Energy Implications of Provision of Municipal Infrastructure for Suburban Development


  • Brian W. Baetz



municipal infrastructure, energy requirements, suburban development, new urbanism,


This paper is a synthesis of existing research in the areas of suburban development, municipal infrastructure and embodied energy analysis. A considerable amount of interest has been generated in the area of neotraditional development, which is now popularly referred to as "new urbanism ". Instead of low-density, single-family housing development seasoned with intermittent strip-malls and box stores, the emphasis is on construction of compact, mixed-use development. New urbanism strives to enhance the feeling of community and significantly reduce the transportation distances to key uses. Consequently, energy efficiency is higher due to lower transportation and infrastructure demands. While the u.s. has led the way in these types of innovative developments, Ontario examples such as Montgomery Village near Orangeville and Cornell in Markham show that this concept has applicability to Canadian municipalities. Existing research has focussed on how new urbanism affects municipal infrastructure needs, and the positive impact upon municipal capital and operating budgets. Tied to this is the equally positive impact of energy requirements, both in terms of embodied energy for elements such as roadways and water pipes, and also operating energy for infrastructure service provision. The issue of energy savings in suburban design has received relatively little attention in the technical literature or in governmental policy development. In this paper, infrastructure requirements for both sprawl and compact development have been analyzed for a range of municipal infrastructure elements. The analyses have been conducted for representative Canadian conditions. The results show that considerable energy savings can be realized with new urbanism designs, along with the related benefits of improved air quality and reduced municipal spending in tough fiscal times. The results of this research can assist policy makers by providing information on the energy savings realized from more efficient infrastructure provision in new urbanism developments.