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Fifty shades of green: tree coverage and neighbourhood attachment in relation to social interaction in Australian suburbs
conference contributionposted on 2016-01-01, 00:00 authored by Richard TuckerRichard Tucker, Zainab Ibrahim Abass
Social interaction is seen as a key dimension of social sustainability and an essential feature of the social capital of cities. Yet social interaction in suburban neighbourhoods has been largely overlooked by researchers and designers; a neglect that has had negative impacts on social sustainability in the suburbs. In this paper the impact is explored of tree coverage on neighbourhood attachment in residential, low-density suburban streets in Victoria, Australia. The research is part of a wider study considering the complex relationship between four contributors to social interaction – Neighbourhood Attachment, Neighbourhood Satisfaction, Neighbouring and Walkability, and Safety – and two categories of factors that influence social interaction: the psycho-social and physical characteristics of neighbourhoods. The residents of three suburbs in Geelong, Australia, were questioned via a survey that aimed to measure how physical design factors impact the residents’ interactions. To isolate as much as possible design factors from social factors, the three suburbs chosen had equivalent socio-economic profiles. Two survey methods were used. First, questionnaires were delivered to six streets in each of the three suburbs. Each street had a different type of planning layout. Second, on-street face-to-face survey was carried out in the public spaces adjacent to neighbourhood libraries. The survey used multi-choice 5-point Likert scale questions to determine values for four scales that measure four contributors to social interaction. The wider research hypothesises that characteristics of neighbourhood form, such as tree coverage, can facilitate social interaction by increasing perceptions of neighbourhood attachment. The findings of the research reported on this paper indicated that Neighbourhood Attachment scores significantly increase as tree coverage increases in the suburbs. It is concluded that an understanding of how neighbourhood form determines social interaction in the suburbs can inform strategies for architects, urban planners and other built environment professionals to design sustainable suburban neighbourhoods; particularly through designing streets that provide sense of place and community.