Why is density in the urban environment considered to be more sustainable?
It is all part of economics. It is easier, because of cost and affordability, to create an installation of any sort in a reduced space than to extend it out to multiple distant destinations.
If a tree has to nourish tall and extensive branches, it needs a broad trunk and deep roots set in fertile ground. The alternative would be that branches that break away from the main trunk generate the ability to nourish themselves independent of the trunk and root system.
If a city needs to tend to demanding and growing needs within its core and supply for the needs of ever growing outlying areas then it’s “trunk and root system” need to be bedded in very fertile ground. That is rarely the case anymore.
Density is a solution that localizes resources for efficiency purposes and generates a greater and more beneficial impact on the investment. Services can be enhanced. Design can be more sophisticated, anthropometric and utilitarian, and the sense of community can be greater as more and more people condense in an urban area that is warm and inviting because it works with the natural assets of the terrain. This in itself enhances sustainability.
Are we ready for ‘densification’? Or a better question to ask would be: Is our infrastructure ready for densification?
In Houston Engineers Give Roads, Water Lines Barely Passing Grades, a Houston Chronicle article by Dug Begley, we seem to have the perfect opportunity to prepare for densification. If our infrastructure is nearing obsolescence then let’s not spend our money creating new and farther infrastructure. Let’s revamp what is reaching its term and create an infrastructure that can manage greater and expanded need. That way, when we increase the density of urban living with business and services to support it, we won’t have to ponder what will happen when more and more people head for the shower or flush at 6:00 am, what kind of traffic we will face at 5:00 pm in our neighborhood streets, or whether we will be able to catch a frequent and dependable bus or rail on infrastructure that has shady tree-laced streets with interconnected bikeways, sidewalks and sidewalk businesses welcoming walk-in traffic.
Perhaps a ‘bad grade’ is only a great opportunity to focus on rebuilding a better and denser city core before the crowds get here.