Building Location Characteristics

Local governments could integrate location characteristics when evaluating the GHG intensity of their buildings. LEED Green Building Rating System for New Construction and Major Renovations (LEED-Canada-NC) Guidelines provide credits related to public transportation access, hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles, and parking capacity. The guidelines call for buildings to be within reasonable walking distance of transit; provide low-consumption, high efficiency hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles or refuelling stations; and minimize parking and dedicate 10% of parking for carpool, cooperatives, and other high occupancy vehicles. LEED Canada-NC also provides points for density and proximity to certain services. [2]

Evaluating Locations

The following factors should be considered in selecting a location to minimize the energy intensity of buildings by transportation.


This may be the highest priority when trying to achieve location efficiency. Studies show dramatic reductions in vehicle kilometres traveled when moving from just seven to 10 to 12 units per acre. [1] Buildings that are located in more dense neighbourhoods are more likely to reduce the transportation energy intensity related to their buildings.

Transit Availability and Access

Transit also includes the walking distance between work and a transit stop. Studies show that people will rarely walk more than a kilometre to reach a transit stop. [1] Ensuring access to ample transit opportunities, whether by being near it or providing a permanent shuttle service to transit stops for employees, will reduce the GHGs your building can take responsibility for.

Land Use Mix and Access to Services

Diversity of land uses and services plays an important role. Employees that take personal vehicles to work cite the number two reason for doing so as the need to run errands. [3] “It’s very important for people who ride transit to be able to accomplish multiple things on foot once they arrive at their destination. You need a mix of uses to satisfy people’s needs,” states Ellen Greenberg, coauthor of The New Transit Town (Island Press, 2004, referenced in [1].)

Parking Management

There is a straightforward correlation between constrained and expensive parking and lower vehicle use. Locating in areas with these sorts of parking issues tends to result in fewer employees using personal automobiles.


Renowned transportation researcher John Holtzclaw says, “Think about how it feels to walk. Are there places to walk to? How are the streets laid out? Are there sidewalks on both sides of the street? Is the traffic calmed? Are the buildings close to the sidewalk, or do you have to walk through a parking lot to get inside?” [1] Asking these sorts of questions about a prospective location could help you understand how likely that location would be to reduce your transportation energy intensity.

Streetscape Design

Looking for streetscapes that are comfortable, safe, relaxing, and enjoyable to spend time in is also important. Good lighting, park benches, outdoor café tables, shaded areas, pedestrian squares, and public wireless access all help create pedestrian-friendly outdoor spaces. [1]


“The smaller the block dimension, the more people will walk,” says Doug Farr, author of Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design with Nature (John Wiley & Sons, 2008) [1]. Seek locations with smaller block dimensions that make walking easier and more enjoyable.

Bicycle Accessibility

Locate buildings in areas where it is safe and easy to bike. Bicycle lanes, paths, and trails provide such opportunities. When considering bicycle accessibility as an option, you should also look into alternative transportation fleet options for employees. This section provides information on making your building more bicycle friendly.

Using these Factors

Each of these factors has been proven to have an important impact on total GHG emissions. Local governments could incorporate principles related to each of them when making building location decisions. They could be an important part of a green evaluation checklist and certainly play a role in understanding the energy efficiency and thus GHG impact of your building. However implemented, greater consideration should be given to these factors.

[1], Alex Wilson and Rachel Navaro, (2007). Driving to Green Buildings: The Transportation Energy Intensity of Buildings., Page 1.

[2], Canada Green Building Council, (2007). LEED Canada-NC 1.0 Reference Guide Addendum. Pages 23-31.

[3], Adam Millard-Ball, Gail Murray, Jessica ter Schure, Christine Fox, and Jon Burkhardt, (2005). Car-Sharing: Where and How It Succeeds. Transit Cooperative Research Program.