbia, urban density, sprawl, smart growth, compact city, disruptive technologies, electric vehicles, Photovoltaics, Distributed Generation
Subjects:K Architecture, Building and Planning > K460 Transport Planning
H Engineering > H221 Energy Resources
J Technologies > J910 Energy Technologies
K Architecture, Building and Planning > K440 Urban studies
ID Code:29486
Deposited On:10 Nov 2017 12:06

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