B8. Place quality, play and learning

Cul-de-sacs and children’s play

Aims and method:

Ascertains whether street design has an impact on children’s neighbourhood experiences. The research is based on interviews with 73 adults who live on cul-de-sacs and 37 adults who live on through-streets to determine adults’ understandings of children’s neighbourhood experiences. Three distinct street types were selected for this study: ‘bulb’ cul-de-sacs, ‘dead-end’ cul-de-sacs, and the through streets in comparable neighbourhoods of Connecticut (USA).

Key findings:

· Because cul-de-sacs tend to be territorial streets, parents are more likely to let their children play outside unattended under the watchful eyes of neighbours who provide a social safety net for cul-de-sac children and their friends.

· Because they are aware that they are likely being watched, cul-de-sac children are less likely to partake in deviant activities while on their street.

· The low traffic levels on cul-de-sacs create greater opportunity for uninterrupted play, thus drawing cul-de-sac kids outside for individual and group recreation.

· Cul-de-sacs, as well as other low-traffic streets, can enhance children’s neighbourhood experiences and create more vibrant neighbourhoods.


Hochschild, T. (2012) Cul-de-sac Kids, Childhood, 20(2), 229-243


Cul-de-sac design and play

Aims and method:

Investigates the uses of cul-de-sacs as play spaces in Malaysian urban neighbourhoods amongst middle childhood children. Behavioural responses of 82 children experiencing two cul-de-sacs in two different residential neighbourhoods were elicited using three methods: semi-structured interviews, observation and a survey questionnaire.

Key findings:

· The cul-de-sac with a monotonous, flat landscape and some vegetation offered less opportunities to the children than the one that was in a slightly slopping landform with a variety of vegetation.

· It was not the aesthetic design of the cul-de-sac but the caregiver’s permission and the opportunities for sociality that encouraged the children to play


Othman, S. & Said, I. (2012). Affordances of Cul-de-sac in Urban Neighborhoods as Play Spaces for Middle Childhood Children, Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 38, 184-19


Residential street design and play

Aims and method:

Sets out to study the extent to which residential street design can provide an environment that encourages children’s outdoor activity. The report examines existing research, policy and guidance on the subject with a focus on what needs to be done to ensure that new residential developments facilitate children’s outdoor activity.

Key findings:

· There are a number of street types that appear to facilitate play to some degree: home zones (Woonerfs), cul-de-sacs, traffic-calmed streets, safe networks (with little or no traffic)

· The research is rarely definitive and contradictory findings can be found relating to most street types


Foreman, H. (2017). Residential Street Design and Play, A literature review of policy, guidance and research on residential street design and its influence on children’s independent outdoor activity, Playing Out


Home zones vs. traffic calming

Aims and method:

Compares the street activity in two comparable streets in Cardiff (UK) to assess which approaches to street design might encourage the street life and activity. The streets were evaluated over exactly the same period using time-lapse cameras. One street had been traffic calmed and the other had home zone features applied to one section.

Key findings:

· Residents, particularly children, stayed in the home zoned section of the street for relatively long periods, engaging in optional activities and also socialising.

· This is in contrast to the traffic calmed street where the resulting street did not show any significant change in the way that the street was being used

· Home zones are a positive form of intervention which, in particular, benefit children

· Adults also benefit indirectly through the liberty given to their children, and also the opportunities to incidentally enjoy their streets.


Biddulph, M. (2012). Street Design and Street Use: Comparing Traffic Calmed and Home Zone Streets, Journal of Urban Design, 17(2), 213-232


Home zones, liveability and play

Aims and method:

Offers a comparative evaluation of English home zones, or streets shared by vehicles and pedestrians based on the Dutch woonerf concept to determine whether the claims that they positively influence liveability is correct. Monitoring data on 14 home zone projects in the UK was used to draw generalisable lessons from such initiatives.

Key findings:

· Home zone projects exhibited lower traffic speeds and continued low or reduced numbers of traffic accidents compared to conditions before the home zones were implemented

· Residents reported that they now feel their streets are safer for their children to play in and have become more lenient in letting their children play out.

· Residents also report finding the home zone streets to be more attractive than they were previously, and some of those in high crime areas experienced reduced levels of crime and antisocial behaviour.

· Evidence that the treatments resulted in more socialising among adults was less convincing.


Biddulph, M. (2010). Evaluating the English Home Zone Initiatives, Journal of the American Planning Association, 76(2), 199-218


Learning environments and academic achievement

Aims and method:

Determines how school design factors might influence student achievement scores in elementary schools. Student educational attainment at 57 schools was assessed to establish correlations with design factors.

Key findings:

· On the average, clearly defined pathways, positive outdoor spaces, and a positive overall impression' are statistically significant predictors of high academic attainment

· These should sit alongside non-design factors such as computers for teachers


Tanner, C. K. (2000). The influence of school architecture on academic achievement. Journal of educational administration, 38(4), 309-330.


School capital investment and pupil performance

Aims and method:

Analyses the relationship between capital investment and student performance. Includes a review of existing literature; qualitative analysis of 27 schools; and quantitative (statistical) analysis of investment and student performance in 1,916 schools.

Key findings:

· Better teaching environments have a major impact on staff morale and willingness to spend time after school in the classroom

· The quality of the visual environment gives strong messages about the value placed on the staff / students.

· Pupil motivation is enhanced with greater pride in the surroundings and enhanced parental support attributed to recognition of the quality of new facilities.


Coopers, Price Waterhouse. (2001) Building Performance: an empirical assessment of the relationship between schools, capital investment and pupil performance. Research Report 242, London: Department for Education and Employment


Design value in higher education

Aims and method:

Investigates the role of good building design in higher education environments. The report is informed by a literature review, four case studies in the UK and a survey with staff and students in the five higher education institutions

Key findings:

· The research findings suggest that the existence of well-designed buildings on a campus is a significant factor in the recruitment of staff and of students.

· Approximately 60 per cent of students and staff indicated that the quality of the architecture had a positive impact on their decision to study or work at their chosen university

· Among staff, design quality had the most positive impact on the recruitment of academic staff (65 per cent). Among students, the most positive impact was on the recruitment of postgraduate students (72 per cent)

· When asked to identify specific features of buildings that would most influence their decision to work in a particular institution, just over half of all staff identified cosmetic and environmental features as being most influential such as cleanliness, and a feeling of space and light.

· The majority of staff (80 per cent) were of the opinion that the buildings they worked in impacted positively upon their performance. However, this was only the case for half of the students


Britain, G. (2005). Design with Distinction: The Value of Good Building Design in Higher Education. CABE.