Archived site – Last updated in May 2017

Density & great design

Transformation means change. We understand this can be challenging, and our role is to plan for growth in a way that also brings the benefits of more people living in an area.

Thoughts on density

We know that discussions about increasing urban densities can be confronting, and there are many past examples of poor planning that do not suit the demands of our modern city.

Density alone does not determine the quality of a place. It is influenced also, for example, by the diversity of land uses and land ownership, by the fine-grain design of streets and lots, and the ways that people move around. Density is just one indicator that planners use.

Residential density can be measured in different ways (including site, net, gross, urban and metropolitan) and it is the land uses that are included in the land area that determine the type of density being described. It can be difficult to make meaningful comparisons when using different measurement types.

Increased density alone is not our objective. We're focussing on the creation of high quality, liveable communities that integrate with adjoining areas. Density indicators alone do not tell the full story of housing needs, the future quality or comfort of homes, the jobs created, whether there is life and activity on the streets, or the quality of parks and facilities in an area. It is also not a target. - While increased density does mean change, it can also have benefits. Larger numbers of people coming to an area mean that creating new transport and social facilities becomes feasible. This brings demand for better public spaces and improved access to high quality community facilities and services. More people can mean new facilities and parks, and innovative urban design is more likely to occur if well thought out from the start.

For more about density and our work with the Committee for Sydney:

Design approach

We realise that there are obvious trade-offs with higher density neighbourhoods, principally the imposition many people will feel from taller buildings changing the skyline, and the impact of more people on the streets and footpaths.

The way we are approaching precincts will set the benchmark for how different buildings and structures, old and new, are integrated and used in a variety of ways alongside public open space, celebrating heritage, childcare and community facilities. Tall buildings are not appropriate everywhere, but well designed towers can have a place close to transport and employment centres. This is why we want to ensure that the mix, location and design of all buildings are the best they can be. Through local consultation and expert advice, we’ve developed the following six simple design principles to help us deliver the best outcomes for communities wherever increased density is proposed.

Design principles

 Six density principles to help us deliver the best outcomes for communities

Transition from new to old

The tallest buildings should be built where they have the least impact and taper down the heights as they meet existing neighbourhoods.


The look and feel of new buildings: their design, facades and articulation, should be varied and add to the visual appeal of new neighbourhoods.

Active streetscapes

The shops, cafes and offices that new buildings provide will attract pedestrian and foot traffic, to create bustling, vibrant streets.

Accessible public spaces

Design should encourage high levels of activity in public spaces that are used frequently by a range of people.

Community facilities

Community facilities should be near areas of community activity and designed to support and activate public spaces like parks and plazas. 


Each new building's form and height should be varied.

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