Before thinking about building a new house, you’re obviously going to consider location. From the perspective of sustainability, not all lots are created equally. There are three main aspects of siting your house that deal with sustainability:
- effect on local ecosystems and undeveloped land.
- efficiency in the use of your land.
- how your home relates to local transportation networks.
Of course, these concerns are in addition to your own goals for your new home, but if you plan to have the most environmentally friendly home possible, these factors should certainly play a role in your decision.
Your Home and Undeveloped Land
When choosing where to build your home, it’s important to consider that even if there has never been a building on the lot before, you are still replacing something when you start building. If you’re building on a former brownfield, you’re just replacing a formerly polluted piece of land. If you’re building in a natural field or forest, you’re replacing natural ecosystems and habitats. What’s more, if you plan to have a traditional lawn, that will also be replacing natural habitats with comparatively desolate grass. While this may not seem like a big deal on an individual level, it has huge impacts on a larger scale, not just on ecosystems, but on the sort of neighborhoods that we live in and how we get to work.
To see what greenfield development (building on previous undeveloped land) looks like on a large-scale, check out this article from The Atlantic Cities.
Land Use Efficiency
Land use efficiency and preserving undeveloped land go hand in hand. Single-family home developments with large yards and ample parking do not use space efficiently. This style of development forces new construction to be further and further away, which in turn leads to the destruction of natural habitats and ecosystems. Moreover, this type of development makes getting around in anything but a car rather difficult, which leads to more air pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which drive climate change, in addition to making vibrant street life a difficult thing to achieve. As a whole, compact development is more sustainable because it preserves more non-urbanized land and encourages sustainable transportation. That doesn’t mean everyone should live somewhere like Manhattan, but if you can get by living near a park and having a small yard instead of living on half an acre, you’ll be doing your part to preserve natural areas and help build livable and sustainable communities.
Going to Work (and Everywhere Else)
When deciding where you’re going to live, it’s important to keep in mind the relation of your home to local transportation networks. Homes that are close to transportation infrastructure like light rail stations and cycling infrastructure are not only worth more, but they’re easier to get to without a car. That translates into money in your pocket and fewer emissions in the air, especially if you’re taking advantage of those transportation networks.