The Compact City: A Sustainable Urban Form?

By Mike Jenks; Elizabeth Burton et al. | Go to book overview

Part 4

Measuring and Monitoring


Introduction

The case for the compact city remains largely unresolved. The debate in previous chapters has indicated a range of issues in which there is a degree of uncertainty. Competing and conflicting claims, which of necessity are argued from an incomplete knowledge base, exist in theory, in the concept of sustainability, and in relation to environmental, economic and social issues. However, there is an imperative to gain a deeper understanding of the compact city. This is particularly important as policy is promoting new compact forms, while at the same time the results of implementation are largely unknown and hard to predict. Yet the very complexity of cities means that such knowledge is hard to gain.

Many attempts have been made to increase the knowledge base. The UK government, for example, has funded a number of significant programmes of research stemming from its 'Sustainable Development' strategy. Work has been carried out on the quality of development in cities, towns and country, research into the intensification of development and activity in urban areas, land use studies on brownfield sites, and research will soon be commissioned into density and environmental capacity. Government funding has also been earmarked through the Research Councils with special programmes about global environmental change and sustainable cities. In addition to government funding, a whole range of research into sustainability and energy efficiency is being undertaken in universities and industry. It is impressive, but is it enough?

The city, whether compact or not, is a holistic system and the relationships between the parts are complex, and the effects not easy to predict. The need for more scientific and objective knowledge has led to measurement and monitoring at the local scale and the strategic level. But the ability to cope with very large and complex systems gives rise to a dilemma, as the larger the scale, the more indicative and uncertain the outcomes are likely to be. Many methodologies tend to separate out issues into discrete and researchable parts to reduce that uncertainty. Well founded knowledge about the parts is valid, but for many problems associated with urban development and the city, more sophistication is needed. For the

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