Nature at the Doorstep: Residential Satisfaction and the Nearby Environment

Rachel Kaplan

KAPLAN, R. (1985). NATURE AT THE DOORSTEP: RESIDENTIAL SATISFACTION AND THE NEARBY ENVIRONMENT. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 2(2), 115-127.


The importance of the nearby natural environment was studied in the context of multiple-family housing. Residents at nine sites responded to a questionnaire about the kinds of natural areas near their home and the perceived adequacy of these facilities. While the nearby environment is often relegated to the category of "amenity," the findings suggest that the availability and adequacy of nearby natural elements is of far greater significance than such a characterization implies. Furthermore, different aspects of the natural environment need to be distinguished. Large open spaces, for example, played a minor role, at best, in residents' ratings of satisfaction with various aspects of the neighborhood. Opportunities to grow plants, by contrast, were significantly related to the sense of community. The most important factors in neighborhood satisfaction, however, were the availability of nearby trees, well-landscaped grounds, and places for taking walks. The data suggest that some of the psychological satisfactions traditionally associated with home ownership may be achieved even in the multiple-family housing context through the effective use of the natural environment.

Main finding
The study finds the impact of the physical environment, particularly the natural environment, was unequivocal for the residents of multifamily housing developments but the amount of open space was not as important as its arrangement, especially related to the notion of 'defensible' space. The residents also expressed the desire for small-scale natural open spaces that allowed for direct engagement with nature and/or neighbors. Natural open spaces in the context of multifamily housing context were valued for the possibility of expressing identity, achieving territoriality, maintaining privacy and exerting control.

Description of method used in the article
This study involved nine sites in neighborhoods with multifamily housing projects that consisted of clusters of buildings in and around Ann Arbor, MI. The basic tool for the analysis was a self administered questionnaire that was mailed to all residents in the study sites. The questionnaire included photographs to evaluate preferences as well as verbal responses using a five-point rating scale. The analysis used variances and t-tests to examine relationships between neighborhood satisfaction and resident preferences.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Other or N/A
Photo / Video / Sensor Survey
Physical types
Geographic locations