A certain degree of compactness is essential for the viability of 15-minute cities. This is due to the need for an economic threshold for facilities accessible by walking or cycling. A summary of 300 research projects by the OECD shows that compactness increases the efficiency of public services in all respects. But it also reveals disadvantages in terms of health and well-being due to pollution, traffic, and noise. The assumption is that there is an optimal density at which both pleasant living and the presence of everyday facilities - including schools - can be realised. At this point, 'densification' is not at the expense of quality of life but contributes to it. A lower density results in more car use and a higher density will reduce living and green space and the opportunity to create jobs.
The image above is a sketch of the 'Plan Papenvest' in Brussels. The density, 300 dwellings on an area of 1.13 hectares, is ten times that of an average neighbourhood. Urban planners often mention that the density of Dutch cities is much lower than in Paris and Barcelona, for example. Yet it is precisely in these cities that traffic is one of the main causes of air pollution, stress, and health problems. The benefits of compactness combined with a high quality of life can only be realised if the nuisances associated with increasing density are limited. This uncompromisingly means limiting car ownership and use.
Urban planners often seem to argue the other way round. They argue that building in the green areas around cities must be prevented at all costs to protect nature and that there is still enough space for building in the cities. The validity of this view is limited. In the first place, the scarce open space within cities can be better used for clean workshops and nature development in combination with water control. Secondly, much of the 'green' space outside cities is not valuable nature at all. Most of it is used to produce feed for livestock, especially cows. Using a few per cent of this space for housing does not harm nature at all. This housing must be concentrated near public transport. The worst idea is to add a road to the outskirts of every town and village. This will undoubtedly increase the use of cars.
Below you can link to my free downloadable e-book: 25 Building blocks to create better streets, neighborhoods and cities