The term "scale" has many meanings, but the in the Density Atlas, scale refers to the extent of land being measured. The Density Atlas defines five levels of scale in a typical metropolitan region.

There is no universal definition for “block” or “neighborhood” or “district.” Comparisons become especially difficult when looking at projects in different geographic contexts. 

For example, a neighborhood in the South End of Boston takes a very different physical form than a neighborhood in a new planned community in Shenzhen, China, such as Wonderland.  On the surface, meaningful comparison seems unlikely because these “neighborhoods” look very different from each other.

However, the Density Atlas establishes criteria to enable appropriate comparisons among seemingly different developments, as described in other pages.

Density Atlas case studies focus on two scales: A (block or development parcel) and B (neighborhood). Additionally, each case may also describe characteristics of the larger planning district, city, or regional context.


  • Tseung Kwan O Station
    hong kong

  • Faubourg Saint Antoine
    Paris, France

  • Tent City
    Boston, Ma, USA

  • A

    Block or
    Development Parcel

    This level typically includes one block or a few small blocks, primarily residential, with few or no supporting services within its boundary. In most cases, the project will have been developed by one entity and is managed by one organization. Note that the FAR is typically higher at Level A than Level B, as there is less non-residential space required for smaller sites.

  • B


    This level is defined as a cluster of walkable blocks with some local services. Many new developments, especially in the developing world, are of this size. These clusters include some neighborhood services and open space, but are still mostly self-contained.

  • C/D/E

    District / City / Region

    At the district, city and regional scales, the elements affecting overall density increase dramatically, rendering macro-level density measurements less meaningful. FAR does not apply to these levels, as the variability across areas at these scales is too great.