It has often been written that compact, very dense cities consume less energy and produce less pollution that the less dense suburbs and residential areas dominated by single family homes. However, new research shows that may not be true.
Researchers from the universities of
Newcastle, and Leeds in the UK published a paper in the spring 2012
issue of the Journal of the American
Planning Association that showed that the urban form may have very little
impact on energy use and sustainability. An article in Atlantic Cities on
July 24, 2012 discussed the findings.
One of the authors, Cambridge Prof. Marcial Echenique, told Atlantic Cities: “To our surprise, if you compare the compact form versus the current trend, the difference in reduced transport by automobile is very minor. And if you allow the city to expand, the increase in the use of the car is only marginal.”
Echeniques continued: "If you make the city more compact, it doesn't mean that people will abandon their car. Only 5 percent of people abandon the use of the car. Ninety-five percent carries on using the car, which means there are more cars on the same streets, therefore there is much more congestion and therefore there is much more pollution and no great increase in the reduction of energy."
There are several limitations to the study. It was done in
England, and may
or may not apply to the . Only a limited number of areas were
studied. However, this study does raise some important questions for those who
want to reduce the use of energy and the production of pollution. Echenique
argues, with support from his research, that making cars and buildings more
energy efficient may accomplish more. "Technology
offers a much better future than trying to constrain behavior of the