City Form Lab’s research examines the theory that denser city environments tend to generate higher levels of interaction between people, establishments, and institutions than sparser city environments. They argue that density increases opportunities for “both planned and chance encounters, allowing the users of an area to get more done in less time and with lower transportation costs.” However, they also recognise that density alone is not sufficient to afford desirable interactions for living, working and recreation. It is often the subtle differences in the quality, not quantity, of interactions, which make one city or neighbourhood more attractive than another.
While the methods for capturing negative effects of density (e.g. congestion, friction etc.) are widely understood, the positive effects of density (e.g. vibrancy, walkability) remain poorly explored. City Form Lab has begun to focus their research efforts on capturing the elements that contribute positively to a dense urban environment, using an analysis and mapping approach that analyses the intensity of urban environments. They refer to this as Urban Network Analysis or UNA.