Energy addiction is regarded as the primary obstacle to humanity's sustainable future. The need to change lifestyles in consumer societies to become more sustainable is advocated without a clear understanding of what elements of modern life must undergo major transformations. One of the most overlooked aspects of this question is the role of buildings that serve as homes and workspaces. The energy use for maintaining such infrastructure, especially in urban areas, and operating key services like heating or cooling, lighting, delivering water, and collecting wastewater will inevitably grow as global population becomes increasing more affluent. This paper investigates the energy costs of several aspects of these key services in urban areas, specifically delivering and heating water and heating residential spaces in the five boroughs of New York City. It provides detailed geospatial calculations as an example of assessing energy costs based on physical principles (e.g., accounting for the effects of topography and building floor elevation to deliver water and heat, and energy losses in the water distribution system). The paper also serves as a demonstration of much-needed research to price out the cost of modern life in energy terms in order to identify major inefficiencies in our current urban infrastructure, as well as the potential for efficiency improvements. While these calculations do not directly incorporate observed data, the principles demonstrated here highlight the use of quantitative geospatial analyses (based on fundamental physics) in order to look at urban infrastructures, particularly for planning and designing new cities or rebuild existing ones.

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