Assessing sustainable urban densification using geographic information systems

Natasha Cabrera-Jara

Daniel Orellana

M. Augusta Hermida

ABSTRACT: Facing the expansive growth of cities and the wasteful consumption of resources, cities must be measured in its immense complexity, and its parts and layers must be observed so as to assess its ability to support such pressures. Cities should look at themselves and define how far away they are from a sustainable model, which means a greater sense of community, mixed uses, higher densities, better public space, higher quality of life, less energy consume, among others. This paper presents a toolbox for assessing sustainable urban densification using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The toolbox uses spatial analysis and cartographic representation techniques to characterize and analyze the spatial distribution of a set of indicators using an orthogonal grid. The toolbox includes the automatic computation of 20 indicators of urban sustainability organized in four themes: compactness, diversity of uses, urban green, and socio-spatial integration. It also computes a Sustainable Urban Densification Index for each cell of the grid allowing to explore and discover spatial patterns of urban sustainability. The toolbox includes options for parameterization of both the indicators and the index, offering flexibility for adapting it to different realities and needs. These features allows the application of the toolbox for a wide variety of studies, such as comparative analysis of different cities or urban fabrics, monitoring of performance of urban policies, assessment of the impact of urban densification and urban sprawl, and future scenario evaluation. The toolbox is publicly available to researchers, practitioners, urban officials, technicians and students interested in urban sustainability.

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