New Urban Expansion Research on Cities

Making Cities More Productive, Affordable, and Sustainable


Marron Urban Expansion researchers Solly Angel, Patrick Lamson-Hall, and Alex Blei, along with Pillai College of Engineering’s Sharad Shingad and Suman Kumar, have published “Densify and Expand: A Global Analysis of Recent Urban Growth” in Sustainability. This study focuses on the population added to a global stratified sample of 200 cities between 1990 and 2014, analyzing both growth within existing footprints (densification) and growth outside those footprints (expansion). The authors note:

The limited success of cities around the world in accommodating population growth through densification makes it clear that this will not be easy or simple to do. The existing fabric of cities resists radical change. That is why those making room for urban growth—whether the demand for more room is powered by population pressure or by economic pressure—find it easier to do so in vacant lands on the urban periphery rather than within the existing fabric of cities, where regulations are typically stricter, where land is more costly, where infrastructure may already be stressed, and where neighbors are better organized and better able to resist change. That said, we must also acknowledge that overcoming resistance to the radical change involved in densification is not impossible, but it requires strong organization and strong political will. ...

Regardless of the prospects for densification, the data clearly show that cities also must make room for their orderly expansion. As we proposed at the outset, making room for densification and making room for expansion work hand in hand. They are at the core of the making room paradigm, a paradigm that must accompany the compact city paradigm if it is to perform better in meeting its expectations. When inadequate room is provided for densification—especially in the rapidly growing cities in less-developed countries—then only making room through orderly urban expansion can keep cities productive, affordable—and hence more inclusive—and sustainable, all of which are important public objectives.

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