Place Value & the Ladder of place quality


The types of places we inhabit have a profound impact on health, society, the economy and the environment. This report distils 271 empirical research studies to uncover the truth about the qualities of the built environment that are good for us and deliver place value.

The Ladder of Place Quality is a simple tool for decision-makers to use when considering: are we making a great place?

The urban places that most of us inhabit are both physical and social, made up of buildings, streets, spaces and landscape, various land uses and a community of users. In recent years the evidence base that links better place design with value has grown significantly. The evidence indicates that high quality places add value in regard to health, social, economic and environmental outcomes.

The sum of these outcomes = place value.

As planners, developers, architects or decisionmakers, we can improve the built environment to enhance place value.

The robust evidence that underpins this report draws from a vast range of academic studies. For convenience we have collected all the underpinning research together in one place in an open-source website that is continually updated with new empirical evidence:

Supported by

Produced by                       

Place Value

Place value is generated by places that enable users to sustain healthy, socially rich, economically productive lifestyles with minimal environmental impact. 

This report is immediately useful for built environment decision-makers as research on the benefits of place quality is gathered together under four ‘big ticket’ policy arenas that directly impact on the daily lives of citizens: health, society, economy and environment. 

The Ladder of Place Quality:

Place quality can be envisaged as a ‘ladder’ which climbs from the qualities of places that should be avoided, because they undermine place value, to specific qualities that should be encouraged because they deliver value. 

The qualities that generate place value are well understood and can be delivered using various tools of design governance: notably in Local Plan policy, urban design frameworks, design codes and through design review. Despite this, we consistently fail to do so.

Given the impact of place quality on all aspects of daily life, policy-makers, developers and built environment professionals should make the pursuit of a high-quality built environment a top priority.

About the Research:

The evidence

In order to establish the current baseline of knowledge on the topics of place quality and place value, we conducted a systemic review focusing on a broad range of issues (as represented below), that link key qualities of place with a range of value outcomes.

The review revealed 13,700 relevant records for consideration, to which a series of inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied to narrow the selection. The studies that were included were limited by scale and needed to be specifically ‘urban’ and ‘place’ focused. Studies that focused exclusively on the construction or internal spaces of buildings and those with only strategic relevance at the city-wide or regional scales were omitted. Studies also needed to be methodologically robust.

This process narrowed the final selection down to 271 empirical research studies: approximately 2% of the records originally identified. While the evidence reviewed was international in origins, the review itself was restricted to English-language articles. Of the 271 studies, 38% derived from the USA and 34% from the UK. Other significant contributors to the evidence base included other European countries (notably The Netherlands), Australia, China, South Korea and Canada.

Studies were classified against the four related public-policy dimensions (health, society, economy and environment) and the various sub-categories below. Summaries of all the evidence can be found at 

Design Network

Design Network consists of eight not-for profit organisations that promote better and more sustainable places to stimulate economic growth. It is dedicated to supporting and inspiring England’s built-environment professionals to create great spaces and places.


    Urban Good

    Urban Good is a community interest company with the mission to improve the urban environmental and recycle profits into social and environmental causes. They strongly believe good urban development increases the capability of citizens to access opportunities. They enjoy writing and researching, designing and map-making and helping to communicate good ideas. Urban Good provides advice, research and support to architects, planners, developers, local authorities and community projects to inform decision making, and ultimately make material improvements to cities.

    Contact: Charlie Peel,

    Further reading:

    UN-Habitat’s Global Urban Lecture series Matthew Carmona: Place Value

    This video is part of UN-Habitat’s Global Urban Lecture series. Find all seasons and full packages at…

    The quality of places can be measured by the value they return to communities, in health, social, economic and environmental terms. Research evidence globally tells us that this ‘place value’ is shaped by how places are designed and that well designed places are fundamentally good for us.


    Podcast: Place Value and Place Quality

    Podcast: Place Value and Place Quality

    In this podcast by the Bartlett School of Planning, Professor Matthew Carmona explores the relationship between the quality of the built environment and its value, in health, social, economic and environmental terms. Listen here →

    Place Alliance launches new report “Place Value and the Ladder of Place Quality”

    Place Alliance launches new report “Place Value and the Ladder of Place Quality”

    At Big Meet 9 Place Alliance released a guide for decision making about the built environment, supported by the Design Network. Based on a systematic review of robust research evidence, the report demonstrates both how better-designed places deliver substantial economic, social, environmental and health benefits to local populations, but also demonstrates the sorts of qualities that we should aspire to deliver (and avoid) in order to maximise those benefits to people. Read more about it here →