Smart, sustainable urbanization and mobility renewal

Infill development in existing cities combined with sustainable mobility delivers more for society than building in the countryside. That is the main conclusion of the study we conducted in collaboration with Goudappel and KAW on behalf of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. We examined the investments and impact of infill development and sustainable mobility compared to housing construction outside the city at six specific locations in Rotterdam and Zwolle to identify what a different approach to urbanization can deliver.

In the Netherlands, 1 million new homes must be built until 2030. The fulfillment of this housing task must meet the social issues of climate, mobility and social issues such as safety and health.

The traditional approach
In a traditional approach, people build in green areas, outside the existing city. This means that amenities are further away. People use the car more often as a means of transportation and more parking spaces are needed.

The advantages of infill development
Previous research has already shown that combining urban infill with smart solutions provides great social added value compared to the traditional way of expanding a city. However, this requires an integral approach in the domains of space, mobility and energy.

Infill with an integral view
In this follow-up study we looked with this integral view at infill at six specific locations in Zwolle and Rotterdam with different characteristics (including housing stock, level of facilities, state of the housing, existing mobility facilities). For these six locations we calculated the costs and benefits of investments in infill development.  For example, investments in a better connection to a train station, improving bicycle/walking facilities and creating more green space. Against these investments, there are the benefits of a more sustainable living environment, livability, positive agglomeration effects and improved health that occur when the choice of transport is less in the (own) car.

Sustainable mobility
Infill development often succeeds only by sacrificing parking spaces. But the resident gets much in return in the form of greenery and a pleasant and safe living environment. Motoring is still possible by parking (partial) cars in a hub at the edge of the neighborhood. Clustering parking also makes sense for the future, when all cars will be electric. You can set up the parking lot as an energy hub, with sufficient charging facilities and a connection to a smart grid or local energy generation.

Social value
We are running up against the edges of our mobility system, so a different approach to space and mobility is necessary to meet the challenges of sustainability and nitrogen. This study has shown that infill development is not only a pure necessity, but also offers social added value. This makes it preferable to building on the edge of the city.  In addition: a number of benefits were not priced in this study, but only qualitatively. For example, a more livable neighborhood, greater social cohesion and safety and the reduction of transport poverty through a more finely-meshed mobility network. There is every reason to believe that the added value of infill development is probably (even) higher than currently calculated.

Smart and sustainable urbanization in your municipality
Our research covered six illustrative areas that occur throughout the Netherlands and offer initial insights into the possibilities.
Would you like to know the social added value of mobility renewal and smart, sustainable urbanization of a specific, different area? With our model we can offer you a customized solution that does justice to the specific plans within your municipality. Our model uses validated key figures to calculate investments and benefits based on the input (site characteristics and intended plan development) you provide, giving you a clear understanding of the added value of densification. Of course, we (together with KAW and Goudappel Coffeng or your own Spatial Planning and Mobility departments) can also help to determine and/or structure the input for the best possible consideration.

Learn more
Want to know more about this research and methodology? Then read the research report or contact Jessica Dirks.

15 November 2022

3 minute read

Key Experts

Erik van Ossenbruggen


Jessica Dirks

Senior Consultant

Walter Hulsker