Urban Infills: Increasing Urban Density for Healthier Cities

By Kyla Knight | Green Real Estate, Urban Design


In urban planning, infill is the rededication of land in an urban environment, usually open space, to new construction. Infill also applies within an urban polity to construction on any undeveloped land that is not on the urban margin. The slightly broader term “land-recycling” is sometimes used instead. Infill has been promoted as an economical use of existing infrastructure and a remedy for urban sprawl.  ~Wikipedia

Urban Infill Site. Image via Wikipedia.

Urban infills are going to drastically lessen the environmental footprint of each and every major city that adopts this way of development (and also, they look uber cool). Whether you are in the market for a new home or are just thinking about where your next move might be, consider an infill within an established community as an alternative to brand new development.

9 Reasons for Urban Infills

1. Building Materials

Massive new development comes with one major environmental cost, building materials. Lumber is of course the first material that comes to mind when we think of ‘building’ anything.

There is fine balance between running a healthy lumber operation and stripping the land of everything it’s capable of producing. Urban infill development brings the lumber and building material usage down to a scalable amount of production.

2. Trees

Older neighbourhoods come with older more mature trees, big beautiful boulevard lining trees. It is one of the major differences between established neighbourhoods and brand new communities. It takes years and years to get that feeling of full lush greenery down every street. The re-birth of spring buds on massive maple trees and that wonderful glow of falls colour change, orange and yellow sidewalks layered with fallen leaves.  And don’t forget the brilliant white sparkle of new snow on giant Evergreens; it just doesn’t sit the same on six month old saplings. The massive cost of supplying a whole new residential development with landscaping is absolutely atrocious, these dollars could better be allocated to beautifying our existing neighborhoods.


3. Land

This is a sensitive area, I am acutely aware of the job creation that comes with the acquisition, zoning, development, and sub-development of new land. It is a process that is unavoidable within any major city, however, there is a difference between new development because of population growth and the greedy need for ‘more’ of everything on a grotesque scale. Land development has to make sense for the city it is developed in. Our older communities often fall into disrepair while our new suburbia just keeps growing and growing. Our heritage, landmarks and cities history reside within those old neighbourhoods. We should put as much effort into the revitalization of our pioneer communities as we do our shiny ‘box store’ freeway access only communities.

4. Schools

Choosing to reside within an established neighbourhood means having your children attend a school that is already up and running. The school likely has deep roots in the community which contributes to a sense of belonging for students and even for the parents who choose to stay closer to a city’s core. And, of course the cost associated with building a brand new school isn’t weighing on taxpayers either.

5. Local retail

Infill supports local retail. It just does. People that choose an infill lifestyle generally choose more often to buy local, attend smaller locally owned restaurants, take in farmers markets and really relish in their ‘core’ lifestyle.

6. Infrastructure

Developing a new home on a older lot also means that the infrastructure in and out of your community has long been in place. Quite often there are wider more gracious streets in older neighborhoods that allow for parking on both sides and easily allow two cars passing. The city constantly has an infrastructure crew in place so that no neighbourhood falls into disrepair.  The redevelopment of new homes on any street and the inevitable increase in everyone’s property value, is a sure fire way to ensure your street is taken care of.

7. Public Transit

The public transit system for an established neighborhood is most likely one of the best most reliable means of transportation you will find in any city. These routes have been around for a long time, and are constantly re-evaluated for ease of access and customer satisfaction. These routes were created at a time when not every home had two vehicles, someone in the household used public transit, back then it was for economical reasons now it serves two wonderful purposes, economics and environment!! It is once again cool to hop on the train to work and quite often will get you there way faster than driving, not to mention the fuel savings in dollars, environmental protection, and insane parking prices.

8. Water/Sewer

If you are building a new home in an old neighbourhood you will also have all your water/sewer lines already in place. Many would argue that these old lines may be crumbling or in need of replacement but once again the city has crews designated to replacement of water/sewer lines and it is likely that your lines may be almost as new as your new home.


Urban Infill Design. Image via map-arch.net.


9. Carbon Emissions

Driving from 30km’s away from work or 4km’s away from work twice a day are two totally different carbon scenarios. Sitting in rush hour traffic (while you idle emissions) is no fun either., Getting home to your family, your pet or just the serenity of your home sooner is worth an invaluable amount to your life`s happiness. Never mind the fact that as an urban dweller you will walk to more meetings, coffee dates and movies completely leaving the car at home all together.

The list is endless in support of urban infill development. If you are considering a new build take a look at an infill build, the process, the customization, your travel time to work etc. You may just find that the grass is greener on the `older sod`.


About The Author

Kyla Knight
Kyla Knight, REALTOR®, RE/MAX River City, Edmonton, AB.,Canada Born to a hippie minded mother (with a corporate career), Kyla was raised to live as organic a lifestyle as possible, she was taught to tread lightly on the earth whenever and wherever she can. She has always lead a ‘green’ lifestyle, even though she self admittedly doesn’t fit the traditional role people expect to see of an “eco-geek”. She is a passionate Edmontonian, and a supporter and volunteer of “everything good in our city”. One of her main focuses is centering her real estate business around the core of Edmonton and it’s river valley communities.