Sample Research Paper on How Energy Relates to Housing and Neighborhoods

As population growth increases, climate changes effects set in, and economic development keeps on advancing, there is a need to come up with strategies for ensuring sustainability. Housing and neighborhoods are a part of New York’s urban planning. While more housing units will be needed in the future to accommodate the growing population, these developments need to integrate sustainability. One way to that is by conserving energy. This paper examines ways in which energy relates to housing and neighborhoods (PlaNYC 20).

To start with, energy is utilized in the construction of housing units. Materials used in building residential houses are processed using energy.  In an era where the building industry has been highly mechanized, energy is needed to run the machines. Energy is also needed when installing different fixtures in the housing units. In addition, energy is required in the lighting of the housing units once constructed as well as for running various house appliances. Besides, distributing water to all housing units also requires energy. Furthermore, in some neighborhoods running sewage drainage needs energy (Akadiri, Chinyio, and Olomolaiye 128).

In addition, energy is necessary for the maintenance of neighborhoods. Most cleaning types of equipment use energy, including vacuum cleaners. Landscaping and mowing consume energy to maintain beautiful yards and streamlined lawns. Energy is also a necessity in ensuring the security of the residents. From lighting to camera surveillance, they all use energy (Akadiri et al. 128).

During the cold season, energy consumption increases. Energy is used for space heating, which is the most energy-consuming household activity. Various sources are used in heating the indoors, some of which can pollute the air, such as coal burning.  In some instances, people leave their house heaters on for an entire day.  Energy is also used to heat swimming pools and bathing water when the temperatures are low. On the other hand, energy is consumed in significant amounts to cool houses through fans. More energy is also utilized in running refrigeration facilities to cool drinks and fruits (Akadiri et al. 129).

Although energy is a necessity in the sector of housing and neighborhoods, the environmental effects of its production affect it. For instance, the production of electricity using hydropower calls for damming, which reduces the amount of water available. While this is among the cleanest methods of power generation using non-renewable resources, fossil fuel is used to run the distribution channel. This process releases greenhouse gases.  Furthermore, generating heat through burning coal lowers the quality of air in the neighborhoods (PlaNYC 101).

Over the years, residual oil has been used to produce heat in large buildings and provide hot water for bathing and other uses.  But, this oil is as damaging as coal. As PlaNYC (104) points out, about 86% of soot/smoke pollution from buildings stems from residual oil burning.  This can affect the health of the residents negatively, and it can damage their immediate environment. In addition, New York uses power from nuclear plants and hydropower generation sites.  Nuclear power plants may affect housing decisions. As the demand for more housing units increases, more land will be required. Hence, those involved in the housing and neighborhoods sector may be forced to build around these plants. This can have adverse effects on the population in case a nuclear accident happens.

The development of greener types of energy, such as wind, may affect housing plans. Wind wheels take up much space, which restrains human settlement. Therefore, the housing and neighborhoods planners may have to restrict their plans to certain areas. They may also have to stick to raising sky crappers to save up space (Pimentel et al. 1112).

Nonetheless, energy is an important element in the implementation and sustainability of the housing and neighborhoods sector.  In addition, up to date, New York uses energy produced from non-renewable sources such as petroleum and water. While several strides have been made in the production of nuclear energy, there has been debate revolving around its production. Hence, there is a need to develop sustainable practices for conserving energy (PlaNYC 100).

A building alone consumes significant amounts of energy. Hence, it is important for the housing sector to choose construction sites right to eliminate the need for demolition and rebuilding. Zoning should be done to establish what areas are fit for what use. They can also improve the designs of the residential houses. For example, they can install large windows to allow natural sunlight in order to decrease lighting. The large windows can also come in handy when it is hot rather than using fans to cool the house.  Houses in cold areas can be built with insulating materials to decrease the need for space heating. Still, on the construction, the contractors should reuse some of their building waste. This will reduce the amount of energy which is needed to process construction materials (Akadiri et al. 134).

Neighborhoods should also be included in efforts to ensure energy efficiency. The residents can be encouraged to reduce space heating by ensuring that their windows and other openings are locked securely. The use of thick curtains during the cold season can also substitute for space heating. In times of hot weather, the residents can benefit from opening their doors and windows. Alternatively, they can spend time at the patio, installing garden furniture and around the pool, can provide other relaxing places which will be cooler than the house. The use of fans instead of air conditioners is another efficient way of cooling one’s home during the hot season (European Environment Agency 23).

Alternative ways of cooling homes include investing in a programmable thermostat. This can be programmed to go off each time there is nobody at home or at night when people are sleeping. These thermostats do not produce mercury; hence, they will not pollute the environment (European Environment Agency 24).

Appliances are also other things, which increase energy consumption rates in neighborhoods. First, the housing and neighborhoods need to create awareness on energy efficiency when using different appliances. For example, residents should switch off all the appliances they are not using.  They can also purchase appliances, which are energy efficient or those that have an energy star. This way, they will use less energy. While this benefits the homeowners by reducing the power bill, it also conserves the environment (European Environment Agency 25).

Bathing, cooking, and cleaning consume lots of energy. Besides, the type of power used can affect the environment and the health of the occupants. Using hot water when bathing uses energy. In order to save energy, the residents should use less time in the shower. This will reduce the time the heater will be running and eventually the energy consumed.  Homeowners should also replace their tank heaters with tank-less ones, which use less energy. These heaters only heat water when it is needed and in the amount required. Changing conventional methods of cooking can save energy consumed, and it can reduce pollutant gas emissions (European Environment Agency 25).

Lighting is another way residents consume energy. Lights have different uses from reading, seeing to providing security. Besides, lights are also used for highlighting gardens and other artifacts.  Sustainability encourages the blend of environment and development. To integrate the two in lighting, residents need to change their lighting fixtures. For instance, residents should change the incandescent bulbs and in their place install fluorescent or LEDs (European Environment Agency 26)

The housing sector also needs to embrace other ways of generating power. Solar energy is a renewable type of power. Unlike wind energy, it does not have a huge initial cost, and neither does it need lots of space. Hence, the housing and neighborhoods sector can install solar panels on the rooftop. This can be very beneficial. First, they can provide an alternative energy source for space heating and heating water. Secondly, it can be used when other sources of power fail. In places with unbearable temperatures, the rooftops can be painted white to prevent heat absorption (PlaNYC 27)

Conclusion

Housing and neighborhoods are an integral part of any city planning and management. Energy is also important in the implementation and maintenance of the neighborhoods (Akadiri et al. 127). With the impending effects of climate change and global warming,  it is essential to develop the right strategies to ensure that housing and neighborhoods developments are sustainable as far as energy is concerned (PlaNYC 6). Energy efficiency can be achieved through changing building designs, encourage energy efficiency by installing large windows, insulating houses, and orienting the buildings to face the direction of the sun. Furthermore, residents should also employ best energy-saving practices, including efficient use of appliances, leveraging on natural light, and changing energy-consuming lighting fixtures.

 

Work Cited

Akadiri, Peter, Chinyio, Ezekiel and Olomolaiye, Paul. Design of a Sustainable Building: A Conceptual Framework for Implementing Sustainability in the Building Sector. Buildings 2012(2):126-152, 2012 web. 26 Feb. 2016 <doi:10.3390/buildings2020126>

European Environment Agency. Achieving Energy Efficiency through Behavior Change: What Does It Take? Copenhagen: EEA, 2013 web. 26 Feb. 2016

Pimentel, David et al. “Renewable Energy: Current and Potential Issues.” BioScience Journal, 52(12):1111-1120, 2002 web. 26 Feb. 2016

PlaNYC. PlaNYC Update  April 2011: A Greener Greater New York. New York: The City of New York,  2011 web. 26 Feb. 2016