Why Access to Quality Transit Matters for Green Buildings
According to The Geography of Transport Systems the transportation sector produces approximately 20% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, according to the Zero Energy Project, this statistic, combined with the construction of buildings, together the two industries produce almost 70% of greenhouse gasses in the US.
The main contributor to the emission of greenhouse gasses in the transportation sector is the use of personal cars and light trucks in daily commutes. It is therefore important for buildings to manage their occupants' travel energy and emissions by developing new solutions.
So how can green buildings be used to counter the negative impacts on air quality, public health and climate change produced by these two industries?
As most of the emissions are produced by drivers of single-occupant cars due to urban sprawl and distance from their workplace, the solution to this problem must be incorporated into the buildings which are part of the cause. It is therefore necessary for the green building sector to try to find a solution in order to reverse the negative impacts of climate change.
Access to Amenities
The physical location of the building is one of the most important factors for green building construction; developers must first consider the proximity and accessibility of various amenities, such as housing, supermarkets, malls, bus stations, and other services. Reducing transportation time is also a major consideration, in fact, the shorter the distance covered by commuters, the lower the transportation related carbon emissions.
If a building is located within a walkable and bikeable neighborhood, close to amenities, the residents are more likely to walk or take their bike to reach these places. In order to encourage these habits, a building’s streetscape must be safe with wide pavements and secure bicycle paths. The most important factor to promoting two-wheeled commuting is an effective and convenient network of routes. By adding vegetation and parks, walkers will also feel safe and secure and it could improve the air quality and encourage people to walk instead of using cars.
Besides location from food and shopping amenities, buildings should be as close as possible to occupants' workplaces. If office buildings are a little too far away for workers to walk or bike to work, residential buildings must be close to public transport stops. The LEED rating system establishes a 400-meter walking distance from bus, streetcar, or informal transit stops and an 800-meter walking distance from passenger rail or commuter ferry terminals as the recommended best practice.
It is important to encourage people to use bicycles, scooters, and other electric alternatives to go to work instead of using cars.
In order to encourage more green cities and buildings, many cities are establishing solutions to facilitate the access for green transport options, such as bike rental programs. Many European cities have set up this kind of program; as well as some Asian cities such as Taipei in Taiwan or Singapore have them in effect, with more and more cities adopting similar initiatives. The use of bikes has shown a mental benefit for workers as it has been shown to clear the head before work, which allows one to be active and ready for work. People are also enhanced to carpool to reduce the emissions per person.
In order to encourage travelers to use green transportation options, workplace buildings must support these alternatives by providing secure bike storage, showers and changing rooms. As electric vehicles and bikes are becoming more and more popular, it is important that green office buildings incorporate charging stations for these vehicles. Companies could also limit the overall parking available so as to encourage employees to think about different travel methods due to the inconvenience. This can also be offset by providing priority parking spots for the use of carpooling and green vehicles.
Companies can further encourage the adoption of low emission habits from their employees by possibly adding bike competition or providing financial or other incentives to employees who cycle to work or choose to reduce their emissions. Setting an environmentally aware company culture is important as it has a great effect on the behaviors of employees and enables a switch to a fully green building operation.
In conclusion, green buildings are closely related to transportation access which means by constructing more buildings that are easily accessible to occupants by walking, biking or the use of public transportation systems we can reduce the emissions used to access these spaces. Proximity to amenities and residential areas also reduces the need for motor vehicle use, reducing greenhouse gas emission, air pollution, and improving environmental and public health.