URBAN DESIGN International

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 19–35 | Cite as

Perceived environmental quality as an input to urban infill policy-making

  • Marketta KyttäEmail author
  • Maarit Kahila
  • Anna Broberg
Original Article


Urban infill policy has only seldom been critically evaluated from the point of view of inhabitants. In this article, we ask how the perceived quality of the living environment by the inhabitants is connected to the structural characteristics of urban settings, namely, the building density and the amount of green space. What are the personally meaningful ‘quality factors’ of the inhabitants, where they locate, how accessible they are and how do the structural characteristics of urban settings affect them? A social science approach and especially the theories of environmental psychology, is applied in a series of empirical studies of four Finnish urban environments around the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Representing varying degrees of density, we studied the experiences of over 1500 inhabitants. To study the perceived locality-based environmental quality, we developed a GIS-based query method, softGIS, to collect the place-based meanings that inhabitants attach to their environment. The methodology allows for the simultaneous analysis of the localized experiences of inhabitants and the urban structure characteristics of individual home zones. Our findings revealed significant associations with urban structure variables, the perceived quality of environment and inhabitants’ health and well-being. We conclude that, without attempts to define the experiential quality of urban settings, urban infill policy cannot be successful.


perceived environmental quality urban infill policy GIS softGIS 



The research reported in this article started in a research project called ‘Policies of infill development and quality of living environment’, financed by the Finnish Ministry of the Environment. The final study was supported by the collaborative OPUS research project at Helsinki University of Technology, financed by the National Technology Agency of Finland. All four cities also contributed to the financing of the research. The authors are very grateful to all the financers and the research teams of the two projects.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, School of Science and Technology, Aalto UniversityAaltoFinland

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