The connection between density and environmental sustainability appears less and less ambiguous — high-density urban dwellers consume fewer scarce resources, produce less waste, and occupy far less space than other individuals on a per capita basis. Even those who recognise the limits of denser development, that we can’t create ultra-efficient “Manhattans” in every corner of a country, or those that advocate for a plausible Goldilocks density acknowledge the massive scale benefits of denser urban design.
Whether urban planners and developers pursue a Manhattanisation of American cities or more modest TOD (transit-oriented development) growth patterns, the demand for denser urban habitats is clearly on the rise. The relationship between density and sustainability, however, raises another question concerning the potential benefis of denser planning: how does density impact our civic and political behaviour? If increased density promotes socioeconomic opportunities, environmental sustainability, and reductions in waste, what does it do for our social and political lives?