A recent analysis of US Census data suggests that, for the first time since the 1920s, America is seeing a decisive shift toward city living.
For example, from July 2010 to July 2011 in Washington DC, the city’s population grew by 2.4%, while its suburban population grew by 1.5%. Across the country in 2011, US cities saw huge gains in residents: 52 of 73 cities with populations greater than 250,000 experienced faster annual growth than their average growth over the last decade.
What does this geographic shift imply for household energy consumption?
There’s a strong argument that where you live (i.e. suburbs versus city) is even more important than how you live (e.g. using Energy-Star appliances). The EPA calculated in a 2011 report that just by being located in a transit-accessible urban area, the overall energy use of a household decreases by a staggering 40% (and transportation energy use in particular decreases by 69%) relative to suburban living.
Also according to the EPA report, apartment-style dwellings (which are ubiquitous in large cities) tend to have 20-40% lower electric/gas consumption than single-family homes (the norm in suburbs), largely due to the relative compactness and structural efficiencies of multi-family buildings.
When considering how Americans can save energy in their daily lives, we may do well to take a step back and think like any good real-estate agent: “Location, location, location.”