A systematic review of motives for densification in Swedish planning practice

This article provides an overview of motives for densification based on a systematic review of comprehensive plans from 59 Swedish municipalities. Results show that the three most common motives for densification is transport, services and urban environmental qualities.

Date added 15 January 2021
Last updated 15 January 2021

This article provides an overview of motives for densification based on a systematic review of comprehensive plans from 59 Swedish municipalities. Initially:

“Density as a concept in urban planning and design was introduced in the second half of the nineteenth century to control fires, disease and social disorder that was argued to be related to high densities in industrializing cities” (p.1).

The motivations for densification have since changed and is now an approach adopted to address current urban problems such as climate change and act to facilitate for increased efficiency.

Results from the systematic review in this article shows that whilst no motive is given in three out of four cases where density or densification is mentioned, the other quarter argues that densification is motivated by transport (19%), services (17%) and urban environmental qualities (14%). Health (8%) infrastructure (6%) and ecology (2%) were quoted least frequently, and the other motivations identified included resource efficiency (11%), economics (11%) and social related motivations (10%).

In the sub-categories, the motive of access to recreational greenspace is often used, however in 40% of the cases it is mentioned as a negative effect of densification. Other negative effects of densification that identified are noise, air pollution and problems related to surface water runoff.

As such, most motives found in the comprehensive plans can be categorized as positive for sustainable urban development, however, the frequently used motives are often deemed more positive for sustainable urban development than what scientific empirical evidence supports. The article therefore concludes that comprehensive plans classes densification as too positive for sustainable development.