Compact Cities: Sustainable Urban Forms for Developing Countries

By Mike Jenks; Rod Burgess | Go to book overview

Sharon Biermann

Bulk Engineering Services:

Costs and Densities

Introduction

In South Africa, national housing, transport and urban development policies all promote the densification and compaction of urban areas and discourage sprawl in the interest of efficient, sustainable and integrated development. This policy accords with the generally accepted view that higher population densities over a smaller land area, as opposed to lower densities over a greater land area, lower the cost of providing public services. This is because shorter distances need to be traversed, and because of savings derived from economies of scale.

Using the results of applying a bulk infrastructure potential cost model in the metropolitan area of Greater Pretoria, it is argued that bulk infrastructure capital costs 1 do not simply decrease with increasing density and compaction of urban form. This is because of the unique interrelationship between infrastructure thresholds, capacities, location and density over time and space. There are three factors contributing to this argument: historically distorted patterns of infrastructure investment, development that has not proceeded according to prediction, and the specific locational differences in environmental and land-use conditions that result in differential infrastructure installation costs.

As a result of the policies of separate development, infrastructure investment was historically allocated in an unbalanced manner, with some areas receiving massive investment and others, very little. Over time, this has resulted in areas, within the consolidated urban fabric, that have spare capacity which could be utilised at a minimal additional cost. Some of these areas are centrally located.

It is not uncommon in South Africa, as elsewhere in developing countries, for actual development not to proceed according to the predictions made at the time of the infrastructure installation. These predictions of demand are based on assumptions of the extent, type and level of service of the development. With changing development pressures and political changes, predicted demand may not be realised, resulting in areas of either under- or over-capacity, unrelated to the distance from the central area, with associated cost implications for accommodating future development. The degree to which an area is either under-

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