Urban Form, Land Use and Sustainability: Recommendations and Key Research Gaps


Urban growth in Alberta has taken various forms, including downtown, inner-city, and exurban development. Most growth, however, has been suburban. A substantial literature exists on urban growth and its forms, most under the rubrics of ‘urban sprawl’ (focusing on its costs, causes, and remedies) and more recently, opportunities for ‘smart growth’. What is missing is a systemic understanding of the growth of cities and towns in Alberta, and the reasons, context, and regulatory framework under which it has occurred.

It remains unclear what level of density, degree of mixed use, and access to transit are considered ‘sustainable’. The effectiveness of taxation, development or congestion charges, and other economic and regulatory mechanisms geared towards fostering ‘sustainable’ growth is also uncertain.

This one-year project is developing a ‘state of knowledge’ report focusing on Alberta, which will identify criteria by which sustainable urban or suburban growth can be evaluated. The report will clarify mechanisms to foster sustain-able growth, and describe the key research gaps in understanding the benefits and costs of urban form.

Research Team

Dr. Sandeep Agrawal, Director of the University of Alberta Planning Program

Dr. Agrawal is an urban and regional planner whose research interests include land use and regional planning, international development, multiculturalism and human rights. His most recent works are on human rights and municipal bylaws, and regional and rural planning in Alberta.

His international works include high density rural regions of India, effects of tall buildings in Colombo, Sri Lanka and evaluation of housing affordability programs in the United Arab Emirates. His newly co-authored book “Understanding India’s new Approach to Spatial planning and Development: A Salient Shift?” is published by the Oxford University Press.

He recently completed a SSHRC/IRCC funded project on documenting the settlement experience of Syrian refugees in Alberta. His SSHRC-funded pan-Canadian work on human rights and the city and Alberta Land Institute – funded municipal annexations in Alberta are currently ongoing.

Dr. Agrawal served on City of Edmonton’s Subdivision and Development Appeal Board. He currently serves on the Alberta Municipal Government Board.