Building Typology as One Solution to Visualizing and Embracing Density

While raw density numbers are sure to pick a fight, discussing character-based building typologies one neighborhood at a time may help find common ground.

1 minute read

June 1, 2012, 7:00 AM PDT

By Hazel Borys


Similar densities can vary widely in the level of livability they deliver. Susan Henderson demonstrates that with a couple of 52 DUA sites, and goes on to suggest that building types and designing to the neighborhood unit can help clarify the comparison:

"Instead of debating the number of units per acres, planners and city staff should consider addressing types of buildings that are permitted within different zoning categories. Not only is this the most understandable approach for the lay person, it's the most predictable for the builder and the city. This method of addressing density is supported by the latest zoning technologies including the SmartCode and a number of other Form Based Codes."

"Consider density at the scale of the neighborhood rather than the individual building. In the context of a neighborhood reflecting the average United States market for need and choice results in roughly: one acre of apartments per two acres of townhouses per four acres of single family houses. This delivers a net density of 10 units per acre for a complete neighborhood. Next time you're faced with a frightened crowd of density opponents, try turning the conversation to types of buildings, and allow that discussion to evolve into addressing the neighborhood as a whole, rather than simply a sum of its individual parcels."

Thanks to Hazel Borys

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