Abstract of PhD Thesis

'Sustainability versus Liveability': An Investigation into the Implications of High-density Living

Peter Howley, University College Dublin (2007)

The onus on the planning systems of most advanced capitalist societies to develop a more sustainable urban development pattern has resulted in an ever-increasing emphasis on policies to increase residential densities.  These policies are supported for a number of reasons which include: conservation of the countryside; less need to travel by car, thus reduced fuel emissions; support for public transport, walking and cycling; more efficient service provision and revitalisation and regeneration of inner urban areas.  Although belief in the virtues of the compact city approach is now widespread among the policy community, a number of limitations in this model can be identified.  For example, questions remain relating to the ‘sustainability versus liveability implications’ of compact city environments.  In this regard, although the public may support sustainability principles, there is a common perception that high-density development poses too great a cost on individuals’ quality of life.  Therefore, this thesis explores issues surrounding increasing residential densities and the liveability of urban areas.  Using new apartment developments in Dublin’s central city as a case study, this thesis evaluates the relationship between high-density living and quality of life concerns of residents, examining residents’ satisfaction with dwelling unit, apartment block and neighbourhood, and investigating individuals’ residential preferences.  Combining both quantitative and qualitative research methods, this thesis argues that the creation of high-density apartment developments has failed to address liveability concerns of residents, thus leading to residential preferences that favour suburban and rural living.