Energy use and greenhouse gas emissions In residential neighborhoods in the Southwest: a built environment life-cycle assessment
In recent years environmental life-cycle assessments (LCA) have been increasingly used to support planning and development of sustainable infrastructure. This study demonstrates the application of LCA to estimate embedded energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to materials manufacturing and construction processes for low and high density single-family neighborhoods typically found in the Southwest. The LCA analysis presented in this study includes the assessment of more than 8,500 single family detached units, and 130 miles of related roadway infrastructure. The study estimates embedded and GHG emissions as a function of building size (1,500 - 3000 square feet), number of stories (1 or 2), and exterior wall material composition (stucco, brick, block, wood), roof material composition (clay tile, cement tile, asphalt shingles, built up), and as a function of roadway typology per mile (asphalt local residential roads, collectors, arterials). While a hybrid economic input-out life-cycle assessment is applied to estimate the energy and GHG emissions impacts of the residential units, the PaLATE tool is applied to determine the environmental effects of pavements and roads. The results indicate that low density single family neighborhoods are 2 - 2.5 X more energy and GHG intensive, per residential dwelling (unit) built, than high density residential neighborhoods. This relationship holds regardless of whether the functional unit is per acre or per capita. The results also indicate that a typical low density neighborhood (less than 2 dwellings per acre) requires 78 percent more energy and resource in roadway infrastructure per residential unit than a traditional small lot high density (more than 6 dwelling per acre). Also, this study shows that new master planned communities tend to be more energy intensive than traditional non master planned residential developments.