Restorative Environments: Focus on Restorative City Planning

E. von Lindern; S. de Vries; Y. Rashevskaya; P.J. Lindal; R.P. van Dongen. Location: A12

Symposium: Restorative Environments: Focus on Restorative City Planning

Organisers: H. Staats & T. Hartig

Cities have become the dominant settlement form. City life implies high exposure to many kind of stimuli requiring attention. Restorative elements designed into the urban landscape may play a role in keeping cities livable and sustainable. Five presentations deal with the experience of cities. Eike von Lindern  reports on research that investigates how urban traffic, in particular sound and air pollutants, diminish the role of the home as a restorative environment. Sjerp de Vries shows how urban green areas and shortages thereof determine recreational behavior, and how a newly developed normative model can be  useful in planning for restoration. Yulia Rashevskaya focuses on the facades of houses that together create street scenes. Different designs based on architectural style and complexity are evaluated for their  restorativeness by people with more or less need for restoration. Pall Lindall shows how useful virtual reality can be in testing how participants move through neighbourhoods that are designed differently regarding their restorative potential and what their affective, cognitive and physiological responses are towards these different designs. Robert van Dongen had the computer design a huge sample of different greenscapes,  in which different natural elements were combined in many different ways, to investigate their combined restorative potential.

Traffic emissions as constraints on restoration in the residential context

E. von Lindern, T. Hartig, & P. Lercher

Traffic-related disturbances may undermine the restorative character of the home, and this may in turn undermine health and residential satisfaction. We addressed this possibility with data from a door-to-door survey of adult residents in a valley near Innsbruck, Austria (N = 572). Participants’ reported on restorative qualities of their homes, their health, perceived disturbances from traffic-related emissions, and residential satisfaction. We joined their self-reports with objective measures of traffic-related sound and air pollutants in tests of successive nested structural equation models. Results suggest that a significant share of the negative impact of traffic emissions on health and residential satisfaction involves constraint of residential restorative qualities. Having a sense of being away in particular mediated the associations that traffic-related sound, air pollutants and traffic-related disturbances had with regard to self-reported health. These findings illustrate how restorative environmental qualities may be fragile and subject to threats from environmental stressors such as traffic-related sound or pollutants. Additionally, we conclude that traffic can be understood not only as an impact factor for the ecological environment, but also for the psychosocial environment.

Going for a walk or not? The influence of local opportunities on recreational behaviour

S. de Vries, M. Goossen, & B. de Knegt

Recreation opportunities are one of the cultural services that ecosystems may provide. But how much of this ecosystem service is needed? The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) employs a normative model (AVANAR) to determine whether or not the local green infrastructure offers enough opportunities for walks in a natural environment to accommodate the demand. This study investigates the relationship between calculated shortages and actual recreation behaviour. The Dutch Continuous Leisure Survey (n = 15 695) provided data on walks, including the type of environment in which they took place. Participants were assigned to one of three AVANAR-based classes: no, small, or large shortage. Large shortage participants generated 30% fewer walks in a natural environment than no shortage participants. Moreover, they also appeared to walk further away from home. These results suggest that the calculated supply to demand ratio offers relevant information, making AVANAR a useful planning tool. However, individual differences were ignored. People living the usually highly urban, high shortage neighbourhoods may not like walking in a natural environment that much, making the small local supply less relevant. On the other hand, several other studies have shown that most people do like to have green space nearby and dislike crowding.

Perceived restorative quality of urban residential streets: effects of architectural styles and visual diversity of rows of houses

Y. Rashevskaya, H. Staats, M. van Dorst, & A. van Timmeren

Easy accessible public spaces that promote restoration are important in daily life of urban residents. Residential streets might be designed to meet the essential needs for brief restorative experience in a city. However, more knowledge is needed about design attributes that are likely to facilitate restorative outcomes. We considered architectural styles and visual diversity of rows of houses as potential design attributes for the investigation. We assessed the possible effects of visual diversity (entropy) and architectural styles (popular/high) of rows of houses on judgements of preference for walking and restoration likelihood for people with different restorative needs. We designed two sets of 22 photomontages of rows of houses. Each set represented one style category (popular or high) and visual diversity (entropy) of rows of houses was manipulated between 0 and 3 bits. To induce attention fatigue we used high-level IQ-test (Raven partII, 1973). Non-design students from TU Delft (N=121) participated in the study. We manipulated directed attention capacity and style category between groups and visual diversity within subjects. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the 4 experimental groups. We are currently analyzing the data from this study. The results will be presented and discussed during the conference.

Cities that sustain us: Using virtual reality to test the restorative potential of future urban environments

P. J. Lindal, H. Miri, K. R. Johannsdottir, T. Hartig, & H. Vilhjalmsson

Urban densification has been considered a sensible solution to the sustainability challenges posed by suburbanization; however, the compact city policy framework risks neglect of psychological factors in urban livability. Restorative environmental design (RED) can help to make the compact city form more viable, and thus help to promote sustainability in a psychosocial as well as ecological sense. The Cities that Sustain Us (CiSuUs) project aims to extend RED capabilities through the use of virtual reality technology in measuring the restorative potential of possible future environments.  The first of the two studies we will present is the forerunner of the CiSuUs project. It involved a comparison of the restorative effects of movement through two virtual future neighborhoods shown in still earlier studies to have differed in terms of restorative potential. The second study, currently underway, builds on the first study with improvements in the virtual environments and display technologies, as well as the addition of continuous measurement of cardiovascular activity. We will present findings concerning affective, cognitive and physiological effects of the different virtual environments studied. We will close with a discussion of the further application of the approach in an actual densification situation in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Optimizing urban green design for restorative effects in residential streets

R.P. van Dongen, A. E. van den Berg, & H.J.P. Timmermans

Natural elements in residential streets, like trees, grass strips, flowers and wall climbing plants - together the urban greenscape - are not well researched, yet may have a large potential for the restorativeness of urban environments. The present research consisted of an online survey  among a large group of respondents (5000+ respondents from survey panels in four Dutch cities: Eindhoven, Tilburg, Breda and ‘s Hertogenbosch) who were asked to evaluate 280 different computer generated greenscape designs on their potential restorative effects. The survey consisted of two parts. First,  respondents were asked to make pairwise choices among a subset of 8 greenscapes, while imagining themselves to be in need of restoration. Second respondents rated the same set of greenscapes on perceived restorativeness, using five-point scales for preference, restoration likelihood and two of the components of Attention Restoration Theory  (being away, fascination). The final dataset consisted of 35,000 choices and 40,000 ratings. Preliminary results show a clear pattern both in choice and rating regarding differences in restorative potential in relation to differences in design of the urban greenscape. At the conference, further results on the specific impacts of different green elements and greenscape configurations will be presented.