1 What Does Density Look Like? | West Coast Environmental Law


What Does Density Look Like?

The look of density all depends on the design of neighbourhoods and specific buildings. A summary of typical densities is provided below.


Structure Type


1.  Rural

Single Family

Less than (1 dwelling unit per ten acres)

2.  Large Lot Suburban

Single Family

One unit per (one unit per 5 acres to 2 dwelling units per acre)

3.  Suburban

Single Family

(2-10 dwelling units per acre)

4.  Traditional Neighbourhood

- Compact single family

(10-20 units per acre)

- Single family with suite

(17-24 units per acre)

- Multifamily with single family appearance

(12-22 units per acre)

- Rowhousing

15-40 units per acre)

5.  Medium Density

Multifamily walk-up and apartments (2-4 stories)

(20-50 units per acre)

6.  High Density

Multifamily apartment with elevator

(50+ units per acre)

7.  Suburban Office Park

One to two story commercial or manufacturing

(0.3-0.5 floor space ratio)

8.  Downtown Commercial

- Up to four stories

(1.0-3.5 floor space ratio)

- Highrise

(3.5-20 floor space ratio)

 The following residential development patterns all achieve the livability goals outlined in this Smart Bylaws Guide. They use adequate densities to support public transit, neighbourhood commercial development, and more diverse housing forms that promote affordability. They also fit into most residential neighbourhoods in BC - from small towns to large cities - and are examples of good housing design.

Single-family conversion to four units


Ground-oriented multifamily


For More Information on What Density Can Look Like

Visualizing Density: A Catalogue Illustrating the Density of Residential Neighbourhoods:

Aerial densities (Thanks to Christina DeMarco and Bob Denboer of the Greater Vancouver Regional District for developing and permission to use these aerial photographs and descriptions.)