Living and working in cities shapes how we look after young, old and vulnerable individuals, our environmental footprint, and the health and wellbeing of every resident. Our focus is on how cities can better ‘produce’ economic, social and environmental outcomes.

Majority of people now live in cities and on a daily basis the city is where these people consume goods, experience nature, relax and work. Planning and urban development has often approached these as separate tasks and made spatial allocations accordingly. Population growth and the environmental footprint of cities is, however, increasingly necessitating urban space to be multifunctional and productive spaces economically, socially and environmentally. 

The productive city challenge is one in which the institutions, behaviours, aspirations and practices that operate in cities can be given direction to achieve sustainable urban transitions. It involves understanding the barriers and drivers of urban transitions; the economic and institutional parameters that shape short-term and long-term decision making; and solutions-oriented technological and social innovation. 

Our research in this program will therefore go beyond conventional understanding of productivity and envisage urban environment, spaces and resources as input for a range of social and environmental outputs as well as economic outputs.    

Our studies cover:

  • the labour productivity, distributional and housing market impacts from employment concentration (agglomeration) in Australia
  • residential densification, infill development and spillover effects in Melbourne
  • household practices and circular plastic consumption.

Program leader

Current project

 Agglomeration economies

A potential source of productivity growth is agglomeration economies. Agglomeration economies (external economies of scale) arise when firms and people locate near one another together in cities and industrial clusters. Clustering of firms and people, however, also generate congestion costs that, potentially, reduce or negate any benefit from agglomeration. 

Congestion costs can include higher housing costs (living costs). Understanding the nature of urban agglomeration effects in Australia is key to making decisions about population growth and distribution, urban form, housing market policies and livability strategies. 

This project, led by Associate Professor Andi Nygaard, Dr Sharon Parkinson and Margaret Reynolds, provides a first attempt in Australia to estimate the magnitude of any labour productivity-enhancing agglomeration effects, their impact on housing markets and urban inequality. 

Our other research programs

Contact the Centre for Urban Transitions

There are many ways to engage with us. If your organisation is dealing with a complex problem, get in touch to discuss how we can work together to provide solutions. Call us on +61 3 9214 5286 or email  

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