the will is there, but the knowledge is lacking –gebiedsontwikkeling.nu

Analysis How do we combine urban densification with healthy urban life for all? The answer to that question is also sought by Hanneke Kruize, who teaches Healthy Urban Development at Hogeschool Utrecht and RIVM. “On the knowledge side, a number of things are missing in order to realize a healthy green living environment.”

The focus on the combination of urban densification and healthy urban life is of course not new. For example, already in 2021, the RIVM investigated the effects of the ambitious urbanization plans in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area (AMA) on the living environment and the health of the residents. The study’s conclusion: It is indeed possible to urbanize and make the living environment healthier, but there is still a lot of work to be done. “Include health ambitions in the urbanization strategy and examine how the identified challenges can be used in the physical plans by formulating concrete health ambitions.”

How does one determine whether all the municipalities’ and provinces’ ambitions have actually been realized afterwards?

RIVM’s results are in line with the experience gathered last year within the Urban Renewal Programme. But according to another conclusion: the holy grail of creating green spaces in urban development has not yet been discovered. Precisely because the space pressure in these developments is so high, it is so far a search for how area developers can make the area greener in a good way. Other experts believe that they see an important role for spontaneous greenery and technology.

Discover effects

Whether the Holy Grail has already been found or not, the question remains how we combine urban densification with healthy urban life for all. In the coming years, Hanneke Kruize will look for ‘substantiated and practical solutions’, so that the wishes of future residents and vulnerable groups can be included in the design of green areas. The professor of Healthy Urban Development at Hogeschool Utrecht and RIVM also hopes to find out what effects the sites have on the health of residents and other users. And how do you determine whether all the municipalities’ and provinces’ ambitions have actually been realized afterwards?

‘Impression entrance Merwede Utrecht’

by BURA urbanism and OKRA

(source: BURA urbanism)


An important role in research is reserved living laboratories. In these four city laboratories (Cartesius, Merwedekanaalzone, Amersfoort and Zusterparken) answers to the research questions are sought in order to arrive at substantiated and practice-oriented solutions. This is badly needed, argues Kruize, because there are still a number of things missing, especially on the knowledge side, in order to realize a healthy green living environment.

For example, she believes that health professionals’ knowledge about the living environment and health is not used optimally. The experts do not sit at the table or are involved late in the process. Secondly, the knowledge that already exists about health and the healthy living environment in the city is difficult to find for many professionals in the spatial domain – for example city planners, architects and planners. In addition, this knowledge is often not concrete enough to be used directly in urban development.

A little retrospect

In addition, little monitoring is carried out in practice, which means that there is little insight into the health impact of urban design. For example, there is little review of what has worked and why ambitions have or have not been realized in a particular location. And precisely this monitoring is needed, according to Kruize, to arrive at proven design principles for healthy urban development. Why is it possible to realize a healthy living environment in one place and not another?

We can bring healthy urban life one step closer for everyone

Kruize: “We don’t have to solve all the problems with our lectureship. But we can bring healthy urban life one step closer for everyone by working together on well-founded, practice-oriented solutions for healthy urban development. Cooperation at different levels is essential in this.”

Health in the city was also discussed in this Trendtalk by Platform31 on the inclusive society. Hanneke Kruize participated in the conversation. Questions that were discussed included: What do we now know about this healthy green living environment, how difficult are the spatial choices for health that are already being made, and are the municipalities on track with their Environmental Visions, so that they can assess new measures in terms of health?


Jasper_monster_sandervanwettum by Sander van Wettum (source: SKG)

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