Tag Archives: Process of intensification

Process of intensification, its advantages & disadvantages!

Housing is one of the largest component of urban land use in the city, which determines well a city functions in near future. Land use planning is done for judicious use of land means judicious use of residential areas. Increase in population by natural growth or migration & increasing activities & facilities in cities have put tremendous pressure on urban land. Thus it becomes very important to utilize the scarce resource of land in a planned manner. This is one of the factors affecting land value.

Housing density is the measure of intensity of occupation of land compared to the total land area available within planning boundary. Density indices by themselves do not have any connection with the living conditions of the area but they do establish a distinct relationship between the people and the amount of land they need to attain a certain standard of living. The built form in the city is representatives of its progress and prosperity. While planning for residential areas it is equally important to focus on the transportation aspect as well. Having an efficient and working road network is vital. Presence of well-planned traffic island & Traffic Volume Count Study are basic steps which can be taken for better and manageable traffic movement.

Factors leading to Organic Intensification:

Social Aspects – Like changes in community structure, family structure & way of living.

Economic Aspects – factors like income, occupation pattern, affordability, expenditure pattern, cost factors & financial pattern

Locational Aspects – Along transport corridors, nearness to employment centers etc., which results in appreciation of property values.

Technological Aspects – Emergence of new building materials and new construction techniques. Awareness about the need of data collection, data processing cycle, methods of data processing & information processing cycle.

Legal Aspects – the different norms, standards, rules and regulations of various housing agencies.

The approaches for determining the residential densities have been changing over the time. The earlier approaches have been explained at the city level. But today, as more & more population started concentrating in the cities, the study outlook shifted from the city level to smaller levels – the sector or area level, which finally decides the overall density.

Urbanisation in world


Intensification:  Intensification occurs when an existing building, site or area within the existing urban area is developed or redeveloped at a density higher than what currently exists. This can occur through:

  • Redevelopment of sites, including the reuse of brownfield and greyfields sites;
  • Development of vacant and/or underutilized lots within previously developed areas;
  • Expansion or conversion of existing buildings, such as office buildings to residential

Buildings & the

  • Construction of new developments that combine a mix of uses for a more efficient use of land.

Expanding Cities and Urban growth

Process of Intensification: The process of intensification of residential areas is a dynamic process, which is a result of the changes in life cycles of the residents i.e., the changing needs, capacities/affordability and incomes of a household. There are two ways of intensification:

  • Incremental addition to the built form
  • Addition in the size of the household i.e., to accommodate more number of people.

This “progressive development” is a global process. The concept of incremental housing has now gone beyond its objective. There is a shift from the need of people to their greed.

Besides the “Organic Intensification”, which involves investment of individual resources & is a natural phenomenon/ a natural self-defined process leading to a differential growth rate, intensification can be done in a planned way with changes in development controls and policies.

Consequences of Unplanned / Organic Intensification:

Overcrowding – Increase in densities result in overcrowding, decrease in organized open space per person, thus congestion.

Environment & Services Deterioration – Stress on infrastructure & deterioration of environment.

Increase in Informal Housing Stock – including slums and unauthorized colonies.

Transformation in City Character – Loss of traditional housing stock, identity & image of urban form due to redevelopment.

Traffic Problems – Increasing volume of traffic, lack of parking space, and increase in built space.

Increase in Land Prices & Rent – There are various factors affecting land value, phenomenon of speculation leading to hike in land price & rents. Urban poor are most affected.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Planned Intensification / Redensification


Research carried out in Europe, the U.S.A and Australia has led to the advocacy of cities which are spatially compact, with a mix of uses. This urban model is claimed to have a number of benefits in comparison with more sprawling development. Compact cities are argued to offer opportunities to reduce fuel consumption for travelling as homes, work and leisure facilities are close together. They are also favored because urban land can be reused, while rural land beyond the urban edge is protected. A good quality of life is argued to be sustained, with high concentration of people providing social conditions conducive to vibrancy, liveliness and cultural production and consumption.

Various advantages of intensification as a result of urban planning:

  • Urban sprawl and related problems are controlled
  • Optimum utilization of urban land
  • Saves on land cost and development cost
  • Saves time- No land acquisition required
  • Less commuting for citizens and lesser fuel consumption
  • To develop satellite towns/ cities is 6 times more expensive than to reuse/ rejuvenate the existing one. Generation of funds to invest in infrastructure to address higher densities by involvement of public private partnerships.
  • Compact Neighborhoods have their own social life.

 Urban Pattern


The planner’s perception of intensification often contrast with that of the residents. The residents have a negative perception about intensification.

The differences in perceptions arise mainly because of the impacts identified by planners may not affect the local residents; for example, provision of housing and jobs for people outside the area. Planners tend to be much more positive about the potential of intensification. From their perspective, wider objectives are often achieved despite local problems identified by the residents. The strategic arguments for and against intensification often conflict with experience at local level.

The various disadvantages can be:

  • Upgrading can lead to loss of low cost units.
  • Subdivisions may cause loss of family housing.
  • Conversions / redevelopment may lead to loss of jobs. New jobs may not always be for local people.

Methods of Planned Intensification:

There are various methods in which intensification can be done in a planned way:

  • Increasing the available Floor Space:

            –   By increasing the coverage

            –   By increasing number of floors

  • Reducing the size of dwelling unit
  • Reducing the area under non-residential uses
  • High density development in vacant pockets
  • Faster development of partially developed areas


Experience from different countries / cities:

Planned Intensification:

Old visions of compartmentalization of cities result in inefficiencies & violations. Different elements of the city like land use, transport, ecology, and housing should not be addressed separately. It is important to understand the dynamics of the city and the market forces this framing regulations and bye laws accordingly. It becomes desirable to have higher FSI/FAR to encourage taller / larger building in the CBD area where property prices are higher.

Examples of Planned Cities:

Atlanta (U.S)

Population – about 2.5 million in 1990

Built Up area – of 4280 sqkm

Longest possible distance – 137 km

Barcelona (Spain)

Population –  about 2.5 million in 1990

Built Up area – of 162 sqkm

Longest possible distance – 37 km

This gives the manifold advantages like: Significant number of trips on foot or by bicycle; offices, schools, shops- all are close by; existence of strong community feeling.

Hong Kong’s new housing development has high densities of 3750 pph. It may not be ideal, but provide a much better living condition than the solid congested slums.

Bangalore: 290 inhabitants per hectare. The city is going American way i.e., its turning into a spread out city. It is impossible to promote metro due to the vast sprawl. The cost shall be prohibitive & the system if set will be a huge waste.

France, Netherlands & the U.K all have policies to encourage compact cities in the name of sustainability.

Author Bio:

Shubham Aggarwal (Founder, PlanningTank) is an Urban Planner from India working to improve the human settlements through the website. PlanningTank is the Urban, Regional, and Rural Planning Knowledge base which provides insight into to urban & rural areas, data processing & GIS.