The Compact City: A Sustainable Urban Form?

By Mike Jenks; Elizabeth Burton et al. | Go to book overview
Patrick N. Troy
Environmental Stress and Urban Policy

Introduction
Modern cities are inherently ecologically unsustainable because they need to import food, energy and raw materials; they produce more waste than they can cope with within their boundaries; and they radically change the ecology of their sites. The larger the concentration of population the less sustainable it is. Even if we extend the boundary of the city to include its hinterland we cannot usefully describe it as potentially ecologically sustainable. The more the city becomes part of the international economic order the less it can be seen as 'ecologically sustainable' in any operational sense. The low density form of traditional Australian cities has recently come under attack as the antithesis of the sustainable urban form promoted by the compact city advocates. As a response to increasing environmental stress and concern about the profligate waste and consumption of urban sprawl, 'consolidation policies' are being introduced. These policies are in effect the realisation of the compact city concept. This chapter examines the sustainability of Australian cities in terms of environmental issues. It critically assesses proposals to change city form as a way of reducing urban environmental stress, and discusses how policy options might be better considered. Environmental stress in Australian cities is made up of a variety of components. For each component, the following will be discussed:
• the issues, problems and concerns for sustainability
• potential solutions to the problems, particularly in terms of urban policy
• the significance of consolidation policies, or urban density, in ameliorating or exacerbating the problems

Water consumption and drainage

The growth of the major cities and the increase in per capita consumption of water has reached the point where there is a crisis in the capacity to meet the

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