International evidence review: high-rise housing as sustainable urban intensification

Project Summary:

The production of dense high-rise housing development has gathered pace over the past ten years in major urban centres around the world, including in the UK, and London especially. Such development has emerged as a market and state-led response to both local urban intensification policies and the increasingly global residential real estate market (e.g. Rosen and Walks 2015; Pow 2017). The vertical reconfiguration of urban form in this way, while common in some part of the world – notably in North America and East Asia – is relatively new to the UK, but is emerging as one of numerous ways to increase the supply of housing. Yet, high-rise housing can have profound and potentially long-term socio-spatial implications (Webb and Webber 2017) as previous experiments with such typologies in UK cities during the mid-twentieth century demonstrated (Glendinning and Muthesius, 1994). Poorly planned and/or badly designed, high-rise housing can distort existing “social relations, social boundaries and urban networks” (Rosen 2016, p. 1), accelerate the gentrification and privatisation of existing neighbourhoods, and place considerable pressure on existing public infrastructure and local services. The long-term safety, security and maintenance of high-rise building, as tragically demonstrated by the Grenfell disaster, raises further urgent questions about the resiliency of high rise housing production.

The proposed objectives of this project are: (1) To identify the design methodologies and planning policies that are driving high-rise housing development in cities around the world and in the UK; (2) To collate and analyse existing evidence on the impacts of high-rise urban intensification, particularly on the density of development and unit size and distribution, the mix of market and social provision, the socio-demographics of owners and occupiers, as well as evidence on social cohesion, crime, etc. in existing high-rise neighbourhoods; and, (3) To reflect upon the long-term resiliency of this increasingly investor-driven housing typology, and consider the implications for current and future planning and design policymaking.

Timeline: October 2018 –

Team: Dr James White (Co-I), Dr Bilge Serin (RA) and Dr Chris Foye (KE)

Theme: Place