When it comes to sustainable and efficient land use, infill development is a prime example of maximizing existing urban spaces. Infill development is the practice of constructing new buildings or redeveloping existing properties within already established urban areas. This approach stands in contrast to urban sprawl, offering benefits that extend beyond the realm of architecture and real estate.
Here’s a closer look at the key advantages of infill development and its positive impacts on communities, the environment, and the economy.
What is infill development?
Infill development is a dynamic urban planning strategy that optimizes the use of available space within existing built-up areas. It typically involves the construction of new buildings or the revitalization of underutilized properties, and integrating them seamlessly into the existing urban fabric.
In essence, infill development is a deliberate departure from the conventional approach of urban expansion, which can often result in unchecked sprawl and the consumption of precious greenfield land. At its core, this type of development is about breathing new life into urban landscapes to create sustainable, vibrant communities.
Key elements of infill development
To understand infill development, let’s look at its core principles that set it apart from traditional sprawl:
- Optimal use of space. In urban environments where open land is scarce, infill development creatively utilizes vacant space.
- Integration with infrastructure. One of the defining features of infill development is its close integration with existing infrastructure.
- Diverse architecture. Infill projects often leverage diverse architectural styles, to blend modern design with the historical character of the surrounding neighborhood.
- Promotion of walkability. Infill development emphasizes walkability by locating new buildings in close proximity to shops, restaurants, schools, and other essential services.
- Mixed-use spaces. Many projects incorporate mixed-use spaces that combine residential and commercial elements within the same development.
- Community-centered approach. Infill development is often driven by the desire to enhance communities and create socially engaging spaces.
- Preservation. Adaptive reuse is a common element of infill development, where older structures with historical significance are repurposed rather than demolished.
- Sustainability. In recent years, many infill projects have embraced sustainable building practices. This includes energy-efficient technologies and other eco-friendly measures.
- Revitalization. Infill development can play a major role in revitalizing neglected or declining urban areas.
The benefits of infill development
The core principles of infill development set the stage for tremendous benefits. Rather than stretching outward, further and further from an aging city center, infill development revitalizes and repurposes old into new, to ensure a city evolves over time and with its population. Some of the critical benefits of this approach include:
- Preservation of greenfield land. Infill development helps preserve undeveloped or greenfield land on the outskirts of urban areas. Utilizing existing spaces minimizes the need to encroach upon natural habitats and agricultural land.
- Reduced infrastructure costs. Developing within established neighborhoods often means that essential infrastructure is already in place. This significantly reduces the need for costly new projects that are associated with sprawling developments.
- Enhanced walkability and connectivity. Infill projects are typically situated in locations with existing amenities, public transportation, and related services. This promotes walkability, leading to less traffic congestion, improved air quality and healthier lifestyles for residents.
- Revitalization of communities. By promoting new residential, commercial, or mixed-use spaces, neighborhoods experience a boost in economic activity, increased property values and a renewed sense of community pride.
- Preservation of cultural heritage. Infill development can incorporate adaptive reuse; wherein historic or culturally significant structures are revitalized. This allows communities to preserve their heritage while still benefiting from modern amenities.
- Economic growth and job creation. Infill development often requires collaboration among architects, designers, contractors, and local businesses. This, in turn, stimulates economic growth and creates job opportunities in the construction and service sectors.
- Density and housing affordability. In urban areas with limited space, infill development can help increase housing density, making efficient use of land, and addressing housing shortages. This can contribute to more affordable housing options for residents.
- Reduced energy consumption. Infill projects often incorporate sustainable design practices and green building technologies. This can lead to reduced energy consumption, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and a smaller ecological footprint.
- Fostering community interaction. The nature of infill development encourages interaction among residents due to the close proximity of homes, shops, and communal spaces. This sense of closeness fosters stronger social ties.
A better way to strengthen communities
Infill development offers a balanced approach to urban growth—one that respects the environment, values existing communities, and supports economic progress. By recognizing the benefits of infill development, urban planners, policymakers, and land developers can work together to create sustainable, vibrant, resilient cities for generations to come.
To explore the benefits of sustainable development, check out some of the current projects Sandbox Development Consultants is proud to collaborate on!