Density: there's more to it than you might think

30 June 2016

 

Density is headlining news articles globally, but what is it and what does it means for you? Density can simply be seen as the number of people who live and work in a place, and their relationship to the physical size of that area. However, just like the people who live within them, cities are complex places.

Density is just one indicator that planners use, and the way density is defined and measured is not always consistent, making it difficult for meaningful comparisons. It could be a measure of the number of residents per square kilometres, or both workers and residents per square hectare, or the number of people in a public space or pedestrians per square metre.

The way it is applied can also vary from city to city. For example, applying an average measurement across a very broad area does not give an accurate picture of how density is being approached in specific areas.

Importantly, density in itself is not an objective. The outcome of urban transformation must be the creation of high quality, liveable communities that integrate with their adjoining areas. Density debates often do not tell the full story of proposed housing, the future quality or comfort of homes, the jobs created, the life and activity on the streets, or the quality of parks and facilities being planned for a neighbourhood.

Nor is density a target. Density is constantly refined during the planning process through expert studies, assessments—and importantly—the feedback from community consultation.

Good planning may increase density and the number of homes, but it’s as much about what happens on the ground between buildings—more vibrant, connected and liveable neighbourhoods—as it is about density and heights.

In planning for more homes close to jobs and transport, we have taken a principled approach to density that draws from expert studies, and understands the capacity of community infrastructure in the area and the requirements of current design guidelines, all of which will inform how many new homes and people can be planned for across the Central to Eveleigh Program area.

What does quality density look like in Central to Eveleigh?

Diversity: Building height and form should be diverse and avoid a ‘curtain of high-rise’ where every building is the same height.
Variety: The look and feel of buildings (their design, façades and size) should be varied and attractive.
Transition from new to old: Taller buildings should be located around public transport and taper down in height to transition into existing neighbourhoods.
Active streetscapes: Buildings should provide active and attractive frontages and footpaths to attract pedestrians and foot traffic.
Accessible public spaces: Design should encourage high levels of activity in quality public spaces that are used frequently by a range of people.
Community facilities: Community facilities should be co-located near areas of community activity and designed to support and activate public spaces.

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