Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Brian Lee

Second Advisor

Austin Troy


There is much potential to decrease energy consumption in the U.S. by encouraging compact, centralized development. Although many studies have examined the extent to which built environment and demographic factors are related to household energy use, few have considered both building and transportation energy together. We hypothesized that residents living further from city centers, or urban cores, consume more energy for both purposes than their inner city counterparts, resulting in a direct relationship between building and transportation energy usage. This hypothesis was tested with two case studies.

The first focused on New York City. Annual building energy per unit of parcels, or tax lots, containing large multi-family structures was compared to the daily transportation energy use per household of traffic analysis zones (TAZs) (estimated with a regional travel demand model). Transportation energy showed a strong spatial pattern, with distance to urban core explaining 63% of variation in consumption. Building energy use was randomly distributed, resulting in a weak negative correlation with transportation energy. However, both correlation with distance to urban core and transportation energy became significant and positive when portion of detached single-family units for TAZs was used as a proxy for building energy. Structural equation models (SEMs) revealed a direct relationship between log lot depth and both uses of energy, and inverse relationship between portion of attached housing units and transportation energy. This supports the notion that sprawling development increases both the building and transportation energy consumption of households.

For the second analysis, annual building and automobile energy use per household were estimated for block groups across the 50 most populous U.S. metropolitan regions with Esri Consumer Expenditure Data. Both forms of energy consumption per household were lowest in inner cities and increased at greater distances from urban cores. Although there may be some error in estimates from modeled expenditure data, characteristics associated with lower energy use, such as portion of attached housing units and commuters that utilize transit or pedestrian modes, were negatively correlated with distance to urban core.

Overall, this work suggests there are spatial patterns to household energy consumption, with households further from urban cores using more building and transportation energy. There is the greatest gain in efficiency to be had by suburban residents.



Number of Pages

169 p.