Is Density the Answer?

Principal Consultant , David Allison Inc.
  • Mar. 21, 2011

In Vancouver, we live in a city with amazing views and surroundings, and for years these natural wonders have affected the way we build. Arguably, Vancouver’s approach to design is typically Canadian in fashion; noninvasive and polite; considerate even.

Vancouver is a city of glass, narrow structures and relatively low buildings (in comparison to other industrial cities) for a good reason: We actually want to be able to see our stunning ocean and mountain views.

It’s nice, but it presents challenges for the makings of a world-class city. If Vancouver is to be a place that a growing population can live in and work in, the design and structure of buildings is going to have to change. And if Vancouverites want to make a run at being a green city, things are really going to have to change.

Density, according to American author and journalist David Owen, is the answer. It’s the solution to being green and living sustainably, not just for Vancouver but for the world. His ultimate utopian environmentalist community? That concrete jungle we know as NYC.

Speaking at a UDI lunch in Vancouver last week, Owen pointed out that:

• New Yorkers have the lowest per capita energy use in the U.S.

• New Yorkers have the smallest carbon footprint per person

• 80 per cent of New Yorkers walk, bike or transit

• 77 per cent of all households in Manhattan don’t even own a car

The list of points went on, and all were related to New York’s dense population.

Ultimately, Owen – along with Vancouver’s former mayor and EcoDensity advocate Sam Sullivan – pointed out that B.C., like many other places in North America, is actually losing one of the things we’re trying to preserve, our natural landscape, to suburban sprawl. (Sprawl here is spreading at nine square-feet a second! How’s it looking in your city?)

The guy’s got a point.

But are we ready for this? Ready to change the way we understand the metropolis that is New York City? Ready to accept this as the new template for city development? Ready to fight the density battle against all those naysayers who live for their view?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting…

Read more

David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting…

Read more





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