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Urban density is a term used in
urban planning Urban planning, also known as regional planning, town planning, city planning, or rural planning, is a technical and political process that is focused on the development and design A design is a plan or specification for the construction of ...
and
urban design While many assume urban design is about the process of designing and shaping the physical features of cities A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a comm ...
to refer to the number of people inhabiting a given
urbanized area An urban area, or built-up area, is a human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people live. The complexity of a settlement can range from a small number of ...
. As such it is to be distinguished from other measures of
population density Population density (in agriculture: Stock (disambiguation), standing stock or plant density) is a measurement of population per unit area, or exceptionally unit volume; it is a quantity of type number density. It is frequently applied to livin ...

population density
. Urban density is considered an important factor in understanding how cities function. Research related to urban density occurs across diverse areas, including economics, health, innovation, psychology and geography as well as
sustainability Sustainability is the capacity to endure in a relatively ongoing way across various domains of life. In the 21st century, it refers generally to the capacity for Earth's biosphere and human civilization to co-exist. For many, sustainability is d ...

sustainability
. A 2019 meta-analysis of 180 studies on a vast number of economic outcomes of urban density concluded that urban density had net positive effects. However, there may be some regressive distributional effects.


Sustainability

It is commonly asserted that higher density cities are more sustainable than low density cities. Much urban
planning theory Planning is the process of thinking about the activities required to achieve a desired goal. It is the first and foremost activity to achieve desired results. It involves the creation and maintenance of a plan, such as psychological aspects that re ...
- particularly in North America, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand - has been developed premised on raising urban densities, such as
New Urbanism New Urbanism is an urban design While many assume urban design is about the process of designing and shaping the physical features of cities A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, lo ...

New Urbanism
,
transit-oriented development thumbnail, 300px, Union Square (Hong Kong), Union Square, a transit-oriented development centred on Kowloon station (MTR), Kowloon station, Hong Kong In urban planning, transit-oriented development (TOD) is a type of Real estate development, urb ...
, and
smart growth Smart growth is an urban planning Planning is the process A process is a series or set of Action (philosophy), activities that interact to produce a result; it may occur once-only or be recurrent or periodic. Things called a process include: B ...
. This assertion, however, remains a contested or challenged one. The link between urban density and aspects of
sustainability Sustainability is the capacity to endure in a relatively ongoing way across various domains of life. In the 21st century, it refers generally to the capacity for Earth's biosphere and human civilization to co-exist. For many, sustainability is d ...

sustainability
remains a contested area of planning theory.
Jan Gehl Jan Gehl Hon. FAIA (born 17 September 1936, Copenhagen Copenhagen ( da, KĂžbenhavn ) is the capital and most populous city of Denmark. As of 1 January 2020, the city had a population of 794,128 with 632,340 in Copenhagen Municipality, 104,3 ...
, prominent Urban Designer and expert on sustainable urbanism, argues that low-density, dispersed cities are unsustainable as they are automobile dependent. NASA, for example, has established a direct correlation between urban density and air pollution. Others, such as Randy O'Toole of the
Libertarian Libertarianism (from french: libertaire, "libertarian"; from la, libertas, "freedom") is a political philosophy that upholds liberty as a core principle. Libertarians seek to maximize autonomy and political freedom, emphasizing Freedom of assoc ...
Cato Institute The Cato Institute is an American libertarian think tank A think tank, or policy institute, is a research institute A research institute, research centre, or research center is an establishment founded for doing research. Research institute ...

Cato Institute
, point to how raising densities results in more expensive real estate, greater road congestion and more localized air pollution. At a broader level, there is evidence to indicate a strong negative correlation between the total energy consumption of a city and its overall urban density, i.e. the lower the density, the more energy consumed. The location and urban setting where densification processes occur therefore need to be considered for sustainable densification.


Measurement

Urban density is a very specific measurement of the population of an urbanized area, excluding non-urban land-uses. Non-urban uses include regional open space, agriculture and water-bodies. There are a variety of other ways of measuring the density of urban areas: *
Population density Population density (in agriculture: Stock (disambiguation), standing stock or plant density) is a measurement of population per unit area, or exceptionally unit volume; it is a quantity of type number density. It is frequently applied to livin ...

Population density
- the number of human persons per unit area ** Median density - a density metric which measures the density at which the average person lives. It is determined by ranking the census tracts by population density, and taking the density at which fifty percent of the population lives at a higher density and fifty percent lives at a lower density. ** Population-weighted density - a density metric which measures the density at which the average person lives. It is determined by calculating the standard density of each census tract, assigning each a weight equal to its share of the total population, and then adding the segments. * Residential density - the number of dwelling units in any given area *
Floor area ratio Floor area ratio (FAR) is the of a building's total (gross floor area) to the size of the piece of land upon which it is built. It is often used as one of the regulations in city planning along with the building-to-land ratio. The terms can also ...
- the total floor area of buildings divided by land area of the lot upon which the buildings are built * Employment density - the number of jobs in any given area * Gross density - any density figure for a given area of land that includes uses not necessarily directly relevant to the figure (usually roads and other transport infrastructure) * Net density - a density figure for a given area of land that excludes land not directly related to the figure.


Impact

A 2019 meta-analysis of 180 studies on a vast number of economic outcomes of urban density concluded that urban density had net positive effects. However, there may be some regressive distributional effects. A 2020 study concluded that urban density "boosts productivity and innovation, improves access to goods and services, reduces typical travel distances, encourages energy efficient construction and transport, and allows broader sharing of scarce urban amenities. However, density is also synonymous with crowding and makes living and moving in cities more costly."


See also

*
Compact city The compact city or city of short distances is an urban planning Urban planning, also known as regional planning, town planning, city planning, or rural planning, is a technical and political process that is focused on the development and de ...
*
List of cities proper by population density This is a list of cities worldwide by population density. The population In biology, a population is a number of all the organisms of the same group or species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, cl ...
*
Smart growth Smart growth is an urban planning Planning is the process A process is a series or set of Action (philosophy), activities that interact to produce a result; it may occur once-only or be recurrent or periodic. Things called a process include: B ...
*
Transportation planning Transportation planning is the process of defining future policies, goals, investment Investment is the dedication of an asset to attain an increase in value over a period of time. Investment requires a sacrifice of some present asset, su ...
*
Urban sprawl Urban sprawl (also known as suburban sprawl or urban encroachment) is the unrestricted growth in many urban area An urban area, or built-up area, is a human settlement with a high population density and infrastructure of built environment. ...
*
VerticalizationIn urbanism, verticalization is the rapid increase of inner city apartment high-rise buildings, resulting in the development of "vertical" city parts and urban densification. Although both verticalization and densification processes in cities can ...


References


Further reading

* Newman, P and Kenworthy, J (1999) Cities and Sustainability: Overcoming automobile dependence, Washington, D. C. : Island Press * Pont, Meta Y. Berghauser and Haupt, Per (2010) ''Spacematrix: Space, Density and Urban Form'', NAi Publishers, * Dovey, Kim and Pafka, Elek (2014) "The urban density assemblage: Modelling multiple measures" in ''Urban Design International'', vol.19, nr. 1, pg.66-76


External links


MIT Density Atlas


{{DEFAULTSORT:Urban density Sustainable urban planning