Posted by: janineplusbrianequals | October 30, 2009

Verticle Villages: Visual of land savings (Part 2)

Cooked up with the help of google maps, paint and some fast and loose mathematics I offer you the following visual representation of what kind of land savings we’re looking at if we were willing to build upwards rather than outwards.

The following pictures are based on several assumptions which I will not go through exhaustively. In short, my vertical villages are about 12-14 stories high. I think  my estimates are conservative and relatively accurate but you also have to remember that I was doing measurements by mouse on google maps. Despite being off by quite a bit, you will see that we have ample room for error while still coming out far ahead of housing developments.

Here’s what I’m looking at:

post 2. image 1. close up on suburbs

A. Suburbs. Houses, parking lots, roads and a little commercial

This picture shows about 208 single family houses, some commercial buildings and parking lots and a whole bunch of streets connecting it all together. Look like home? The image covers approximately 0.408 sq km.


post 2. image 5. closer shot with vv.

B. Same area showing the approximate footprint of vertical villages.

Image B is the same area as A but with five blue squares representing the approximate footprint of 14 story buildings. These five buildings could provide the same amount of floor space as all of the residential and commercial needs in this area.


post 2. image 2. large suburban image.

C. Larger image of suburban development

Don’t be deceived by figure C above. Those several, nicely wooded areas are older housing developments. Under the trees is a network of little roads and single family houses. The open spaces are almost all sports fields, golf courses and a couple parks. This area is about 15.583 sq km.


post 2. image 3. blocks taken by different uses

D. Space Required. Blue - 14 story, multi-use skyscrapers. Orange - private driveways. Red - public parking lots. Magenta - roads and sidewalks. Pink - Residential Housing

Figure D also shows about 15.583 sq km of open space with a little agriculture in the bottom right. On top of it are placed blocks representing the footprints of various functions. In a world of vertical villages the blue block is the majority of what is required. There would be a couple roads or rail also required. The four blocks on the right are what our current suburban development style demands. I have not included the footprint of commercial functions, the majority of which could be included within the skyscrapers. I have also not included the largest land requirement of suburban development – yards. The way we break up and divide yards and put them all to energy and water intensive mono-culture lawns dramatically reduces the land’s ability to support wildlife (other than geese, squirrels and a few others). In either the case of vertical villages or conventional suburbs, the buildings must be spaced from each other. Thus in either case the actual impact on the land would be larger than visually shown. However, the multiplying factor of spacing is far more significant with 7904 buildings than it is with 190. That is why we end up with landscapes like image C above rather than image E below.


post 2. image 4. vv distributed

E. Distributed Skyscraper groupings.

In figure E we have again taken a parcel of land about 15.5 sq km and this time distributed skyscrapers across it. The red line connecting them represents rail or road connecting them to each other and to other cities. The red line is far larger than scale – you can see the size of an actual road on the right of the map. (We’ve doubled the space required for the vertical villages to account for the spacing between buildings).

The purpose of this post has simply been to visually demonstrate the size of footprint required in these competing approaches to land use because this is the most dramatic argument in favor of vertical villagation. In future posts we will look at additional advantages (and disadvantages) to this type of settlement.


post 2. image 6. NYC picture

F. A section of Manhattan

Image F above is the same scale as all but A and B above.  Its shows an area where land is already intensely built upwards. Interestingly, however, there are still several (many?) areas of Manhattan where buildings are not above 12 stories. This vertical village proposal is really not aimed at cities. However, pressure could be taken off urban areas if surrounding areas were more efficient in housing and transportation. A goal of any vertical village is that the total footprint (the cluster of skyscrapers) not exceed a couple blocks…the distance one can easily walk in under 10 minutes. NYC does not meet this requirement by the long shot.

And finally, to help you visualize the type of 12-14 story building which could replace the suburbs without decreasing your floor space, I give you figure G:


Ashton Judiciary Square. 12 stories in Washington

G. Ashton Judiciary Square, Washington DC


P.S. – I’m just getting an obsession off my chest and I don’t actually know what I’m talking about. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts.



  1. I like the idea, but one of the reasons that people leave cities for suburbs is they want to be able to garden, landscape, etc. You could possible create indoor community gardens on one or two of the floors, or maybe outside immediately around the buildings, but I think it would still be hard to convince a lot of people to do it.

    How do you propose to convince people to move into these houses? Economic incentives in the form of tax breaks from the government? An education campaign on the harmful effects of sprawl? I imagine there may be ways to do it, but I’m not sure what they are…

  2. I agree with Starkey, difficult to convince people to move into prisons… I mean Vertical Villages.

    Couple other things:

    Have you considered that most houses have basements/are multiple storeys?

    Same goes for shopping malls, more than just the area the mall takes up?

    Don’t know how much that affects your calculations, but thought I add it in.

    Ever vigilant


    • Steve,

      In future post I hope to address how to convince people they want to move to a VV. I took what I thought to be an average sq footage amount for a house off of and made sure that I could fit at least 40 of those into one of my buildings. According to my assumptions, I can. My buildings account for only some of the commercial needed. However, on my map representing the footprint of conventional suburbs I have not included commercial buildings at all. So I think its a fair comparison – in a very broad, sweeping sort of way.

  3. It is part of the ever changing “American Dream” to own your own suburban home. Right?
    So I can imagine there being some ideological resistance…
    Interesting point about the desire to landscape, Starkey – if I had my way, I’d have a ministry that didn’t require me to move, and then I’d build a home and a small-scale, intensive food forest farm on a couple of acres…
    I’m a pretty fanatical armchair gardener, but even I will probably follow my pocketbook. There will always be those hardy back-to-basics people who create suburban villages for agricultural purposes, but I doubt that’s the prevailing intention amongst America’s suburban middle class. Are they willing to live in skyscrapers? I have no idea. Fortunately – unless we’re going the coercive route – no one needs to convince people to move to VVs against their will.
    Actually, Brian, I’m liking this… a permaculture community garden surrounding the base of a VV…

  4. Just observing my own reactions:
    – I can see the value in this.
    – Not something I am interested in personally doing

    I don’t have a rational reason, but I do have a negative emotional reaction to VV’s. Perhaps it is based on my experience of dorms and apartments.

    • How dare you have a personal opinion that differs from my plan!
      It was with great difficulty that I chose to “respond” to your post rather than “unapprove” “delete” “spam” or “edit”.

      Just kidding.

      Keep reading to see if I can bring you around, otherwise, enjoy the suburbian madness.

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