Smart Growth Principles

Take Advantage of Compact Building Design

Smart growth provides a means for communities to incorporate more-compact building design as an alternative to conventional, land-consumptive development. Compact building design suggests that communities be laid out in a way that preserves more open space, and that individual buildings make more efficient use of land and resources. For example, by encouraging buildings to grow vertically rather than horizontally, and by incorporating structured rather than surface parking, communities can reduce the footprint of new construction, and preserve more greenspace. This not only uses land efficiently, but it also protects more open land to absorb and filter rain water, reduce flooding and stormwater drainage needs, and lower the amount of pollution washing into our streams, rivers and lakes.

Compact building design is necessary to support wider transportation choices, and provides cost savings for localities. Communities seeking to encourage transit use to reduce air pollution and congestion recognize that minimum levels of density are required to make public transit networks viable. In addition, local governments find that, on a per-unit basis, it is cheaper to provide and maintain services like water, sewer, electricity, phone service and other utilities in more-compact neighborhoods than in dispersed communities.

Research has shown that well-designed, compact New Urbanist communities that include a variety of house sizes and types command a higher market value on a per-square-foot basis than do those in adjacent conventional suburban developments. Increasing numbers of developments are successfully integrating compact design into community building efforts. This is happening despite current zoning practices that discourage compact design such as those that require minimum lot sizes, or prohibit multi-family or attached housing and other barriers, such as negative perceptions of "higher density" development.

More information from Smart Growth Network partners:

Coastal and Waterfront Smart Growth: Element 2

Land Use and Driving: The Role Compact Development Can Play in Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Compact Development for More Livable Communities

Compact Development CD

San Jose light rail train