Cool Communities

Cool Communities

Identifying Climate Friendly Developments in the Washington, D.C. Region

When you think cool communities, you might think of vibrant neighborhoods with great streets and parks, coffee shops, bars and restaurants, a variety of stores and other activities. But these communities also offer the opportunity to help reduce the warming of our climate, while reducing oil consumption and transportation costs. Where we build and how we build our neighborhoods will make a real difference.

Executive Summary

Over the last decade, a consensus has emerged about the importance of focusing a significant share of our region’s job and population growth in compact, mixed use places around transit, especially our Metrorail system. Doing so reduces traffic congestion, lowers household transportation costs, cuts air pollution, reduces loss of forests, farms and natural habitats, and improves health and access to jobs.

The threat of climate change now looms, but smart growth policies can also contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This report modeled the travel characteristics and greenhouse gas emissions from eleven development projects in the Washington metropolitan region. The analysis found that compact mixed use development within walking distance of high frequency transit offers substantial reductions in CO2 emissions from new housing and commercial space. Transit-oriented locations and walkable designs can reduce CO2 emissions by anywhere from 8 to over 40 percent.

Major Findings

Mixed-use walkable developments with an interconnected street grid and frequent transit perform much better than indicated by the standard traffic estimates. Reductions in CO2 range from 10 to 35 percent.
Total CO2 reductions when combining on-site design and regional accessibility were substantial, ranging from eight to over 40 percent.
This assessment demonstrates that there is great potential to reduce the carbon footprint of future growth while simultaneously improving access to jobs, increasing transportation choices and offering better housing opportunities for households throughout the region.

Download the full report here.

Download the Executive Summary here.

Other Resources

The Center for Neighborhood Technology has created some great resources, including the Transportation + Housing Affordability Index, a tool that allows you to calculate your combined housing and transportation costs.

Cover Image: 5220 Wisconsin Avenue, Washington D.C. approved project by Akridge, adjacent to the Friendship Heights Metro station.