What is New Urbanism? | Definition, Concept & Benefits

Architecture, city planning, and development are the basis for creating a community. As urban development grows, new urbanism is a concept in urban development that is becoming increasingly popular all over the world.

New Urbanism – Definition

New urbanism is a movement that started initially in the United States which became popular all over the world over the last few decades. This is a movement that promotes walkable and diverse neighborhoods that are environmentally friendly. There are various key principles and elements that are included in the concept of New Urbanism. Real estate planning and development along with local government planning for the neighborhoods are included in New Urbanism. New Urbanism is a concept that can be adopted by real estate developers planning a single building or construction and New Urbanism can be the guiding principle of planning and development of towns and cities.

Urbanism Houses

Congress for New Urbanism

Congress for New Urbanism is the main body that organises the New Urbanism movement. Andres Dunay and Elizabeth Plater – Zyberk, who are a couple, are the two main founders of The Congress for New Urbanism. The movement promotes walkability, mixed-use neighbourhood, sustainable communities and healthier living conditions.  The main principles of New Urbanism include:

  • “Livable streets” arranged in compact, walkable blocks.
  • A range of housing choices to serve people of diverse ages and income levels.
  • Schools, stores and other nearby destinations reachable by walking, bicycling or transit service.
  • An affirming, human-scaled public realm where appropriately designed buildings define and enliven streets and other public spaces”

The practice of New Urbanism has spread across the world since its inception in 1993. It was a way to suggest alternatives to sprawling communities. This is because the majority of the middle class in America live in the sprawl and peripheries of cities rather than being centrally located. Because their houses area located far away from the central city, there is a need to be reliant on cars for transport because public transport is not reliable and convenient for people, especially when they need to travel often for work and other shopping purposes. New Urbanism criticizes the modernist practices of architecture and planning that arose in America after WWII. They have transformed urban design principles and have changed many cities in America into healthier and more accessible cities.

Read about: Jane Jacob’s vision for cities

Key Concepts of New Urbanism

The following are some of the basic concepts of New Urbanism:

  1. Walkability : A major factor which is the part of New Urbanism is creating walkable communities and neighborhoods. Communities should have all basic needs and most facilities and infrastructure that are necessary within walking distance from the residential areas of the community. The basic concept is that people should be able to walk to work; walk to school and most needs should be within walking distance of residential houses. A general rule of the walkability principle of New Urbanism is that in a community everything should be in a 10 minutes walking distance. Buildings are often close to the streets and have windows, porches, and doors close to the street. Narrow roadway grids are often used to park cars.
  2. Connectivity Factor : Connectivity plays an important role in New Urbanism as the basic concept is walkability. This means there has to be a series of interconnected roads streets which ease traffic concerns and also provide the citizen’s roads to walk from one place to another. Along with streets that are used for road traffic, communities that are planned under this concept have narrow roads, boulevards, and alleyways where there is hardly any or no road traffic where people can easily walk from one place to another without traffic. Also, these streets are often lined with trees to provide shade for pedestrians as they walk from one place to another.
  3. Structure of the Neighborhood : The basic concept is that people living in these communities should be able to walk and not require a car to reach work, school, shopping centers, community centers and other facilities. The structure of New Urbanism neighborhoods is that there are a defined center and defined edges of a neighborhood. This means that in the center of the neighborhood which is 10 minutes walking distance from the edges there is a town center. In the center area, there are retail establishments, government buildings, transport hubs and other commercial establishments which are easily accessible in walking distance from the edges of a neighborhood planned under this concept.
  4. Diversity : New urbanism gives a lot of importance to a diverse group of people living in one neighborhood. This means there should be neighborhoods and communities with people of every age, income level, background, racial ethnicity, and cultures. This movement is called New Urbanism and is all about racial harmony, the intermingling of people with different background and also people of different ages, young and old living together.
  5. Environmentally Friendly Urban Development : In the 21st century, being environmentally friendly is not just a trendy concept but the protection of the environment is so important today that without environmental sustainability human survival is going to be in jeopardy in the future. The concept of walkability and everything is in a 10 minutes walking distance is to limit the use of cars and transport facilities that contribute to environmental protection.  Greater use of bicycles and a good network of public transport and limited use of conventional fuels is another concept of New Urbanism. New Urbanism includes a sustainable farming effort in nearby farmlands and also consumption of local produce.
  6. Density of Population : If a community has to flourish with the entire neighborhood within walking distance, the density of population within the New Urbanism community is high. Buildings, shops, schools and residential areas are within walking distance of each other. This is only possible if the community lives in a smaller area and the density of population within that area is high.
  7. Mixed Housing & Aesthetic Urban Planning : New Urbanism includes housing development with residential properties big and small, various types of housing and also housing at various price points. The principles of New Urbanism include an emphasis on the aesthetic charm and beautification of the community infrastructure and real estate. The urban planning should be done in such a way that the residents are comfortable and the overall look of the neighborhood is beautiful.
  8. The Objective to Improve Quality of Life : The overall objective of New Urbanism is to improve the quality of life for the residents in communities and neighborhoods. Environmental protection and urban planning in a sustainable way is the future of planning towns and cities all over the world.

Related: New Urbanism ExamplesTactical Urbanism

Benefits of New Urbanism

  • There are many benefits to the government, to residents, and businesses of New Urbanism. If everything is within walking distance for residents it is very convenient to live in such a neighborhood.
  • People can buy everything nearby, children can walk to schools and people can even walk to work. The use of cars is limited and so it saves money and time for the residents living in these neighborhoods.
  • This urban planning concept stress on planning environmentally friendly neighborhoods and innovation is a key factor in achieving this goal. By reducing the dependence on cars, dependence on conventional fuels is limited.
  • Businesses in these neighborhoods have a higher chance of getting customers who live close by because New Urbanism is based on the high density of population within the neighborhoods.
  • New Urbanism promotes a mixed society with people of all ethnicities, age groups, and income backgrounds. It also promotes the concept of residential homes of all types in one neighborhood. This means cheaper homes are available in areas where there are also high-end residential homes. A mix of people living together in harmony is the future of the world that we live in today.
  • It encourages people to walk every day. As this concept prescribes an urban planning model where people can walk from one place to another without needing cars, it is a very healthy concept as walking every day is good for health.

Urbanism Environment Friendly

There are hundreds of neighborhoods in cities and countries all over the world that have adopted elements of the concept of New Urbanism. Australia, Canada, United States, Europe and some countries in Asia have neighborhoods with New Urbanism as a basic concept of urban planning. New Urbanism aims to improve the quality of life, encourages environmental sustainability and makes neighborhoods more aesthetically appealing. This concept of New Urbanism in planning can be used by a developer building a single home and can be used by communities, neighborhoods, towns, and cities as a concept for urban planning. This type of planning is a futuristic concept that more and more urban planning experts are using as a sustainable option in the 21st century.

Also Read: What is Counter Urbanisation?, Land Use PlanningSmart city concept by MoUD, Government of India,