You are here

View all publications

Section 1: Research and Analysis Tools

Understanding the Urban Context and Character

Research and analysis tools are essential for understanding the context and character of the urban environment. These tools should be used in the first steps of an urban design project. They identify the qualities that make a place special, and enlighten design development and decision-making. The wide scope of urban design research encompasses, amongst other things, the history, physical form and characteristics of towns and cities, and the behaviour of the people who inhabit them. Common topics for urban design research include the analysis and aspects of activity, accessibility and liveability.

These tools can be used in various ways to inform successful design and management actions. They are often used in a variety of combinations. For example, an urban design audit or character appraisal of a site or neighbourhood may involve analytical techniques, such as a walk-through, studies of urban morphology and building typology, mapping techniques, and archive research.

This section describes:

Accessibility Assessment

What it is:

A measurement of how easy it is for people to reach a desired activity, including places of work, health care facilities, education facilities, food shops and other destinations that are important for participating fully in society.

What it’s useful for:

To identify barriers to accessibility and the resources available to address those barriers. The base data and evidence guide decision-making and inform the development of an accessibility action plan.

How it’s done:

An ‘accessibility audit’ identifies barriers to accessibility, drawing as much as possible on information already held by local authorities and other bodies. The audit could be carried out through GIS-based mapping of socio-demographic information, data on deprivation and car availability in relation to public transport routes and the location of services; complemented by consultation with local communities and liaison with frontline professionals and providers of services.

An ‘accessibility option appraisal’ identifies the resources, including financial and existing services and facilities, and a set of locally appropriate solutions that provide the greatest benefits for tackling accessibility barriers. This includes considering whether better use could be made of existing services and facilities through co-location of services, changes in opening times or partnership agreements.

References/examples

  • Accessibility planning: http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/regional/ltp/accessibility/. Provides a variety of information on accessibility planning and analysis, including background reports, accessibility processes, case studies and planning initiatives in the United Kingdom.

  • Commuting time maps produced by mySociety.org and the UK Department for Transport: http://www.mysociety.org/2007/more-travel-maps/. Examples of interactive maps allow you to produce a contour map for a particular location showing commuting time by public transport. Can also be combined with house prices so you can work out where you can afford to live within your specified commute time (in the United Kingdom). It can also map locations that indicate where it is quicker to drive a car or cycle, than to take public transport to a specific location.

  • The New Zealand Transport Agency (formerly Land Transport New Zealand) provides information on neighbourhood accessibility planning: http://www.ltsa.govt.nz/road-user-safety/walking-and-cycling/neighbourho... [Link updated on 21 January 2010 to http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/neighbourhood-accessibility-plans/]. Neighbourhood accessibility planning is designed to help councils improve walking and cycling access and safety. The process involves community consultation to identify the main issues for pedestrians and cyclists then specifying actions to address these, such as engineering, education or policy initiatives. Includes various templates for councils.

  • Ministry for Social Development, Family and Community Services Group – local services mapping: http://www.familyservices.govt.nz/our-work/community-development/local-s.... The Family and Services Group (part of the Ministry for Social Development) facilitates each territorial authority through the local services mapping process. Central and local government, iwi and community-based agencies collaborate to identify social priorities and highlight areas for action.

  • Public Transport Accessibility Analysis: http://www.intelligentspace.com/modelling/transportaccessibility.htm. A UK computer modelling tool that calculates how accessible public transport facilities are for pedestrians.

  • Walkscore: https://www.redfin.com/how-walk-score-works. This website allows you to calculate how walkable your neighbourhood is. Walkscore rates the relative distance to, and density of, everyday businesses like grocery stores and coffee shops. Most major US cities are rated and ranked but the tool can also be used for New Zealand cities and neighbourhoods.

Archive Research

Archive Research

What it is:

Collecting and analysing a wide range of historical data contained in, for example, institutional, corporate or public records. Archive research provides historical information about the past environment, activities and structures.

What it’s useful for:

Archive research provides invaluable primary and secondary source material where it is not possible to observe, interview or survey the past community. It allows the analysis of the past heritage, character and context for projects where maintaining an authentic sense of place is important.

How it’s done:

Collections of maps, drawings and photographs are particularly useful for urban design and heritage-related research. Collections of archival material can be found in the New Zealand Archives, the Alexander Turnbull Library (a collection in the National Library of New Zealand), museums, most universities, as well as local council libraries and archives.

References

  • Alexander Turnbull Library: http://timeframes.natlib.govt.nz/. Timeframes, the online database of heritage images (a division of the National Library of New Zealand).

  • Architectural Archives, Macmillan Brown Library, University of Canterbury: http://library.canterbury.ac.nz/mb/. Consists of around 20,000 items from the 1870s through to the 1980s. It holds drawings from most of Christchurch’s leading architectural practices.

  • Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga: http://www.archives.govt.nz/. Works to ensure there is an authentic and reliable record of government by advising government agencies on how to create and maintain records. It preserves and provides access to those records that need to be kept permanently, and is responsible for millions of such items, including the Treaty of Waitangi, immigration and legal records, films and photographs.

  • Dictionary of New Zealand Biography: http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/dnzb/. Contains over 3000 biographies of New Zealanders who have ‘made their mark’ on New Zealand.

  • National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa: http://www.natlib.govt.nz/. Has a unique role to collect and maintain literature and information resources that relate to New Zealand and the Pacific, to make this information readily available and preserve New Zealand’s documentary heritage for generations to come. The National Library holds rich and varied collections of research material, and includes the Alexander Turnbull Library – a storehouse of words, pictures and sounds that tell us about the activities of people in New Zealand and the Pacific.

  • New Zealand Historic Places Trust: http://www.historic.org.nz/. Has a national schedule of New Zealand’s Register of Historic Places, Historic Areas, Wahi Tapu and Wahi Tapu Areas. Its website is a work in progress, with 1000 places on the website out of the 6000 places on the Register.

  • The Architecture Archive, University of Auckland Library: http://www.architecture-archive.auckland.ac.nz/. Dates from 1975 and has drawings, perspectives, photos, specifications and other articles allied to architectural and construction processes. The archive is the repository of the New Zealand Institute of Architecture Annual Awards from 1927 to the present.

  • The Hocken Collections, University of Otago Library: http://www.library.otago.ac.nz/hocken/index.html. Includes material from Otago and Southland, including material from architectural practices.

  • Also contact your local museums, historical societies and libraries.

Assessment of Environmental Effects

What it is:

An Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) is the common term used in New Zealand because of its use within the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA). It is a process of identifying and evaluating the potential positive and negative impacts that a proposal may have on the environment. The purpose of this assessment is to ensure that decision-makers consider environmental impacts before deciding whether or not to proceed with a particular project. See also health impact assessment, social impact assessment and transport impact assessment.

What it’s useful for:

All applications for resource consent under the RMA require an AEE (see section 88 and Schedule 4 of the Act). An AEE identifies the effects of a proposal, provides information on how measures can be incorporated to reduce or mitigate adverse effects and helps to identify whom to consult. For councils, an AEE forms the basis of its decision-making including whether or not to approve the application and/or impose conditions.

The kind of effects that could be included in an AEE include:

  • those on the neighbourhood and wider community, including socio-economic and cultural effects

  • physical, including landscape and visual effects

  • ecosystem, including effects on plants or animals and the physical disturbance of habitats in the vicinity

  • those on natural and physical resources having aesthetic, recreational, scientific, historical, spiritual, cultural or other special value for present or future generations

  • any discharge into the environment, including any unreasonable emission of noise and options for the treatment and disposal of contaminants

  • any risk to the neighbourhood, wider community or environment through natural hazards or the use of hazardous substances or hazardous installations.

How it’s done:

An AEE should include a detailed description of the proposed project. All the environmental effects need to be identified (see above for examples of what should be considered). This should include positive and negative, and temporary or permanent effects. Often, a council’s plan includes information on the kind of effects that should be included when an application is required for a resource consent.

After all effects are identified an assessment of their magnitude should be carried out. This would detail no effect, a minor effect, a major or significant effect, or a critical effect. At this point consideration should be given as to how the proposal could be modified if necessary to reduce the impact of those effects. Alternatives should also be considered and included.

References

Examples

Many councils provide information about how to prepare an assessment of environmental effects, either generally or for specific types of applications or projects. Examples include:

Behaviour Observation

Behaviour Observation

What it is:

Observations that track and record on maps and diagrams the movements, use and interaction of people with urban spaces and the built environment.

What it’s useful for:

Understanding how the physicality of the built environment affects activities and social behaviour, through recording the use of urban spaces by people. These observations and understandings can help direct design development and changes to urban spaces and places.

How it’s done:

Systematic observation and recording of patterns of human behaviour through notes and diagrams, mapping, or categorisation and counting of activities. Photographs, including time-lapse photography, can also be used. ‘Behaviour mapping’, also called ‘activity mapping’, involves recording on a plan or map the patterns of movement of people and use in a particular space or place, and may include getting users themselves to plot how they use spaces.

Behaviour observation may include ‘physical trace observation’, a systematic inspection of a place in the absence of its users to identify traces of activity. These traces may include worn areas or paths, evidence of users adapting or personalising a place, or messages such as notices or graffiti. Observations are recorded by counting, photographing, mapping, or a combination of these techniques. This is best used in combination with other methods (such as interviews and observation of users) to check hypotheses on the reasons for the observed traces.

Examples

Building Age Profile

Building Age Profile

What it is:

Mapping the age of buildings to show the age distribution and concentrations of buildings and periods of urban development.

What it’s useful for:

A building age profile can identify the patterns of urban development through the age of the building stock. For example, how much of the housing stock was built before a certain age. It can inform and help delineate ‘heritage precincts’ or ‘character areas’ through providing evidence of historical urban development patterns and growth.

How it’s done:

Buildings of similar age are identified and their locations are plotted on a map or series of maps, each covering a defined time period (for example, 10 or 20 years). This gives a spatial picture as well as providing analytical correlations of the building age with a particular building type or style. Conversion of this data into histograms allows a simple graphic comparison of building ages with other places. This type of information is best gained from existing council files or databases.

Reference/example

Character Appraisal

What it is:

An identification of typical development patterns that illustrate established urban neighbourhoods.

What it’s useful for:

Identifying older neighbourhoods that have retained a high degree of authenticity of form and character. It also allows for the measurement of the value and significance of the neighbourhood to the town or city. This tool is a precursor to the application of character and heritage management techniques such as a precinct plan, design guide and streetscape strategy listed in the section ‘Planning and design tools’.

How it’s done:

A full assessment of a number of character features, including: building assessment (age, type, scale, height and style); site coverage; lot size; building setbacks on all boundaries; block size; street assessment (pattern, design, width); landscape features (fence/wall details, tree species, paving and street furniture); and other visual characteristics. This is followed by a character analysis using criteria to determine the importance of that character, key elements in the study area and their relative significance.

Examples

  • Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) 2007. Building in Context Toolkit: New development in historic areas: http://www.building-in-context.org/toolkit.htm. A UK toolkit developed by CABE, English Heritage and the Architecture Centre. It includes publications and training based on the founding principle that all successful design solutions depend on allowing time for a thorough site analysis and character appraisal of context in historic areas.

  • Ministry for the Environment 2005. Urban Design Case Studies: New Zealand Urban Design Protocol: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/urban/urban-design-case-studies-mar05/html/page9.html. Character Appraisal in Inner-City Wellington. Illustrates the application of character analysis techniques in established urban neighbourhoods.

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design Safety Audit

What it is:

A ‘Crime Prevention through Environmental Design’ (CPTED) safety audit identifies the safety issues and concerns of a community within a specific area.

What it’s useful for:

Assessing and proposing practical design changes to fix the actual and perceived safety issues of a group or organisation in an area. It promotes community ownership and responsibility of safety issues, while involving groups or organisations in the planning and decision-making process. It also provides guidance and information to planners, designers and service providers on how to improve and maintain community safety.

How it’s done:

A local community group, local authority or the police can facilitate a CPTED safety audit. The CPTED safety audit involves asking community user groups about their feelings on safety when they are moving around a site, finding out what contributes to these feelings and asking what changes they would like to make to improve their safety in these places. This encourages a subjective interpretation of the environment from all users, including women, youth, elderly and people with disabilities. The key steps are making contact with all community users, conducting the CPTED safety audit, developing a summary of issues and recommendations and undertaking discussions with people, such as the local council, who can provide design guidance, advice and solutions.

References

  • Manukau City Council, Design Out Crime: http://www.manukau.govt.nz/uploadedFiles/ manukau.govt.nz/Publications/Plans_&_ Policies/cpted.pdf (3.9 MB). Provides information on CPTED principles, second generation CPTED, guidance notes, case study examples, and useful toolkits.

  • Ministry of Justice 2005. National Guidelines for Crime Prevention through Environmental Design in New Zealand: http://www.justice.govt.nz/pubs/reports/2005/cpted-part-1/index.html. Part 1: Seven Qualities of Safer Places, and its companion Part 2: Implementation Guide.

Examples

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design Safety Site Assessment

What it is:

A process by which professionals and specialists trained in Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) assess an existing site or proposed plans before construction to determine the factors that impact on its actual and perceived safety. The aim is to make recommendations for improving the safety of the site or, more importantly, to help prevent safety issues before construction.

What it’s useful for:

Identifying the safety factors that increase the actual and perceived vulnerability for users in a certain area. It also determines the measures and design applications required to enhance the safety of that area for users, and to deter potential offenders. Assessments are most effective when undertaken before the final planning and construction of a development.

How it’s done:

A wide range of data analysis, including an exploration of social, economic and environmental issues, is required. Several site visits may be necessary to assess and investigate various aspects of the area at different times of the day and week and to identify the different user groups. A CPTED safety site assessment may include a CPTED safety audit and stakeholder interviews. The police may help with on-site evaluation, supply of crime statistics and crime intelligence.

References

Health Impact Assessment – Urban Design and Health/Well-being

What it is:

A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a systematic approach that aims to predict the potential effects of policies, programmes and projects on community health, well-being and equity (particularly unintended impacts). It can make evidence-based recommendations to improve health-related policy planning and identify the potential impacts of future development proposals. A broad definition of health is used that relates to well-being. This includes physical, emotional, spiritual and family/community dimensions of population health and well-being. HIA has a strong focus on reducing inequalities

What it’s useful for:

HIAs have been used successfully in New Zealand on:

  • local government urban growth, regeneration and infrastructure plans

  • regional government land transport strategies

  • local government infrastructure projects

  • local government open space/recreation planning projects

  • local and central government policy options

  • local government urban design strategies

  • central government funding options.

HIA also has the ability to help inform the next generation of long term council community plans through providing information on the possible impacts of decisions that influence, or are influenced by, urban form.

It can add value to the urban policy development process by helping to identify:

  • the positive impacts on well-being and how they can be enhanced

  • the negative impacts on well-being and how the can be reduced or mitigated

  • whether health inequalities may be reduced or widened

  • unintended consequences of a policy on well-being and health

  • ways to integrate capital expenditure programming across departments and agencies

  • ways to work across sectors and benefit stakeholders.

How it’s done:

HIAs use flexible methodologies to ensure that the approach best fits with the project. International methodologies have been modified to the New Zealand context. HIAs are typically integrated into the policy development process and can use information that is already available to help inform the assessment, and deliver information, when needed, to match the policy development process. It is important to incorporate a multi-disciplinary approach in HIA work, whether it be policy or regulatory in nature, which includes key agencies, the populations/areas affected, and public health expertise.

References

Examples – New Zealand

  • Auckland City Council and Auckland Regional Public Health Service 2005. Avondale’s Future Framework Rapid HIA: http://www.moh.govt.nz/moh.nsf/pagesmh/6772/$File/avondale-hia.pdf (452 KB]. This HIA focuses on identifying the possible health impacts of implementing the regional growth strategy in the Avondale area.

  • Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy 2006. Health Impact Assessment: Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy Options 2006: http://www.greaterchristchurch.org.nz/Background/RelatedInfo/HIARepot.pdf (1.54 MB).The aim of this HIA was to identify the potential impacts on health and well-being of two growth models for Greater Christchurch. There was a particular focus on air and water quality, social connectedness, housing and transport. A separate workstream focused on developing an engagement process with local Māori around the urban development strategy.

  • Manukau City Council and Auckland Regional Public Health Service 2006. Mangere Growth Centre Plan Health Impact Assessment: http://www.moh.govt.nz/moh.nsf/pagesmh/6772/$File/mangere-diabetes-hia.pdf (876 KB]. The aim of this HIA was to highlight aspects of urban design that might contribute to a reduction of obesity levels in the Manukau district. There was a particular focus on the link between urban design, physical activity and nutrition, along with five other determinants of health.

  • Wellington Regional Public Health 2008. Health Impact Assessment of the Regional Policy Statement Regional Form and Energy Draft Provisions: http://www.huttvalleydhb.org.nz/Resource.aspx?ID=13086. This HIA was conducted by Regional Public Health in partnership with the Greater Wellington Regional Council. By assessing the health impacts of these draft provisions of the regional policy statement, the HIA aims to improve the health of the community and reduce inequalities throughout the greater Wellington region.

Examples – Overseas

  • Health by Design, Indianapolis, Indiana 2007. Mapping the Intersection of Physical Activity and the Built Environment: http://allianceforhealth.org/built_environment.pdf (715 KB]. Provides a baseline profile of how well the built environment of Indianapolis encourages physical activity and results in consequent health benefits.

  • National Health Services London Healthy Urban Development Unit 2007. London Health and Urban Planning Toolkit: http://www.healthyurbandevelopment.nhs.uk/pages/key_docs/key_documents_hudu.html. This toolkit is a synthesis of the lessons learnt from three engagement projects (2005–06) that examined how primary care trusts and local planning authorities engage with one another and how collaboration may be improved.

Legibility Analysis

Legibility Analysis

What it is:

Recording on a map the mental images that individuals or the community have of the environment as either edges, nodes, paths, landmarks or districts.

What it’s useful for:

Legibility and identity studies of the urban environment where the community’s perceptions of features, places, neighbourhoods, towns or cities are required. This type of study provides information on how memorable positive features can be emphasised and celebrated or negative design features can be mitigated. Legibility analysis can also illustrate the degree to which urban form enhances or inhibits local and regional way-finding, a community’s sense of identity and its contribution or role within a city.

How it’s done:

The analysis combines a series of sketch maps drawn by users with interviews to build up a collective view of a neighbourhood, town or city. The five elements – edges (for example, beaches, rivers, railway lines, motorways); nodes (neighbourhoods, town centres); landmarks (historic buildings, natural features); paths (key roads, pathways); or districts (land use, building types, geographical location) – are typically identified and used to describe a collective view of the town, neighbourhood or city. Legibility analysis was first used by Kevin Lynch in his book The Image of the City. It is sometimes known as ‘cognitive mapping’ or ‘mental mapping’.

Reference

  • Lynch, Kevin 1960. The Image of the City. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA. Lynch describes a five-year study of American cities that reveals what elements in the built structure of a city are important in the popular perception of the city.

Example

Mapping

Mapping

What it is:

A graphic technique for recording and analysing the physical features and structural patterns of a geographical area.

What it’s useful for:

Providing base information for all types of projects and initiatives. The application of mapping is virtually unlimited. It includes, for example, assessment of spatial enclosures, street edge conditions, distribution of open space and street types, public–private space assessments, and distribution of landscape elements. Mapping to scale allows quantitative analysis of physical features, and is a base for showing planned design interventions in context. Mapping enables comparative assessment or monitoring of quantitative and qualitative design conditions and elements over time.

How it’s done:

Mapping techniques range from simple paper records to complex digital systems. General mapping techniques include:

  • ‘Overlay mapping’ using different mapping layers or montages of tracing paper, or within a computer, to add or remove layers of information to reveal patterns and relationships that would not otherwise be obvious.

  • ‘GIS mapping’ is a computer system designed to allow users to collect, manage and analyse large volumes of spatially referenced information and associated attribute data. It is an efficient means of sourcing and presenting comprehensive graphic information on entire neighbourhoods, towns and cities, as well as elements within them. GIS techniques enable analysis of complex multiple map overlays. A number of local councils have simplified GIS maps available on the web.

  • ‘Aerial photographs’ are photos taken from an elevation and are generally available from local councils and private agencies for most urban areas in New Zealand. They provide insight into patterns of building and urban landscape development, including views into areas and details of development that otherwise cannot be seen from ground-level observation. Aerial photographs can also be overlaid with other map-related information, such as topographic contours, rivers, streams, soil structure, buildings and land uses.

  • ‘Digital elevation model’ (DEM) or ‘digital terrain model’ (DTM) where aerial photos are draped over a three-dimensional contoured model creating an image that contains both topographic and real-life visual information that are to scale and can be used for perspective views and fly-through observations.

References

Examples

  • Dunedin City Council. WebMap: http://www.cityofdunedin.com/city/? page=searchtools_gis. WebMap is a GIS mapping tool developed by Dunedin City Council. It offers aerial photographs, a street map and other views of Dunedin City and provides information on rates, resource consent applications, and land tenure.

  • Green Map System (GMS), New York: http://www.greenmap.com/GMS. A worldwide network that identifies, promotes and links ecological and cultural resources. It allows design teams to illuminate the connections between natural and human environments by mapping their local urban or rural community.

References

Ped-shed Analysis

Ped-shed Analysis

What it is:

A mapping technique that calculates the population catchment within a five or 10 minute walk from an activity, transport stop or node.

What it’s useful for:

Providing ‘walkability analysis’ of important destinations (for example, town centres or transport nodes) within neighbourhoods, and how evenly these destinations are distributed and dispersed through a town or city. When planning new developments, it can be used to identify optimum locations for new facilities and indicate where residential density may be increased.

How it’s used:

A fixed-diameter circle is overlaid on a map with the centre placed on the destination point. Circle radii are usually based on an average person walking 400 metres in five minutes. A second radius of 800 metres indicates a 10 minute walk. The population density within this radius can then be calculated to determine the number of people within easy walking distance of the destination. A ped-shed analysis can be refined further by mapping linkages and obstacles that may decrease or increase travel distance or time to give a more accurate population figure.

Examples

Social Impact Assessment

What it is:

Social impact assessment (SIA) is the process of identifying and analysing the potential impacts of a proposed development on people, both individuals and communities. The assessment includes looking for ways to mitigate adverse effects, enhance positive effects and manage any consequential social change. SIA is often carried out as part of, or in addition to, an Assessment of Environmental Effects.

What it’s useful for:

SIA is useful for promoting improved development outcomes, rather than just identifying and reducing or mitigating undesirable social effects. The goal of SIA is to bring about a socially, culturally, sustainable outcome with reference to the environmental and economic effects on people. There is often a focus on promoting community development, building capacity and enhancing social capital.

SIA can take place within a regulatory framework, or, as is done in New Zealand, independent of any legal requirement. Although in New Zealand it may form part of an assessment of costs and benefits as required by section 32 of the RMA. SIA is useful for identifying interested and affected parties and, in fact, relies upon local knowledge and participatory processes.

How it’s done:

SIA is a multi-disciplinary process, and involvement of the community is essential. There is no single approach to SIA – an element of flexibility is necessary, depending on the nature and scale of the development project under consideration. The scope of SIA is broad but might include consideration of the following kinds of social impacts as changes to:

  • how people live, work, play and interact with each other on a daily basis

  • culture

  • community services and facilities, community character

  • ability to participate in decision-making

  • personal and property rights

  • perceptions about safety or future aspirations for the community.

SIA may also consider environmental and health impacts, depending on whether or not a separate assessment of these impacts is also carried out. See assessment of environmental effects and health impact assessment.

References

Examples

Space Syntax Analysis

Space Syntax Analysis

What it is:

Space syntax is a set of theories and techniques that analyse how street networks are connected through mapping the spatial configurations and accessibility of open spaces and street patterns.

What it’s useful for:

Explaining why certain streets and spaces are more heavily used than others, because connected street patterns are efficient in terms of fuel consumption and community integration. Space syntax maps the relative accessibility of parts of a site, neighbourhood or city and identifies the areas where improvements in access can be made.

How it’s done:

The technique determines the degree of integration or segregation of streets and other spaces within a neighbourhood, town or city, by studying the ‘axial lines’ and ‘convex spaces’. ‘Axial lines’ indicate primary movement routes, while ‘convex spaces’ indicate gathering points and places where concentrations of axial lines come together. Analysis can be based on drawings produced manually, or by using proprietary computer software available from Space Syntax, London.

References

  • Space Syntax Laboratory, University College London: http://www.spacesyntax.org/. Gives an introduction to space syntax and provides a publication list, software and database information.

  • Space Syntax: http://www.spacesyntax.com/. Research consultancy arm of the Space Syntax Laboratory, University College London.

Surveys

What it is:

A systematic way of determining the views and opinions of a large number of people on a particular topic through the use of interviews with structured questions or a standardised questionnaire.

What it’s useful for:

Surveys can be used to gather large amounts of comparable and easily quantifiable data, and to provide an objective basis for planning and future action. Surveys can provide both qualitative and quantitative data. A structured interview will uncover qualitative data on people’s values and perceptions that can be quantitatively tabulated. A professionally produced survey is a useful means of accurately and objectively assessing community opinion on high-profile and controversial community projects.

How it’s done:

Survey types used most commonly in urban design projects include ‘public satisfaction surveys’ and ‘3+, 3– surveys’, also known as ‘three questions surveys’. ‘Three questions surveys’ are common in open space and neighbourhood improvement projects. They ask people to identify three things they like and three things they dislike about the current environment, and note their suggestions for changes. A ‘visual preference survey’ obtains community responses to a range of images and is used to develop an understanding of, and consensus on, the character of a place or future development.

‘Placecheck’ (http://www.placecheck.info/) is a specific urban design questionnaire for the community, developed by the UK Urban Design Alliance, that reveals where improvements are needed and focuses on how to achieve them. It is based on questions and answers in three sections: people (“how can the people whose influence and actions shape the place work together more effectively?”); places (“how can the physical form of buildings and spaces help to make the place work better?”); and movement (“how can the network of streets, routes and public transport help bring the place to life?”).

A further survey method is the ‘post-occupancy evaluation’, a systematic survey and study of how occupants respond to a new or existing building or environment once it is operational. It is used to fine-tune the design and management of a building or place, and to inform the design brief for similar developments in the future. A refinement on this is the ‘design quality indicators’ (http://www.dqi.org.uk/), a tool to assess design quality of proposed and constructed buildings. This evaluation of performance or amenity can also be called ‘benchmarking’.

References – New Zealand

References – Overseas

  • Design Quality Indicator (DQI): http://www.dqi.org.uk/. The website provides an overview of the process, and links into the DQI tool.

  • Local Government Commission, United States: http://www.lgc.org/freepub/land_use/ participation_tools/visual_surveys.html. Information on public participation and visual surveys, and detailed information on community image surveys.

  • Placecheck: http://www.placecheck.info/. Developed by the UK Urban Design Alliance, http://www.udal.org.uk/. This website provides information on how to undertake your own placecheck with timelines, checklists, a set of detailed questions, and a specific placecheck for streets, country, planning, urban design, highways and parks.

  • Walkinginfo Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Centre, United States: http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/community/walkability.cfm. Walkability checklist questions to help you evaluate your neighbourhood’s walkability. This checklist provides both immediate answers and long term solutions to your neighbourhood’s potential problems. A bikeability checklist is also available at this site.

Examples – New Zealand

  • Quality of Life Survey: http://www.bigcities.govt.nz/survey.htm. The Quality of Life Survey is a partnership between the 12 largest cities and districts in New Zealand and the Ministry of Social Development. The Quality of Life Survey has been conducted in 2003, 2004 and 2006, and measures the perceptions of over 7500 people. Topics covered include quality of life, health and well-being, crime and safety, community, culture and social networks, council processes, built environment, public transport and lifestyle (work and study).

  • Post Occupancy Evaluation:http://www.postoccupancyevaluation.com/default.shtml. Provides background on post-occupancy evaluation, links to various resources and four New Zealand case studies.

  • Wellington Waterfront General Users Survey 2008: http://www.wellingtonwaterfront.co.nz/docs/waterfront_users_survey_2008.pdf (1.07 MB). Telephone survey of 750 Wellington residents asking about their usage of the waterfront, including questions about reasons for visiting the waterfront, what services are used, and awareness and satisfaction with recent developments.

Example – Overseas

  • Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) 2007. Sense of Place: What residents think of their new homes: http://www.cabe.org.uk/publications/a-sense-of-place (798.28 KB]. A report on a survey of residents in 33 new developments in the United Kingdom. The study shows links between resident satisfaction and quality design.

Tissue Analysis

Tissue Analysis

What it is:

A technique that overlays a known and understood scale plan or aerial photograph of existing buildings, lots, blocks and street patterns onto a vacant site as a rapid means of generating design options. These plans, aerial photographs or maps are often referred to as an ‘urban tissue’.

What it’s useful for:

Rapid generation of initial design options for sites and neighbourhoods that promote informed design discussion. Because the density, activity and physical characteristics are known, measurable, and can even be visited, there is a degree of certainty about the feasibility and effects of different configurations of development.

How it’s done:

Aerial photographs or plans of existing, known and understood buildings, lots, blocks and street patterns are manipulated and modified to achieve a best fit or a series of different options on a vacant site or neighbourhood. All the urban tissues used should have a clear purpose and be familiar to the designers or participants in the design exercise. This is a first step in providing design variation, and helps generate ideas and options for the transformation of an urban site. Ideally, urban tissue case studies should be developed that analyse in detail the design of a variety of different urban tissues.

Reference

  • Hayward, Richard 1993. Talking Tissues. In: Hayward, R and McGlynn, S (eds), Making Better Places: Urban Design Now, 24–29. Explains how the Joint Centre of Urban Design at the UK Oxford Brookes University uses urban tissues as a educational tool.

Transport Impact Assessment

What it is:

A transport impact assessment is an appraisal of the impact of land-use proposals on transport infrastructure and services. At the broadest level, a transport impact assessment examines how a proposed development will function in terms of accessibility by all modes of transport. Alternative, or similar, processes include: ‘transport assessment’, ‘transportation assessment’, ‘traffic impact assessment’, ‘traffic impact study’ and ‘traffic report’, although some of these may be less comprehensive in nature.

What it’s useful for:

A transport impact assessment can support and add to an assessment of environmental effects for policy development, plan changes or resource consent. Assessments are usually carried out for significant or large-scale developments but are increasingly sought for small-scale developments.

A transport impact assessment can identify how a development will interact with the existing transport networks, where traffic capacity may occur, where passenger transport services are sufficient or may need upgrading, and the level of accessibility for walking and cycling. A transport impact assessment examines patterns of travel and the suitability of proposed transport arrangements.

How it’s done:

A transport impact assessment includes a full assessment of all transport opportunities and constraints. Typical areas covered include the planning and policy framework, land-use characteristics, travel characteristics, measures to influence travel, appraisal of impacts and mitigation of impacts.

A variety of tools and techniques may be used in a transport assessment including transportation and traffic modelling, traffic demand assessment, trip generation data, local trip effects, intersection impacts, safety assessment, travel plans, public transport and mode share.

References

Examples

Transportation and Traffic Modelling

What it is:

A specialised tool used by traffic engineers and transportation planners to plan, predict, monitor and manage road and transport systems across a range of modes and spatial scales.

What it’s useful for:

Predicting traffic flows, patterns, vehicle emissions and all transport modes (including walking and cycling) in an existing urban area, and for predicting the impact of changes to the traffic patterns as a result of adjustments to the distribution and intensity of urban land uses.

How it’s done:

‘Multi-modal transport modelling’ uses computer simulation to predict transport mode use and shifts in car, bus, train, walking, cycling transportation and the origin–destination of trips. This provides important quantitative information on the predicted use of a city or region’s transport systems, and can provide vehicle information for traffic flow models.

‘Traffic flow modelling’ uses computer simulation to predict the traffic flow capacity and travel time implications of changed street configurations or uses within a complex street network. This provides important quantitative information on the predicted use of streets when major urban changes are proposed.

References/examples

  • Greater Wellington Regional Council 2005. Transit Western Corridor Transportation Study:

    http://www.gw.govt.nz/council-publications/pdfs/1833_Summaryofdraftte_s3... (1.6 MB).

  • Maryland, United States. Comprehensive Transportation Review (CTR): http://www.rockvillemd.gov/residents/traffic/ctr.htm. The CTR contains principles and methodologies to guide the US City of Rockville, Maryland in evaluating the transportation impacts of development applications on site access and circulation, non-auto multimodal facilities and automobile traffic. 

  • SmartGrowth Toolkit, British Columbia. Transportation demand management: http://66.51.172.116/Portals/0/Downloads/J1_ToolKitPart_II.pdf (363 KB]. Page 50 highlights strategies and policy tools to fight the costs, frustrations and inefficiencies of too much traffic. These tools can be integrated into regional and community planning policies, including development standards, urban design guidelines and zoning bylaws.

  • Transport Canada. Transportation demand management database (TDM): http://www.tc.gc.ca/programs/environment/utsp/tdm.htm. This database contains profiles and results from over 90 worldwide transportation projects. These projects foster energy efficiency, sustainable development, accessibility and increased productivity by influencing urban travel patterns and behaviours.

  • Transport Canada. Urban Transportation Emissions calculator: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=255709. This is a tool that estimates annual greenhouse gas and criteria air containment emissions from passenger, commercial and urban transit vehicles.

Urban Design Audit

What it is:

A systematic and comprehensive analysis of an existing neighbourhood, town or city that leads to the development of a design brief, strategy or code and the implementation of design projects. An urban design audit will involve use of a range of urban design research and analysis tools.

What it’s useful for:

Providing extensive primary urban data through detailed assessments and analysis of existing urban environment qualities, features and characteristics. An urban design audit can be used to inform future design and policy initiatives.

How it’s done:

Development of a clear research brief and the use of appropriate urban design tools to survey, check and analyse an urban neighbourhood, town or city. An urban design audit will involve quantitative and qualitative research and analysis.

The quantitative research and analysis may include all, or combinations, of the following elements:

  • pedestrian access and circulation

  • building elevations, heights and footprints

  • the street network and traffic volumes during peak and non-peak periods

  • the existing and projected demographic profile of an area

  • natural features, such as vegetation, soils, water bodies and significant ecological systems, micro-climate impacts (sun, wind, temperature patterns)

  • significant buildings and features of heritage and cultural value.

Qualitative urban design research and analysis typically provides insight into how key urban design elements, or combinations of elements, are likely to be perceived by users, influence the identity and character of built and natural form, address the needs of future users, and protect any values, aspirations and symbols of the past.

Urban morphology techniques are often used in urban design audits involving older urban areas at a neighbourhood, town centre or sub-regional scale.

Example

  • Living Streets Community Street Audits, United Kingdom: http://www.livingstreets.org.uk/ what_living_streets_do/cs_community_street_audits.php. Facilitators train members of the community to analyse ways to encourage walking, through observation of their street environment.

Urban Morphology

Urban Morphology

What it is:

Analysis techniques used to study the present and past historical patterns of urban structure, form, land use and patterns. Provides an understanding of the existing physical form and structure of the urban environment at different scales, from individual buildings, lots, street patterns and blocks. It is typically differentiated from urban design audits by its focus on the past and present spatial patterns of a given urban area.

What it’s useful for:

Defining urban patterns and characteristics that create a unique sense of place. It helps in the appraisal of successful and unsuccessful urban form, and can examine the processes that shaped past change, or features that persist in the present urban fabric. It can define urban boundaries, inform development controls, and form the basis for design guidelines for character and heritage areas.

How it’s done:

Characteristics of an urban area, such as its buildings, lots, blocks, street patterns, open space, land-use activities and building details, are recorded, measured, mapped and analysed using existing and/or historical information.

At its simplest, the mapping of buildings and open space patterns or ‘figure-ground mapping’ is where the building footprint is blacked out, with open space left blank on a plan. With this technique, the open space and other character features of the site can be analysed.

A ‘typological analysis’ classifies buildings, lots, streets, blocks or open space into typical or atypical types. Type is defined by a combination of plan, dimension and use characteristics. This information can be used in character studies, design development and urban design policy.

A ‘materials and components analysis’ is a detailed urban morphology study recording building and material details. This can define the character of an urban area, and inform design selection of future colours, materials and components for the elements within an area.

References/examples

  • International Seminar on Urban Form: http://www.urbanform.org/. Inaugurated in 1994 and seeks to advance research and practice in fields concerned with the built environment. It promotes conferences, publishes a journal, Urban Morphology: http://urd.let.rug.nl/ekoster/isuf2/journal/online.html, and provides an international framework for communication between members.

  • Urban Design Group Journal. Urban Design 93, Winter 2005 issue on urban morphology. (Editors: Evans, R and Kropf, K.) See Urban Design Group website: www.udg.org.uk.

Walk-through Analysis

Walk-through Analysis

What it is:

An assessment of urban qualities and design issues done by walking through an area and recording observations and impressions along the way. It uses mainly graphic methods for recording observations.

What it’s useful for:

A walk-through gives an overview of the design issues, and is often the first stage of a more intensive appraisal that involves both qualitative and quantitative methods. This technique helps establish the extent of the design issues and identifies further work required.

How it’s done:

Observational analysis of place that records the main features, both successful and unsuccessful, in a preliminary urban design assessment. Key findings are often recorded by graphic means, such as photographs or annotated sketches and plans. Checklists are typically used to ensure consistency when appraising a number of buildings, streets or areas.