16 million people could live comfortably in Switzerland, says ETH

16 million people could live comfortably in Switzerland, says ETH

A leading researcher at a top university in Switzerland has claimed that, in the future, it would be possible for 16 million people to live comfortably in the alpine nation, despite current housing shortages. The Swiss population stands at just 8,7 million people today, so the researcher’s suggestion that the country could comfortably double in size is sure to raise some eyebrows. 

16 million residents comes with a caveat

The researcher who made the claims, Sibylle Wälty, is a specialist in Spatial Development at ETH Zurich. Wälty noted that while the research says 16 million people could live in Switzerland, things would have to change for it to be comfortable.

"According to our model, [16 million inhabitants] would be possible within today's settlement area", Wälty told Swiss broadcaster SRF. However, for this to be a reality, new infrastructure and housing would be needed, the researcher added. 

The concept backed by Wälty and the other ETH specialists invokes the so-called “10-minute neighbourhood” idea - essentially meaning that more people should live in the centre of towns and cities, in a system that they argue will reduce traffic congestion from drivers and slow down the outward sprawl of Swiss cities.

The 10-minute neighbourhood model advocates having everyday necessities within a 10-minute walk of every resident, including schools, grocery stores, access to public transport and eateries, etc. 

Switzerland is already equipped with some 10-minute neighbourhoods

Wälty told SRF that there are already some great examples of 10-minute neighbourhoods in Switzerland. For her, Ida-Platz in Zurich and Rue Dancet in Geneva are blueprints of how a more densely-populated Switzerland could work. "Rue Dancet is the densest 10-minute neighbourhood in Switzerland with 21.000 residents and 10.000 full-time employees", Wälty said.

Switzerland doesn’t necessarily need skyscrapers though, says the researcher. "Seven to eight floors can already improve a lot", she said, suggesting that the current housing crisis in Switzerland could be remedied by slightly higher-rise buildings.

There is a caveat, though - these taller residences are only effective if public transport connections are sufficient, otherwise, a higher concentration of people living in one area will all rely on cars for transport, causing further congestion on the roads. 

Image: / Bumble Dee

Emily Proctor


Emily Proctor

Emily grew up in the UK before moving abroad to study International Relations and Chinese. She then obtained a Master's degree in International Security and gained an interest in journalism....

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