||Take Advantage of
Compact Building Patterns
What Does It Mean to Take Advantage of
Compact Building Patterns?
This category poses a classic land use question. Suppose you had 10 people and 10 beautiful acres. Would it be better to place each person on one of the acres? Or to place all 10 on three of the acres while holding the other seven in common? The answer is that the second option offers more efficiency by limiting the cost of extending infrastructure to the entire 10 acres. There’s also the environmental benefit and potential social benefit that the 10 people—and probably many more—might gain from the experience of enjoying the seven acres together.
What Compact Building Patterns Are NOT
- Strip malls and big box retailers with a sea of asphalt
- Building new farther out
- Spreading resources thin by constantly extending infrastructure farther out
Benefits of Compact Building Patterns
- Saves taxpayer money on infrastructure (roads, sewer lines, schools, telecom, etc.)
- Reduces distances between routine destinations
- Saves time in daily movements
- Decreases energy consumption and carbon footprint
- Preserves open space; offering a sense of community
|"The purpose of transportation is to bring people and goods to places where they are needed, and to concentrate the greatest variety of goods and people within a limited area, in order to widen the possibility of choice without making it necessary to travel.
A good transportation system minimizes unnecessary transportation; and in any event, it offers change of speed and mode to fit a diversity of human purposes."
–Lewis Mumford, The Highway and the City
(Harcourt Brace & World 1963)
Minneapolis employed some of these principles more than a hundred years ago on its chain of city lakes. Rather than offer large private lots that backed up to the shores of Harriet, Calhoun and other lakes, the city created a more compact building pattern of smaller lots several hundred feet back from the water and preserved the shoreline as a public green zone. The effect was to still provide people (more people) a private view of the water while creating a community asset along the shores. A century later it’s apparent that the city would have been a much different place had it given up its lakeshore for private lots.
Challenges to Creating Compact Building Patterns
- Current laws, zoning regulations, building codes, parking requirements, roadway standards and lending practices that give preference to spacious, auto-oriented development
- Public preferences in many communities for sparse development
- Absence of an honest accounting of the costs of sprawl development versus potential savings of compact forms