Why apartments are greener than houses

I went to the Home Depot, which was unnecessary. I need to go to the Apartment Depot. Which is just a big warehouse with a whole lot of people standing around saying “We don’t have to fix shit.”
~Mitch Hedberg

This is something I touched on earlier that I want to expand on.

Because yes, I do believe that apartments are greener than houses. For the most part, much greener than houses.

You can fit more people per square mile in apartments. My apartment complex has 40 units. It occupies about as much space as three houses. It’s not even a really efficient complex…only two stories. So, 40-64 people versus 3-12 in the same area, assuming 100% occupation by at least one person, going up to every bedroom occupied by one person, assuming the houses have four bedrooms. Sure, I’d have more greenspace in a house, and room for a garden, but if we all moved into houses with greenspaces and gardens, there would be no space left.

Apartments require less energy to heat and cool. If you’ve never lived in an “edge” apartment and a “middle” apartment, you might not believe how true this is. My bills in my “middle” apartment, an apartment bordered on all sides except for the top and front, had ridiculously low electric bills. I ran my AC in the summer all the time. The “edge” apartments, those that share only two sides and the bottom, result in more expensive electric bills. Even as modest as I am with heating and cooling, the electric bills in a house would probably double on me. At least. My mother routinely pays an amount equal to my rent in electricity.

Apartments are smaller. Not only does it help with the heating/cooling costs, but it keeps the amount of shit you can fill your life with in check. I have one closet and a small shelf above the hot water heater. Sure, I could buy a carpet shampooer, but where the hell would I put it? Without a garage, it’s much more difficult to go out and buy frivolous things like boats and snowmobiles and gargantuan amounts of tacky Christmas decor.

Shit gets fixed in an apartment complex. You seriously think the complex is just going to throw out your old fridge when it can be fixed? Fuck no. They fix it until it can’t be fixed anymore. I don’t care how much energy-star certification the new fridge has…it costs a lot in resources and energy just to make.

Location, location, location. Apartments tend to be near useful places. Universities, grocery stores, places of work, parks. If nothing else, you don’t have to walk or bike past fifteen thousand houses to get to where you’re going. Sure, there are exceptions, but for the most part apartments are a lot closer to where it’s at than your average suburb. I doubt you’ll see an apartment complex sitting out of town the way a lot of subdivisions are being built now.

Apartments are cheaper. This doesn’t necessarily make them greener, but it does make housing more available to people unwilling or unable to take out a huge mortgage.

Sure, you can’t modify an apartment to make it greener quite as much as you can a house, but I’m sure with a little ingenuity ways can be found.

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5 Responses to “Why apartments are greener than houses”

  1. Dargon Says:

    I never considered this, but it makes a lot of sense. However, I would say your complex is much larger than three houses. Three nicely sized houses, but based on the housing I am used to, I’d say you could easily fit double that. Still, in that case we’re talking 6-24 people as opposed to 40-64, still almost double at worst.

    Of course, I’m just in it for the cheap part.

    Also, this is irrelevant but a bit of a pet peeve of mine; it’s a water heater, not a hot water heater. It takes room temperature water and makes it hot, and perhaps maintains the heat.

    • I based the three-house thing off of a quick Google Earth-aided comparison. I used the entire complex, including parking, and compared it to three houses down the road, including their parking and greenspace. A rough guesstimate at best. Also, if I were in a much larger city (Houston, Austin…New York) the apartment would be much more than just two stories.

      Duplexes are slightly better, but only slightly. My mother’s house is the SUV of housing. Granted, I’ve also seen two people occupying a building at least twice the size of my mother’s house. They had an elevator. It was fucking ridiculous.

      Speaking of, my mom’s on this go-green thing now…it’s hilarious. A woman in a house with close to the same physical footprint as my apartment building trying to go green. “Mom, your house.” “I know! I’m trying to get rid of it!” “That doesn’t change the fact that you BUILT IT.”

      • Dargon Says:

        I cannot help but laugh at the notion that your mother is going green, I’ve seen that house, it’s fucking huge! Even my folks don’t have a house that huge. Hell, I’m probably greener, and frankly, I don’t give a shit about being green.

  2. I completely agree; but sadly, the American Dream has us all in Suburbia… I can’t blame the many that spend less for their “dream home (especially here in Texas.”) Our cities already have this genetic makeup that cannot be undone, at least, not for a long while. At least all you can do is hope for successful development projects to crop up and make urban apartment living “popular” again.

    I frankly like apartments a lot too, however, I dislike having to “moderate” my sound. It just takes that one little old lady to not like how you walk a lot at night (etc)….but this is all a design issue, though, and completely tolerable (almost ignorable), especially with my lifestyle.

    Fox, I haven’t visited your blog in a while– you have great articles here. Kudos!

    • It would take a massive, and long-term, social movement to reorganize cities. But some people are already trying it out:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/green-living-blog/2009/oct/29/car-free-cities-neighbourhoods

      In the meantime, I’m really enjoying the freedom to move about carless…my new apartment is in a wonderful spot and BCS has really done a lot to encourage biking. With the way the town is situated, I actually get to quite a few places in only a slightly longer amount of time. But BCS is a college town, where apartment/group living is the norm.

      Sometimes I really want to move to Europe. But Texas, sadly, is not in Europe.

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