How can we make our cities more dense without compromising quality of life?

  • Currently, just over half of humanity - 3.9 billion people - lives in cities.
  • The most urbanised regions today include Northern America (82 per cent), Latin America and the Caribbean (80 per cent), and Europe (73 per cent).
  • By 2050, the world’s urban population is expected to surpass six billion, with 66 per cent of the world’s population projected to be urban.
  • Continuing population growth and urbanisation are projected to add 2.5 billion people to the world’s urban population by 2050, with nearly 90 per cent of the increase concentrated in Asia and Africa.

Source: United Nations, World Urbanization Prospects, 2014 Revision

Cities will face numerous challenges in meeting the needs of their growing urban population.  Getting density right will be one of these  significant challenges. In order to have a working basis for current and future developments, we need to know what ‘good density’ looks like and what the impact of ‘bad density’ could be on people's long-term health and wellbeing.

We need to consider more than just housing; it also includes transportation, space for trees and open spaces, places to congregate and meet new people, and social and physical infrastructure, which make a city habitable.

On the one hand, having higher overall densities in cities can “support better and cheaper public transport, promote greater energy efficiency in buildings, create more opportunities for mixed-tenure housing, create more social equality and provide greater control over who people contact. At the same time, high-density cities also lead to more pedestrian casualties, more wastage, poorer ecosystem quality, loss of privacy and direct sunlight, and reductions in our physical and mental wellbeing”.

So, what bright ideas are out there in the world to achieve ‘good density’ without having to sacrifice the good things about our cities today? And how can we enhance the good things about our cities?

These are just some of the questions I’m aiming to find the answers to!