Density Prioritized

Density requires three mechanisms within reach of its domain, 1) a large share of food grown locally, including within dense areas, 2) a comprehensive water management program and 3) flat, smooth surfaces on which efficient multiuse vehicles travel on renewable power.

Food Density

Dr. Dickson Despommier (Vertical Farming) works on the problem of urbanizing food energy. He is a microbiologist and a Professor of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City. Still, he thinks “far ahead” like an urban planner. The need for food energy will not be met given three probability factors, 1) the rate of population growth, 2) living in 80% urban environments, and 3) unlikely to self-limit without catastrophe.  This dependence condition is due to a thin layer of soil and unpredictable weather for producing one harvest. In contrast, three-dimensional systems will make five times more.

Svalbard Seed Vault

The confounding factor is how ambient GHG as Carbon Dioxide accelerates growth in plants, especially in northern areas. The rise in temperature caused by GHGs, on the other hand, is incredibly harsh in southern regions. Overall, drought and related extreme climate effects are likely to cause an overall reduction in global food production and plant health. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates the drop needs to be around 2% by 2050. The continuous increase as the Earth’s population increases by 14% t  is 7.2 billion in 2014, 7.8 in 2020, and 10 billion by 2050.

Table SPM.5 is from Climate Change 2013 The Physical Science Basis by Working Group I Contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

The table illustrates the primary drivers of climate change. It wasn’t until a few years later that methane CH4 was recognized as equally dangerous as CO2 while in smaller amounts.

The matrix of genetically modified organisms (GMO), combined with engineering technologies, delivers a potent nutritional hit on plant productivity. The presumption of a safety net is in the promise of seed diversity through initiatives expressed by its symbol — the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. To balance against the downside of this prayer or hedge regarding food production, radically new systems are more fully integrated into our building culture. Businesses capable of making plants perform at optimal levels are well underway.

Rising energy and transportation costs are uncontrolled variables in the non-urban horticultural industry. Technology will not be enough to close the supply gap. Still, urban density is now offered at low cost with expertise and foresight. Business protocols that enable supplies to flex during a crisis exist in the self-interest of large corporations in sustaining the international chain protein. Flex triggers when the supply time is short, leading to “demand uncertainty.” The other end of the chain should it fail Svalbard Seed “apocalypse” Vault in Norway. It has the most significant number of seeds in its entire history as of February 2020. The deposit contains 60,000 seed samples from 36 different groups and continues to accept contributions.

The goals of sustainability outlined in the industrial, agricultural community will also observe high-density urban centers serving low-density residential land uses with increased self-sufficiency and a protein surplus. Center to center transit supports the efficient movement of goods and services, adding urban food products, year-round yield, and near-zero transport cost 24/7/365 in weather-proof dense urban centers. Urbanizing food production will be challenging in the Euclidian-driven land use regulation. In contrast, form-based regimes built on performance criteria are gaining a broader understanding.

Given this outlook, the integration of food production into existing buildings and urban landscape has potential. Why should the building code require automobile storage, water, sanitation, power and not represent the need for localized food production? Parking cannot compete with access to quality, low-cost food. Various breadbasket subsidy priorities already stand on a century of statutory public policy for high yields at low cost.


From the days of Archimedes and Vitruvius, hydrologists and engineers developed access to water with good reason. Water is a medium wherein sunlight becomes food. Water automatically prioritizes the substances for every form of life on Earth. There is no alternative to hydration, but there are alternatives for fire. Water education issues are resolved by knowing that:

  • It takes about 8.7 lbs. of food to raise one pound of beef.
  • It takes about 1.9 lbs. of food to raise one pound of chicken.
  • It takes about 1.2 lbs. of food to raise one pound of salmon.

The Water Footprint Network evaluates the staggering amount of water required per pound of meat to advance aquaculture policy with one fact of importance. When it comes to pushing the efficient production of protein for human consumption, ocean fisheries use very little fresh water in the production process.

To sustain the city’s water supply, New York City is responsible for one of the American northeast’s largest privately-owned open space networks. The system has a good chance because this partnership has the ultimate win/win potential. (Chapter IV pgs. 2- xxx) Fully commoditized1 water is controversial. When stress develops in government, new revenue streams are sought. In Paris, a battle for control ensued and ended in a municipal take over. In New York City, households and building managers are encouraged to monitor their consumption habits online and adjust consumption rates.

Smooth Surfaces (D = M/VT)

Replacing some of the space taken for automobiles and their storage with alternative vehicles is a robust topic in urban planning and development literature. The lasting smoothness of surfaces for transportation encourages density and the mass of vehicle types and passengers within complex geographies, flowing from region to neighborhood.

Beginning in 2010, the rail and bus services that connect to Manhattan and other major employment centers noticed an increase in auto alternatives. However, in mid-2013, the NYC Department of City Planning found that only 40 percent of auto-owning households in Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx use their vehicles for traveling to work.

This low number includes a 20 percent increase in people using bicycles or walking to get to work. A year earlier, new buildings were required to have space for alternative vehicles (nominally bicycles) to meet new off-street parking requirements. In 2008, NYC put millions of gallons of white paint on its streets to make drivers recognize bikes, and the bike riders are legitimate users of the right of way.

Other cities examine New York as a transit and land use outlier for two reasons. First, there is much to learn from its long roller-coaster history of transit service development, and second, to grasp public policies that affect land use based on vehicle types. The main lesson is clear. Encouraging high-density housing commercial and recreational clusters seamlessly attached to multiple transportation options increase exponentially with a widening range of personal urban mobility aids (PUMA). As a result, policies that support their entrance into the dense urban market could dwarf the auto industry. 

As destinations spread out and older public transit systems struggle, small personal vehicles are less efficient. New York is attempting to run profitably at just over one hundred years. It requires plans for retirement and vacations. Still, the city’s agencies enable positive change despite important social equity issues and financial problems.  This success is mainly due to its provision of dense concentrations of intellectual capital capable of thoughtful discourse with the facts before them.

New York represents a third of all U.S. transit ridership, and the region is the most transit-oriented area in the United States. As a result, of the nation’s 100 largest metro regions, it has the lowest transportation carbon emissions per capita. Compared to the average American, residents of the region produce 43 percent less CO2 emissions. In addition, thanks to the density of high-value services, enjoy a per capita GDP that is 30 percent higher than the average for U.S. metro areas.

Hundreds of observers have documented similar figures from Cervero & Bernick in 1997 (Transit Villages in the 21st Century, San Francisco) to Don Shoup’s call to reason in The High Cost of Free Parking updated in 2011. (Film) Documentation of the vast highway infrastructure and subsequent real estate production in every state and county of the United States is more than thorough; it is disapproving and damned as the miracle it is supposed to represent in the nation’s development.

The high cost of highway maintenance and management to state and local government is well known and exasperating. Apparent alternatives stand in the fog of auto-dependent urban expansion.  On the other side of the coin, even we find Masdar, perhaps the most advanced urban design on the planet that might back away from its rapid transit (PRT) system as the only system.  People like density because of its diversity.  (See Chapter x p. x)

We are resolving the basics of food, water, and smooth surfaces at a reasonable cost shifts public policy from food energy production, water management, and transit to the wonders of super low-density.

Renewable energy policy strategies pull. For example, the proposed rule on power plant carbon emissions is a push that began in June 2014. Reducing CO2 requires diversity, such as large-scale solar arrays and lots of white LEDs.

Aided by public investment in wind, geothermal and tidal turbines, cost reductions continue. New electric grids and deployment contribute to the failure of lobby agents such as the American Legislative Exchange Council. On the other hand, business and public officials are encouraging a clean energy tax policy.