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Posted by on Feb 6, 2015 in | 0 comments

Tapering Density – Performance Standards for Density Transitions

One of the hottest topics redeveloping cities is how to introduce higher density development in areas close to lower density residential neighborhoods.  Toronto published the “Avenues and Mid-Rise Buildings Study” (125 pages) to guide infill and new building design.  This study establishes seven performance standards:

  1. Buildings are moderate in height – no taller than the R.O.W. is wide;
  2. Buildings provide an appropriate transition in scale to adjacent neighborhoods;
  3. Sidewalks are wide enough to include and support trees, generate a lively pedestrian culture and ensure accessibility for all;
  4. Sidewalks on the Avenues enjoy at least five hours of sunlight from the spring through to the fall;
  5. The ground floor of buildings provide uses that enliven sidewalks and create safe pedestrian conditions; The public realm should be protected and enhanced by limiting vehicle access from the Avenue, encouraging shared access, and creating a public laneway system that is accessed from side streets;
  6. Streetscape and building design reflects excellence in sustainability, urban design and architecture, recognizing the important public role of the Avenues in defining the quality of life for the city and its neighborhoods; and,
  7. Mid-rise development sites located within historic districts and Character Areas should reflect local conditions and reference additional design guidelines that promote “context sensitive” intensification

Audiences and Venues:

  • Cities can adopt/adapt the “Avenues and Mid-Rise Buildings Study” to create their own guidelines.
  • Community groups can learn the basics of designing for transitions from medium to lower density.
  • Architects and planners can learn the various building dimensions and design involved in tapering

Sample Learning Objectives:

  • learn how to identify locations/avenues suitable for medium density
  • understand variations in building design and articulation as they relate to density transitions, for example for solar access, shadows, and visual appeal.
  • have access to case studies and images that describe good transitions.


The guide describes areas suitable for mid-rise buildings and specific height and tapering formulas.  This guide is a product of Brook McIlroy Planning + Urban Design/Pace Architects, E.R.A. Architects, Quadrangle Architects Limited, and the Urban Marketing Collaborative for the city of Toronto.

width and height


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