2014-11-13

The Neighborhood Visualizer Maps The Resource Intensity Of Your City

How much material did it take to build your house? How much energy did it use? This new interactive map tells you exactly how much you and your neighbors are using.

Looking for a map of air, water, or noise pollution in your area? How about a map of what would happen if a Fukushima-like disaster happened at your local nuclear reactor? There is no shortage of these environmentally focused maps, and now we have another (especially interesting one): a map of energy use, population, and building resource intensity across the U.S.

The map, developed by researchers from MIT and the Technical University of Lisbon, can map data down to the neighborhood level (so far there are 42 mapped cities). Everything is color-coded, as you can see in this map of the building resource intensity of a neighborhood in Houston.

On the right side, we can look at the specifics of the neighborhood: Buildings use 10,604 kg of material (i.e. asphalt and gravel roads, timber and glass used in residential housing) per person on average, 2868 kWh of electricity are used per person, and there are nearly 794 people per square kilometer.

Compare that to this neighborhood in San Francisco, which has a higher population density (8,265 people per square kilometer) and higher energy use (4,606 kWh), but lower building resource intensity (6,955 kg of material per person).

This site explains the methodology behind the map further, but in a nutshell: The researchers behind the site used third-party estimates of residential zip-code-level energy consumption and survey data for building construction methods of roads and buildings. The result is an interactive map that will, at the very least, make you think about how many resources our often oversized built environment consumes.

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