- Prof Mike Jenks
- Dr Nicola Dempsey
- Dr Shibu Raman
- total grant value: £1.8 million
- time duration: January-March 2007
CityForm is a research consortium of five universities led by the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development (with Heriot-Watt, University of Sheffield, University of Strathclyde, De Montfort University). The project examined claims that high-density, mixed-use urban areas are economically viable, environmentally sound and socially beneficial. The research team looked at how urban form - the size, shape, density, land uses and layouts of a city - can influence its social, economic and environmental sustainability and transport use. The key objectives were to:
- Determine the relationship between urban form and:
- Environmental sustainability
- Social sustainability
- Economic sustainability
- Advance theory on sustainable urban form through an integrated programme of multi-disciplinary evidence-based research
- Provide guidance of sustainable urban forms which are acceptable to users and appropriate in the future
The research team took a multidisciplinary, multi-method research approach to measuring features of urban form and aspects of sustainability in fifteen case studies in five UK cities. A large-scale questionnaire survey was distributed to over 12,000 households and the urban form of the cities was measured using a combination of primary data methods, including hand-held PDAs uploaded with Ordnance Survey maps and GPS modules to allow researchers to plot physical features while in the field.
The findings are wide-ranging and varied as the following selection shows:
- Residents living in high density neighbourhoods are more likely to have better access to services and facilities - but they also more likely to report feeling less safe and less satisfied with where they live than residents in lower density residential neighbourhoods.
- Higher density neighbourhoods are likely to have poorer environmental quality than lower density ones and residents on lower incomes and in poverty are more likely to live in neighbourhoods with poor quality environments.
- Energy consumption was found to be related to the number of bedrooms in a dwelling, and also was affected by the incidence of home working, and the use of advanced heating controls.
- The richness and abundance of many bird species in urban areas increase with housing density but decline at very high density.
- As the built-up area of a place increases, the quality of its urban green space for biodiversity decreases significantly.
Such findings both support and refute the claims that high-density, compact urban development is more sustainable than low-density, indicating that the relationship between urban form and sustainability is a complicated one.
For more information, visit www.city-form.org
- Jenks, M. and Jones, C. (Eds.) (2009) Dimensions of the Sustainable City. London, Springer.
- Jenks, M. and Dempsey, N. (2007) Defining the Neighbourhood: challenges for empirical research, Town Planning Review, 78(2):153-177.
- Dempsey, N. (2008) Quality of the built environment in urban neighbourhoods, Planning Practice and Research, 23(2): 247-262.
- Dempsey, N. (2008) Does quality of the built environment affect social cohesion?, Urban Design and Planning, 161(3): 105-114.
- Bramley, G., Dempsey, N., Power, S., Brown, C. and Watkins, D. (2008) Social sustainability and urban form: evidence from five British cities, Environment and Planning A (in press).
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