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Untitled Document
Residential Environments and People

Created in 2004


Henny Coolen
OTB - Research for the Built Environment
Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment
Delft University of Technology
Delft, Netherlands
Hélène Bélanger
Département d'études urbaines et touristiques
École des sciences de la gestion
Université du Québec à Montréal

Central theme
Residential environments are designed and restructured by people for people. The relationship between residential environments and people is mutual. Residential environments afford functions for and communicate meanings to people through the ways in which they are shaped, and human beings design functions and attach meanings to residential environments through their everyday life and activities. The working group Residential Environments and People focuses on the relationship between people and residential environments from the perspective of the individual. People’ attitudes, perceptions, preferences, values, choices and evaluations of the features and qualities of residential environments provide us with important information on the ways in which residential environments are used and (re)shaped. Such information may well provide a better understanding of the mechanisms behind residential preference and choice, values associated with residential environments, residential satisfaction, the quality of residential environments, the meaning of place, and the design of residential environments.

Future plans / activities
Next year the WG intends to organize a workshop at the ENHR conference in Tirana.

Past activities
The WG has organized a workshop at every ENHR conference since 2005. Originally, the broad topic of the WG was left completely open, because we wanted to see which researchers with what kind of topics felt attracted to the subject of the WG, so that we could choose narrower subjects for workshops at conferences to come. And we were not disappointed by the large number of different researchers who attended the workshops and who came up with a great variety of research topics. At the closing of the workshop in Rotterdam it was generally agreed upon that at the next conference the topic of the workshop should be more focused.
This materialized for the first time at the ENHR conference in Dublin with an interesting workshop on 'Place and Place Attachment' (14 papers presented), was continued at the 2009 conference in Prague with a workshop on 'Dwelling and Home' (12 papers presented), at the 2010 conference in Istanbul on 'Public and Private Green and Open Spaces of Home', at the 2011 conference in Toulouse in the workshop entitled 'Innovative Methods in Residential Environments and People Studies' (11 papers presented), and in Lillehammer in 2012 in a workshop on 'The Users' View of the Quality of the Residential Environment' where 10 papers were presented. This workshop took place prior to the workshop 'The Quality of Architectural Design and Urban Housing' organized by the working group Residential Buildings and Architectural Design which allowed participants of both working groups to attend both workshops. A workshop around the question ‘Residential environments’ decay and revitalization: by whom and for whom?’ was organized in Tarragona in 2013 (12 papers presented) with sessions organized in order to minimize the overlap with sessions organized by the Residential Buildings and Architectural Design working group. At the ENHR conference in Edinburgh in 2014 a workshop was organized around the theme of more people-focused approaches to the planning and realization of residential environments during which 17 papers were presented. At the ENHR conference in Lisbon in 2015 the theme of the workshop organized by the WG was ‘People-focused residential environments’, which attracted 14 papers.
At the 2016 ENHR conference in Belfast, the workshop topic was left more open and attracted 12 papers. After having organized workshops at all successive conferences since 2004 it turned out that approximately 50% of the papers are presented by regular WG members, while the other half are by first time attendants.

Other WG activities 2005 – 2015:
The general feeling of the participants at the closing of the workshop in Ljubljana, which was the first workshop of the WG, was that several open ends needed a more elaborate discussion for which there was no time left. Subsequently two members of the working group, Doris Felbinger and Helga Jonuschat of the Technical University of Berlin, took the initiative to organize a follow-up workshop entitled ‘Researching Residential Environments: Approaches – Methods – Impact’ that took place in Berlin on October 27 and 28 2006.
Two other members of the working group, Leeke Reinders and Marco van der Land of OTB Research Institute for Housing, Urban and Mobility Studies, who organized a conference under the auspices of the WG in Delft, The Netherlands, entitled ‘Doing, Thinking, Feeling Home: The mental geography of residential environments’ which took place in October 2005, edited a special issue of Housing, Theory and Society with papers from this conference, which appeared in 2008.
Two members, Henny Coolen and Janine Meesters, edited a special issue of the Journal of Housing and the Built Environment with papers from the 2009 workshop entitled ‘House, Home and Dwelling’ that has been published in Spring 2012.
Sylvia Jansen and Henny Coolen, both members of the WG, edited a book entitled ‘The Measurement and Analysis of Housing Preference and Choice’ which has been published in 2011 by Springer. Henny Coolen and Birgit Jürgenhake from the WG Residential Buildings and Architectural Design organized a workshop entitled ‘Researching houses and their Environments’ in Delft on November 30 and December 1st of 2012.

Policy implications
Although in several European countries housing markets are slowly but steadily shifting from a supplier’s market to a buyer’s market, which according to several stakeholders involved with residential environments, such as national and local governments, builders and project developers, demands a more prominent role for consumers, this has hardly materialized in practice. Even the introduction in housing research and practice of marketing concepts such as life style segmentation and branding seems in many cases just a smoke screen for the essentially top down approach to the planning and realizing of residential environments in which the people whom it concerns are not consulted about what they want. So, the focus on the relations between human beings and residential environments from the perspective of the individual is, at least partly, motivated by the recognition that in housing practice many decisions are taken by professionals such as architects, planners and policy makers, while the people who have to live in the dwellings and residential environments have hardly any say about their (re)design.


Members and Participants of workshops
The members of the WG and the participants of the workshops come from many different countries and from several continents including Europe (Northern, Western, Central, Eastern, Southern), North-America (Canada), Asia (Iran), Australia & New Zealand.