Supporting smart urban development

21 June 2018

Supporting smart urban development

Smart urban development linked to prosperity and sustainability

A report on ground-breaking research led by Kathy Pain, Professor of Real Estate Development at Henley Business School, part of the University of Reading, was launched recently by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and the Coalition for Urban Transitions. The research has evidenced that, as well as being better for real estate investors, well-designed and compact cities are also better for the community and the environment. The study is the first of its kind to quantify the impact of quality of place on overall property returns.


Findings show links between well-managed densification, known as “good density”, and higher risk-adjusted returns, capital values and investments in commercial real estate; they also demonstrate that this urban form characteristic enhances resilience and prosperity of an area in the long-term and is therefore more likely to continue providing sustainable returns for investors over cities without “good density”. It sets out six characteristics for “good density”: clustering structure (land use patterns within cities and regions), economic and employment infrastructure (availability of investment, jobs, and talent), built infrastructure (physical density and mixture of uses), green and blue infrastructure (hedgerows, woodlands, ponds, waterways etc.), public transport infrastructure, and good governance.

The ‘Supporting Smart Urban Development: Successful investing in density’ report has strong industry and quantitative backing. Based on the analysis of 63 global cities, the research was undertaken in collaboration with the University of Reading’s Institute for Environmental Analytics and Department of Meteorology and experts at the University of Bath and Daniel Black Associates, Bristol, and supported by leading global real estate investors and managers with over $300 billion in assets. These companies have released a statement committing to champion further understanding of the opportunities and benefits of well-managed and well-serviced densification.

Professor Kathy Pain, Professor of Real Estate Development, commented:

“The research underlines the importance of the private and public sectors working together to support smarter planning and investment in compact, dense development with low carbon emissions that can benefit communities, the environment and the economy.”

The report provides the foundation for future research and understanding of how to support resilient urban development.