The Concentric Model. Image credit

The Concentric Model. Image credit

ZIMSEC O Level Geography Notes: Settlements: The concentric model/Burgess’s model (1924)

  • This is known alternatively as the concentric model, the ring model for urban land use or Burgess’ model.
  • It was formulated by Burgess and Park in 1924 after their studies of the city of Chicago in the United States.
  • Their study revealed that the city could be divided into a number of concentric land-use zones :
  • The Central Business District
  • The Zone of transition
  • The Zone of transition
  • The Zone of workingmen’s houses
  • The Zone of middle income or medium density housing
  • The Commuter Zone
  • The model assumes that the city grows from a single nucleus (core) in concentric circles of distinct land uses.
  • The city grows by urban ecology or expansion due to demand of different goods and services.
  • The city will continue to grow into surrounding rural areas.


  • It is the nucleus of the city
  • All (communication) routes meet in this area.
  • It has high rise buildings/skyscrapers.
  • Rentals are normally high in this area.
  • It has very few people and traffic during the night and high traffic densities of people and traffic during the day.
  • It is the commercial core where hotels, banks, specialized services, theaters, departmental stores, finance houses and cinemas are found.

Zone of transition

  • It surrounds the CBD
  • It has residential areas with poor housing.
  • It has offices and light industries.
  • It is characterized by industrial functions that require a lot of land.
  • It infamous for its crimes and social problems for example prostitution.
  • It is characterized by transient population, migrant workers, the poor, aged and unemployment.
  • Examples are Mbare and Avenues.

Zone of workingmen’s houses/Low class residential areas

  • This is known as to the zone of workingmen’s houses or low-income residential zone
  • This zone is found near heavy industries for example Highfield and Glen Norah suburbs near Willowvale industries and Mbare and Graniteside Industries.
  • The density of houses per unit area is high
  • The zone is characterized by high density suburbs with each house located on a small plot of land.
  • This area is occupied by factory works, single houses, small yards and untarred roads.

Zone of middle income/medium density housing

  • This is characterized by large houses,
  • with gardens and broad tree-lined streets..
  • A small commercial centre and
  • greenbelts can be found within this zone.
  • Social centers like pre-schools and schools can also be found in this zone.
  • Examples are Hillside and Cranborne suburbs in Harare.

Commuter zone

  • Is located some distance away from the city center.
  • People use commute to the CBD in order to get to work using trains, cars and buses.
  • The zone starts off with low density, high income residential areas,
  • with large spaced houses and gardens.
  • In some places market gardening may be practiced for example Honey Dew farm in Greendale.
  • They usually have a suburban shopping center for example Sam Levy in Borrowdale and Kamphinsa in Greendale.
  • The zone may also give way to larger farms supplying fresh fruits, dairy products and vegetables to the town.
  • Sometimes the farming zone may be interrupted by small dormitory towns such as Chitungwiza.

To access more topics go to the O Level Geography Notes page