Thesis (Ph.D)

The impact of design on privacy and social interaction between neighbours in sustainable housing developments in England and Wales


The sustainable development of the built environment is advocated in both theory and policy. Social sustainability could be improved if the built environment is designed to encourage social interactions between residents, which enhance feelings of sense of community and social cohesion. Privacy is a vital component of an individual's social interaction process. However, the relationship between privacy and social interaction is rarely discussed in sustainable development literature. In order for social interactions between neighbours to be positive it is beneficial if levels of privacy in the home are sufficient for residents to feel comfortable. Therefore, for a housing development to be sustainable it is necessary that privacy in the home is addressed when designing to encourage social interactions between neighbours. The specific relationships under scrutiny in this thesis are: the impact of design on social interactions between neighbours; the impact of design on privacy in the home; and the effect of levels of privacy in the home on the relationship between design and social interactions. Primary data was collected across 13 sustainable housing developments. Sixty five indicators were measured using; a site survey checklist to collect data on physical features affected by eight principles of sustainable design, and a household survey to collect data on the behaviour and characteristics of the residents. Statistical analyses were used to test the nature and extent of the hypothesised relationships. The findings show that a number of physical features are significantly associated with privacy in the home and social interactions between neighbours. Not all features had a positive association, however private outdoor space to the front of dwellings and clearly marked boundaries between properties are beneficial for both privacy in the home and social interactions between neighbours. A comprehensive list of features of sustainable housing developments was established and operationalised as a series of indicators which could be used in future empirical research on housing developments. This research also contributes new empirical evidence on the effect of sustainable design features for the built environment on residents' behaviour, particularly social interactions and privacy in the home.

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Lindsay, Morag

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment
School of the Built Environment


Year: 2010


Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) : Grant (GR/S20529/01)

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