Blog Post 5: Built Environment

The Compact City

Phones are growing smaller, televisions are slimming down and most technology is getting mini. Innovation’s always turning out new products that are smaller, so is it any wonder why our cities are not being built compact? In the area of urban planning, the concept of compact cities seeks to bring our cities inward and stop urban sprawl. This concept is a hopeful idea, but many have associated issues with this city plan and its functionality.

High residential density is a cornerstone of compact cities. This “high density housing” promotes building upward, rather than outward, and having residential and business buildings intermingle throughout the city. This is known as mixed land use, which commonly brings up property value as opposed to separating the housing and business community. The compact city seeks to reduce automobile dependency by encouraging and developing efficient public transport, such as walking paths, bicycle paths/rentals/sharing, and train or subway. The large dense population would encourage social interaction which would justify an efficient amount of social infrastructure such as public services. An added effect of this social interaction would be a feeling of safety through an active community relationship. All of these aspects of the compact city seek to lower inefficiency, save energy, increase social stewardship, and decrease urban sprawl and its negative effects. It has also been claimed that compact cities are less vulnerable to climate change. Results have shown that extreme heat indexes are “higher in sprawling [cities] rather than compact metropolitan regions.” Urban sprawl has also been associated with “a wide range of adverse exposures, including ozone exceedances, poor water quality, and adverse health outcomes from obesity to decreased physical activity to fatal road traffic injuries. (Stone)”Although this sounds like a great idea, compact cities have come under a great deal of scrutiny. There is a fear that these centralized cities will eat up just as much energy as urban sprawl and that “spelling out the details of why such policies are cost-effective remains a research challenge. (Gordon)”

Alter, L. (1924, March 11). Big Surprise: People Drive Less In Compact Cities With Good Transit : TreeHugger.TreeHugger. Retrieved September 12, 2011, from

Gordon, P., & Richardson, H. (1997). Are compact cities a desirable planning goal.American Planning Association. Journal of the American Planning Association63(1), 95.

Jenks, M., Burton, E., & Williams, K. (1996). A Successful, Desirable and Achievable Urban Form?. The Compact city: a sustainable urban form? (pp. 44-54). London, England: E & FN Spon.

Stone, B., Hess, J. J., & Frumkin, H. (2010). Urban form and extreme heat events: are sprawling cities more vulnerable to climate change than compact cities?. Environmental Health Perspectives, 118(10), 1425-1428. doi:10.1289/ehp.0901879

  1. First time I have heard of compact cities so this article has very interesting points. Usually if it sounds to good to be true than obviously it’s not. In your opinion, do you believe this would actually work? I do believe people would be more concerned about their safety too in this type of environment even though the article stated there would be a feeling of safety within the community. Interesting point, “Walmart and other “superstores” could not exist in an urban world of compact cities with binding zoning laws” (Palousitics, 2006). So all those avid shoppers who end up at the “superstores” over the weekend they probably would have a very hard time dealing with this concept.

    Thanks for posting!


    Palousitics 2006, The Quality of Life Sprawled Versus Compact Cities, retrieved September 22, 2011 from

    • Jennifer Whilden
    • September 27th, 2011

    I think it’s a great start. There have been many sucessful countries and cities that have been built in this manner. These place don’t even use cars. They mainly walk or ride baikes. The decrease in CO2 pollution alone is a great accomplishment. And with all this great technology comes social disorders. People don’t have to have actual contact to interact. This in itself will have negative impacts on our society and environment. So compact living may help with these future issues as well. It seem sto be a win/win for the contractors that are building thses new communities as well. They have the ability to lease space quicker and more efficently. I think it’s a GREAT start.

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