If development in cities became denser, that would do more to reduce emissions from buildings than wide-scale building energy retrofits, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers projected emissions attributed to buildings under multiple potential urban densities through 2050. They found that denser development patterns lead to lower emissions because in dense urban areas people tend to live and work in smaller units and therefore use less energy. In addition, attached buildings require less energy for heating and cooling.
That means that greater density has the potential to substantially reduce building emissions, more so than other efforts to improve energy efficiency such as better insulation and weather stripping.