Visualizing Density Investigating the density challenge facing the United States
Which photos represent "good" and which represent "bad" density?
This is for you to decide. The gallery is meant to provide an impartial view of various design approaches at various densities. We are not promoting one approach over another but demonstrating that there are many ways to design neighborhoods and meet density goals.
How were the sites selected?
We selected sites to represent diversity in density level, geography, development context, and design approach. We examined rural, exurban, suburban and urban settings to get a range of densities from less than a unit per acre to over a hundred. We grouped urban design approaches into three categories: historical (those built before widespread use of the automobile), conventional (subdivisions and planned-unit developments of post-war suburbs, interstate nodes and other recently developed areas), and neo-traditional (new construction in a historic pattern modified to current building practices) and photographed sites to represent each. The collection currently includes sites in the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Rocky Mountains, and California. It will feature neighborhoods in the Southwest and Northwest in the near future.
How was density measured for each site?
Using the 2000 Census and a street mapping software program, we measured the density in units per acre for each site. With online access to Census 2000 data, calculating density proved a relatively straightforward task (click here for a step-by-step description of the process). Once block level data were downloaded, we divided the number of housing units by the acreage of the selected areas to determine a unit per acre number.
What, exactly, is a "housing unit"?
A "housing unit" or "dwelling unit" provides living space for one household. It can be a single-family house or an apartment within a larger building. For example, a duplex is a single building that contains two housing units.
If good design is so important to creating better density, how does a community or developer pursue it?
This is a topic suitable for an entire course or conference and too detailed to address here. However, we can direct you to some other web sites, in which organizations have defined good design and how to attain it. You'll find lists of design principles, checklists, and strategies for achieving design quality.
What about all the other factors that affect the quality of life in dense neighborhoods?
This web site focuses on the physical design of density. Also crucial to the success of dense neighborhood are less tangible elements like economic security, quality schools, public safety, and public works. Design alone can't make great neighborhoods but it can help nurture the sense of community that does.