RODE – Looking for optimal density

Addressing the debate on urban sprawl from the complexity sciences

The World is going through an unprecedented trend of urbanization, with more than half of its population currently living in urban areas. Present trends of decreasing urban densities forecast that the land occupied by cities in 2030 will be between 2.5 and 3 times larger than in the beginning of the 21st century. While the increasing pervasiveness of urban sprawl has raised numerous sustainability concerns, there is no general agreement on whether compact cities are more sustainable than sprawling ones.

In this project, we argue that the existing diversity and complexity of cities challenges the explanations that we might infer from relating aggregate measures of form and density to environmental criteria. Instead, we propose to employ spatially-explicit models of ecological and socioeconomic processes in order to evaluate the impacts of urban forms and density on transportation, the environment and human well being. Such models are calibrated to the longitudinal spatial datasets of land cover, population, households and transportation behavior provided by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, with the aim of exploring potential advantages and disadvantages of densification, and locating zones and circumstances where it might be an appropriate planning precept.

Scientific Outputs

Journal articles

Addressing Urban Sprawl from the Complexity Sciences

Conference Papers

Calculating spatial urban sprawl indices using open data

A framework for evaluating urban land use mix from crowd-sourcing data

General information

Team: Martí Bosch Padros & Jérôme Chenal

Contact: [email protected]

Funding: cantons of Western Switzerland