Urban infill development

Construction and land development within a built-up area or existing community, including building on vacant or underutilized spots and reuse of old or blighted sites and buildings. It is a type of urban intensification.

Motivation / Relevance

Urban infill development approaches are motivated by the need to counteract:

  • Urban sprawl and associated negative impacts:
    • social, such as exclusion, poor access to services and amenities, poor public health resulting from automobile dependence, etc.;
    • economic, such as insufficient tax base, high cost of spreading out infrastructure and traveling long distances, etc.;
    • environmental, including increased pollution, CO2 emissions and reliance on fossil fuels, built-up of agricultural land and green space, etc.;
  • Risks of greenfield development, including negative environmental impacts, inadequate transit and infrastructure coverage, etc.;
  • Abandoned/vacant sites being eyesores and voids in urban fabric associated with aesthetic, safety and walkability concerns;
  • Urban blight arising from underutilization of sites and buildings, insufficient population and economic activity density preventing further development.

Main impacts

  • Strengthened and more vibrant urban core;
  • Compact development;
  • Climate mitigation;
  • Improved urban resilience and climate adaptation capability.

Benefits and Co-Benefits

1. Urban benefits include:
  • Improved spatial continuity, enclosure of streetscape, and aesthetics;
  • Potential for regeneration of depressed neighborhoods and greater safety;
  • As a result, a potential for a more attractive pedestrian environment, mix of uses, and renewed sense of place;
  • Improved walkability and circulation through the replacement of abandoned places with potentially vibrant uses.
2. Environmental benefits include:
  • More efficient use of existing urban land and conservation of agricultural land, green space, wetland, water body, habitats and ecological communities, protection of slopes and soils, etc.;
  • Reduced CO2 emissions and energy consumption arising from a decrease in the need to travel by automobile and use freight road transportation;
  • Reduced specific CO2 emissions and energy intensity associated with basic urban infra-structures services (such as solid waste collection, and water supply , etc.) due to a more compact urban area.
3. Socio-economic benefits include potential for:
  • Improved quality of life in existing communities enabled by infill development projects` contributing to economic, social, housing or civic community needs and enhancing character of older neighborhoods;
  • Reduced need for building new infrastructure and more efficient use of existing one;
  • Improved local economic growth opportunities;
  • Increased tax base;
  • Improved housing and service proximity;
  • Improved access to jobs;
  • Stronger sense of community;
  • Potential for development of public transit prompted by critical density of people and activities.