B6. Inclusivity and social capital

Community gardens and happy communities

Aims and method:

Discusses the role of community gardens in building healthy and sustainable communities. The research took a single case study, a large high-rise public housing estate in Sydney, and adopted a qualitative methodology to understand the impact on residents of a new community garden.

Key findings:

· Resulted in a broad range of positive physical and psychological well-being outcomes including opportunities for individuals to relax, undertake physical activity, socialise and mix with neighbours, sharing across culturally different backgrounds and religions.

· The gardens also afforded opportunities to learn about horticulture and sustainable environmental practices, such as composting and recycling, as well as being an important source of low-cost fresh produce for a healthy diet.

· Community gardens can play a significant role in enhancing the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being necessary to build healthy and socially sustainable communities.


Thompson, S., Corkery, L., & Judd, B. (2007). The role of community gardens in sustaining healthy communities. In Paper to be presented at the Third State of Australian Cities Conference, Adelaide.


Connecting and strengthening communities

Aims and method:

Presents an overview of a research on how the built environment supports the development of community and well-being. Initially, economic, health, medical, transport and environmental research databases were searched using keywords and terms tailored for each database. Experts working in healthy built environments were also questioned about relevant material in the grey literature.

Key findings:

· Careful design of open space, neighbourhood streets and buildings can encourage human interaction, but if a place is perceived to be unsafe, it will have little chance of success in connecting people and creating communities.

· There is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. Removal of this bond by ‘building out’ natural elements (including plants, animals and even the weather) is fundamentally detrimental to health.

· Contact with nature is particularly important in highly urbanised environments. Small-scale encounters with nature and people within natural settings are equally as significant to health and community building as access to large areas of open space.

· Community gardens and farms are forums for incidental and organised social interaction where people can establish and maintain contact with community and nature

· Perceptions of neighbourhood characteristics are just as instrumental in shaping behaviour as any objective measure of built form


Thompson, S., & Kent, J. (2014). Connecting and strengthening communities in places for health and well-being. Australian Planner, 51(3), 260-271.


The social value of public spaces

Aims and method:

Explores how people use both traditional and new public spaces, and how these places function, successfully (or not). The report summarises a range of discrete projects on the subject as part of a larger Joseph Ronwntree Foundation funded programme.

Key findings:

· Public spaces (including high streets, street markets, shopping precincts, community centres, parks, playgrounds, and neighbourhood spaces in residential areas) play a vital role in the social life of communities.

· They act as a ‘self-organising public service’, the social advantages of which may not be obvious to outsiders or public policy-makers.

· Public spaces offer many benefits: the ‘feel-good’ buzz from being part of a busy street scene; the therapeutic benefits of quiet time spent on a park bench; places where people can display their culture and identities and learn awareness of diversity and difference; opportunities for children and young people to meet, play or simply ‘hang out’.

· Some groups may be self-segregating in their use of different public spaces at different times, with social norms affecting how and whether people engage with others.

· Public spaces are a particular and distinct resource for young people looking to socialise with others. However, groups of young people are sometimes perceived as having antisocial intentions, which in many cases is simply not true.

· The majority of public spaces that people use are local spaces they visit regularly, often quite banal in design, or untidy in their activities or functions (such as street markets and car boot sales), but which retain important social functions.

· Too great an emphasis on crime and safety in public spaces may deprive them of their historic role as a place where differences of lifestyles and behaviour are tolerated and co-exist.


Worpole, K., & Knox, K. (2008). The social value of public spaces, Joseph Rowntree Foundation.


Sociability of the street interface

Aims and method:

Examines the micromorphology of street interfaces, considering how street life is shaped by the emergent pattern of built form and spatial layout. The study uses urban form and space syntax methods to record the changing micro socio-spatial texture of West Village, Manhattan (USA).

Key findings:

· The following built form properties are to be considered when aiming for a vibrant sidewalk micromorphology: i) the plot size; narrow plots mean narrow building façades which in turn increases the potential for a high threshold frequency across the block frontage and increased street activity; ii) functional mixture; a greater mixture of building uses within the block frontage length increases vibrancy; iii) morphological mixture; buildings with varying architectural styles and consequently varying treatment of the private/public transition increases street activity.

· Short segments (and thus short block sides) enhance pedestrian flows and consequently increase co-presence on the street.


Palaiologou, G. & Vaughan, L. (2014). The sociability of the street interface - revisiting West Village, Manhattan. In: Oliveira, V., Pinho, P., Batista, L., Patatas, T. & Monteiro, C. (Eds.) Our common future in Urban Morphology. Porto, Portugal, 88-102


Social sustainability and urban form

Aims and method:

Considers the relationship between urban form and aspects of the social sustainability of communities, in the context of existing medium-sized British cities. Based on household surveys linked to neighbourhood physical, map-based, and socio-demographic data. Statistical models are developed to account for systematic variations in the main social sustainability outcomes.

Key findings:

· Outcomes relating to neighbourhood pride and attachment, stability, safety, environmental quality, and home satisfaction all display a negative, nonlinear relationship with density.

· The outcomes with the strongest negative relationship with density are home satisfaction and safety, both important factors influencing residential location choices, suggesting that housing-market choices are still likely to favour lower density options where available

· Outcomes relating to social interaction and group participation tend to improve as density rises up to a medium level, around 100 – 140 DPM (net), and then fall off at higher levels.

· Outcomes relating to the use of local services are positively related to density and contributes to greater sustainability in terms of travel and transport, which itself displays a similar pattern over density.

· These findings indicate that compact cities are not `win-win' on all dimensions of sustainability and that reductions in transport emissions will have to be weighed against social criteria.


Bramley, G., Dempsey, N., Power, S., Brown, C., & Watkins, D. (2009). Social sustainability and urban form: evidence from five British cities. Environment and Planning A, 41(9), 2125-2142.


Women’s empowerment and the city

Aims and method:

Explores the experiences of over 3,000 women and girls living in urban communities in Brazil, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Liberia, Nepal, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Each country adapted a common set of research tools to suit and reflect their local context including literature review, survey, focus groups, and case studies.

Key findings:

· Cities can be places of choice and empowerment, or discrimination

· Physical factors can help to counter challenges: improving urban infrastructure, facilitating women’s movement in cites, providing better pedestrian-focused street lighting and safety during day.

· Such policies help in empowering poorer women in cities.


ActionAid (2015) Women and the city III: A Summary of baseline data on women's experience of violence in seven countries. ActionAid February 2015


Public support for street-scale urban design practices

Aims and method:

Examines how different groups are supporting local design actions and how local design effects physical activity. Analysis is based on a cross-sectional national sample of adults (n = 4682) participating in the USA.

Key findings:

· 57% of adults rated local street design as highly important in determining the amount of physical activity they obtain.

· Adjusted odds of rating neighbourhood features as having high importance were higher in people aged less than 65 years versus those more than 65 and minority racial/ethnic groups versus non-Hispanic whites.

· Two-thirds of adults were willing to take civic action to support local street-scale urban design policy.


Carlson, S. A., Guide, R., Schmid, T. L., Moore, L. V., Barradas, D. T., & Fulton, J. E. (2011). Public support for street-scale urban design practices and policies to increase physical activity. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 8(s1), S125-S134.


Designing for diversity

Aims and method:

Examines the role of planners and designers in enhancing diversity. A multi-dimensional definition of diversity was used that includes income, race/ethnicity, age and family type. This framework was applied to an evaluation of diverse areas in the city of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs

Key findings:

· The most diverse areas in Chicago typically shared the physical characteristics that they had strong edges, grids with commercial corridors and mixed housing types

· Despite the fact that diversity is a complex matter, urban design can contribute to more diverse neighbourhoods.


Talen, E (2006) Design for Diversity: Evaluating the Context of Socially Mixed Neighbourhoods, Journal of Urban Design, 11:1, 1-32,


Social housing and resident satisfaction

Aims and method:

Investigates the reality of social exclusion on housing estates in three diverse settings, with different social and economic conditions common in post-industrial Britain. The research was based on a series of discussion groups with residents, interviews with service providers and extended (three-day) community workshops, one on each estate.

Key findings:

· People feel they are judged by the quality of their housing environment.

· The morale of estate residents is boosted considerably by estate modernisation.

· The quality of the physical environment is key to building social capital and encouraging a strong stable community


Page, D. (2000). Communities in the balance: The reality of social exclusion on housing estates. YPS for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.


Social capital and the residential design

Aims and method:

Examines whether pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use neighbourhoods encourage enhanced levels of social and community engagement (i.e., social capital). Data was obtained from a household survey that measured the social capital of citizens living in neighbourhoods that ranged from traditional, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented designs to modern, car-dependent suburban subdivisions in Galway, Ireland.

Key findings:

· Persons living in walkable, mixed-use neighbourhoods have higher levels of social capital compared with those living in car-oriented suburbs.

· Respondents living in walkable neighbourhoods were more likely to know their neighbours, participate politically, trust others, and be socially engaged.


Leyden, K. M. (2003). Social capital and the built environment: the importance of walkable neighbourhoods. American journal of public health, 93(9), 1546-1551.


Neighbourhood qualities and social participation

Aims and method:

Investigates the relationship between perceptions of neighbourhood user-friendliness and social participation while controlling for personal characteristics in a sample of seniors living in an urban environment. A convenience sample of older adults (n = 282) was recruited through community organisations located in high- average- and low-income neighbourhoods in Montreal (Canada). Data was collected via an interviewer-administered questionnaire assessing social participation and various variables at the neighbourhood level and at the individual-level.

Key findings:

· Five variables emerged as independent predictors of social participation.

· Positive predictors included frequent walking episodes (almost every day), higher vitality and general health, and perceived accessibility to key resources for older adults. Also included was a negative predictor: age.

· Critical to achieving this are perceptions of neighbourhood user-friendliness.


Richard, L., Gauvin, L., Gosselin, C. & LaForest, S. (2009). Staying connected: neighbourhood correlates of social participation among older adults living in an urban environment in Montréal, Québec. Health Promotion International, 24(1), 46-57.


Social life and tree cover

Aims and method:

Examines the extent to which the density of tree cover in a city relates to social capital among neighbours. The research links social survey data (n = 361) from the Baltimore Ecosystem Study with socioeconomic, urban form, and green space data at the census block group level using GIS.

Key findings:

· A systematically positive relationship between the density of urban tree canopy at the neighbourhood block group level and the amount of social capital at the individual level (r = .241, p < .01).

· Multiple regression analyses showed that tree canopy added a 22.72 per cent increase in explanatory power to the model for social capital.


Holtan, M. T., Dieterlen, S. L., & Sullivan, W. C. (2015). Social life under cover: tree canopy and social capital in Baltimore, Maryland. Environment and behavior, 47(5), 502-525.


Designing for mixed income communities

Aims and method:

Considers the issue of social mixing and design within developments. In particular, the concept of ‘tenure blind’ development is critically investigated with regard to three mature case studies, combining design analysis with social research.

Key findings:

· Where residents are required to encounter each other in the public realm, literally by ‘bumping into each other’, then there is some evidence of social interaction and mutual recognition.

· Successful mixed income new communities can be produced without recourse to an emerging design orthodoxy of ‘pepper potting’. Even if the design and layout does not conform to an ideal notion of tenure blind development

· Provided that the layout draws on established principles of urban design and no stigma can be attached to the social housing through its visual appearance, then a degree of social interaction between different income groups is facilitated and resident satisfaction levels are high.

· These observations suggest that a flexible approach to layout and design may be taken in the development of mixed income new communities that can be adapted to the circumstances of the development process.


Roberts, M. (2007). Sharing space: Urban design and social mixing in mixed income new communities. Planning Theory & Practice, 8(2), 183-204.


Urban sprawl and social ties

Aims and method:

Tests the link between the presence of social ties and urban form through an examination of auto-dependent neighbourhoods in Atlanta, Boston, and Los Angeles (USA). The work utilised a cross-sectional survey of adults from the Multi City Survey of Urban Inequality and data from the 1990 decennial census.

Key findings:

· Social ties were found to be significantly and substantially related to the degree to which residents of a neighbourhood relied on their cars, although not necessarily to neighbourhood density

· The study found that automobile hegemony was inimical to neighbourhood social ties

· The evidence reinforces a thesis that neighbourhoods that force people into cars and inhibit face-to-face contact somehow undermine social ties among neighbours.


Freeman, L. (2001). The Effects of Sprawl on Neighborhood Social Ties, An Explanatory Analysis, Journal of the American Planning Association, 67(1), 69-77.


Cul-de-sacs and social cohesion

Aims and method:

Assesses differences in residential social cohesion for residents of “bulb” cul-de-sacs, “dead-end” cul-de-sacs, and through streets in Connecticut (USA). The study utilised qualitative interview techniques to gauge the opinions of residents in 12 cases of each street type, with factors of location, socio-economic context, street length, and so forth controlled for. Two forms of residential social cohesion were measured with the collected data: attitudinal and behavioural.

Key findings:

· Cul-de-sac residents are more neighbourly than residents of other street types

· Bulb residents experienced the highest levels of attitudinal and behavioural cohesion, followed by dead-ends, then through streets

· The distinctive- ness of living “around the circle” of the bulb, as well as the additional space for social activities, promotes a sense of solidarity among these households


Hochschild, T. (2015). The Cul-de-sac Effect: Relationship between Street Design and Residential Social Cohesion, Journal of Urban Planning & Development, 141(1), 1-6


Older people and social support

Aims and method:

Examines whether architectural features of the built environment theorised to promote direct observations of the street and social interactions (e.g., porches, stoops) predicted Hispanic elders' social support and psychological and physical well-being. The study coded built-environment features for all 3,857 lots in the 403-block area of an urban Miami, (USA), followed by three annual assessments of social support, psychological distress, and physical functioning in a population-based sample of 273 low-socio-economic status Hispanic elders (70-100 years of age). Structural equation modelling analytic techniques were used to examine the hypothesised relationships.

Key findings:

· Architectural features of the built environment theorised to facilitate visual and social contact had a significant direct relationship with elders' physical functioning, and an indirect relationship through social support and psychological distress.

· Elders living on blocks marked by low levels of positive front entrance features were 2.7 times as likely to have subsequent poor levels of physical functioning, compared with elders living on blocks with a greater number of positive front entrance features.


Brown, S., Mason, C., Perrino, T., Lombard, J., Martinez, F., Plater-Zyberk, E., Spokane, A. & Szapocznik, J. (2008). Built environment and physical functioning in Hispanic elders: the role of "eyes on the street", Environmental Health Perspectives, 116(10), 1300-1307.


Sociability of Masterplanned communities for ageing

Aims and method:

Explores the ‘community development aspirations of masterplannned communities built for ageing residents. The analysis is based on observations and semi-structured interviews with 40 people over 64 years of age living in seven masterplanned developments located in the city of Gold Coast, Australia

Key findings:

· Increased safety, walkability, accessibility and the provision of soft edges within developments play a significant role in the social health of the older aged residents

· Accessibility to ‘third places’ was fundamental to the continued participation of older people within their community

· Segregation of masterplanned communities behind gates or in isolated areas led to higher levels of segregation for residents


Alidoust, S. & Bowman, C. (2017) Master planned communities for ageing populations. How sociable are they? Cities & Health 1(1): 38-46


High-rise and social withdrawal

Aims and method:

Explores the relationship between living in high-rise blocks and residential satisfaction as manifested through the potential for social overload and withdrawal. The study examined the experiences of socio-economically comparable (low income) groups of tenants on the same housing estate on the Bronx in New York. Tenants were interviewed in six three story and two fourteen story buildings and their experiences compared.

Key findings:

· Tenants in the high-rise buildings came into contact with large numbers of others in the public spaces of their buildings. As these contacts exceeded residents' interaction capacity or ability to process relevant incoming social stimuli tenants experienced social overload.

· This experience is manifested by tenants' perceptions of crowding in their buildings, feelings of less control, safety, and privacy in the immediate residential environment, problematic social relationships among tenants, and alienation and dissatisfaction with the residential environment generally.

· High-rise apartment residents were less socially active beyond their building and felt a greater sense of powerlessness in effecting management decisions.


McCarthy, D. & Saegert, S. (1978). Residential Density, Social Overload, and Social Withdrawal. Human Ecology, 6(3), 253-272.


Well-being and high-rise living

Aims and method:

Explores the relationship between high-rise living and the social and psychological impact on residents. Utilises a systematic review of the evidence to draw conclusions about what is known and unknown about the relationship

Key findings:

· The consequences of living in high-rise buildings are many. A few may be caused by the building form itself, but many are moderated by non-architectural social factors

· Many, but by no means all, residents are more satisfied by low-rise than by high-rise housing.

· High rises are more satisfactory for residents when they are more expensive, located in better neighbourhoods, and residents chose to live in them.

· Children are better off in low-rise housing; high rises either restrict their outdoor activity or leave them relatively unsupervised outdoors, which may be why children who live in high rises have, on average, more behaviour problems.

· Residents of high-rises probably have fewer friendships in the buildings, and certainly help each other less.

· Crime and fear of crime probably are greater in high-rise buildings.

· A small proportion of suicides may be attributable to living in high rises.


Gifford, R., (2007) The Consequences of Living in High-Rise Buildings, Architectural Science Review, 50(1), 2-17


Emotional responses to the built environment

Aims and method:

Examines the feeling people have as they experience the built environment and which sorts of qualities elicit negative and which positive feelings in onlookers. Feeling maps were used to survey people’s emotional responses to their environment as they walk through the streets of Mitzpe Ramon (Israel). Over the course of one year, an ethnographer individually accompanied 50 participants with diverse social characteristics on a set of seven walking routes and mapped their feelings.

Key findings:

· People’s shared feelings about specific places are influenced by the particular physical properties and characteristics of a given place

· Areas that are verdant and cared for, offer natural views and show signs of children’s play received the most positive ratings

· Overwhelmingly positive feelings were associated with spaces or scenes in which the natural world was present in some form but hung in balance with the built environment.

· Areas featuring buildings perceived to be ugly or that are otherwise dirty, unkempt, uncared for, neglected, or abandoned received the most negative ratings.


Rosenburg Weinreb, A., & Rofè, Y. (2013) Mapping Feeling: An Approach to the Study of Emotional Response to Built Environment and Landscape, Research Gate, July, 1-19


Beauty and community satisfaction

Aims and method:

Examines the effects of urban beauty on community satisfaction. The research used a large survey of 28,000 people across the USA focussing on the satisfaction felt by communities with their community. Ordinary least-squares, ordered logit, and multinomial logit techniques were used to interrogate the data which also included questions relating to a respondent’s perception of beauty and aesthetics in his or her community.

Key findings:

· Beauty is significantly associated with community satisfaction (alongside other significant factors including economic security, better schools, and social interaction).

· Beauty and aesthetics are among the most important set of factors in perceived community satisfaction, but are consistently under-appreciated


Florida, R., Mellander, C. & Stolarick, K. (2011) Beautiful Places: The Role of Perceived Aesthetic Beauty in Community Satisfaction, Regional Studies, 45(1), 33-48


Urban form and the tendency to gentrification

Aims and method:

Studies the urban form of five ordinary areas in London that have experienced a process of bottom-up gentrification, or gentrification ‘by collective action’, at various stages after WWII. To describe rigorously their urban form, a systematic and quantitative method of urban morphological analysis was used based on the identification of eight urban fabric indices that were subject to statistical analysis using Central Limit Theorum.

Key findings:

· Features of ‘traditional’, fine- grained, perimeter block-based urban form are clearly detected over the five gentrified areas observed

· Gentrified neighbourhoods tend to be well-defined areas with major roads on the edges and with calm, internal streets at their cores.

· This network provides a strong connection to main amenities and transport systems on the main streets, as well as safe and pleasant urban environments, with some local businesses, providing for a more family-oriented lifestyle at the interior


Venerandi, A., Zanella, M., Romice, O., Dibble, J. & Porta, S. (2016) Form and urban change – An urban morphometric study of five gentrified neighbourhoods in London, Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science, 44(6), 1056-1076


Urban form and social relationships

Aims and method:

Investigates how the urban form affects social life and personal relationships by applying structural equation models to survey data collected in Oslo metropolitan area. The study uses data collected through a questionnaire survey and 10 qualitative in-depth interviews, both conducted in 2016. The survey covered 45 neighbourhoods in total, within various central and suburban locations.

Key findings:

· The built environment can influence social well-being.

· Residents of compact neighbourhoods are significantly more satisfied with their personal relationships compared with residents of low-density suburban neighbourhoods.

· Shorter distances to the city centre, higher densities, and mixed land uses are found to positively contribute to overall social well-being.

· Compact urban forms enable residents to maintain larger networks of close relationships, socialise more frequently with friends and family, receive stronger social support, and enjoy increased opportunities to make new acquaintances.

· ‘Third places’ increase opportunities to meet new people.


Mouratidis, K. (2017) Built environment and social well-being: How does urban form affect social life and personal relationships?, Cities, in press