Question
Asked 21st Aug, 2017

I see many studies citing WHO for their international minimum standard for green space (9m2 per capita). But where is the actual study?

I've spent days looking for it but it seems like the actual study does not exist? What is this number based on?

Most recent answer

23rd Jun, 2022
Luís Valença Pinto
Mykolas Romeris University
Peta Brom, when you say that you found it on an official WHO website, are you saying that you saw the original source of the 9 m2 value, or did you see an 'indirect' reference to a document mentioning this? Please don't forget that, often, indirect references, done based on previous references from other documents, can be perpetuating unintended errors. As I stated before, I have found EU and UN documents referencing WHO documents regarding the 9 m2 per capita, but when I followed the trail and checked the respective documents, the value was nowhere to be found. In other situations, I have realized that sometimes I need to check for the original document to assess if the thing that I read in my source was in fact what was mentioned in the original source.
Please check the answer by Fabio Salbitano added on May 19, 2020, regarding the curious story of the 9 m2 saga. Basically, it is/was (?) an Italian standard, published in 1968. If not mistaken, the 9 m2 of green space are per capita and were applied for 'new' construction areas from 1968 onwards.
As Cláudio C. Maretti mentions, a normative and reductive value, which cannot possibly represent the optimal value everywhere, is less relevant than UGS quality, spatial distribution, and accessibility.
The document shared by Christie A. Cole is very interesting and relevant, even if mainly focused on the European context.

Popular Answers (1)

29th May, 2020
Fabio Salbitano
University of Florence
Actually, the standard was never reportd in the frame of WHO official docments. During the preparation of FAO Guidelines on urban and periurban forestry, we tried to find out the text referring to the cited standard but it was impossible. SO, the interpretation is like this. In 1968, Italy published the standards for urban development and 9 m2 was the figure for green spaces in new construction areas. Meanwhile, Italy team was quite active in WHO and there is a unoffical report from Italy to WHO board where is used the 9m2 standard. Then the success story of 9m2 began. In the last documents of WHO on public/green open spaces, they are strongly reccommended in the policies and planning actions of the cities but it is always reported an appropriate dimensional standard with the conditions of the cities where they need to be implemented. And I guess it is quite right like that: cannot compare Antofagasta in the Atacama desert to Bangui, in the equatorial forest.
15 Recommendations

All Answers (29)

25th Aug, 2017
Dina Shehayeb
Nile University
very good question. One of the myths that need to be exposed and citations discontinued. Even international organisations have been searching for the origin of that parameter and the closest was in minutes of a meeting but not at all an official study.
Thank you Francesco for sharing the EU standards, but there is still a problem of climate zones. In arid zones, greens are not the abundant nature as in Europe, the desert is. Historically in arid zones there were never abundant greens.
Greens in cities have taken different forms in different climate zones and cultures. The psychological benefits of exposure to greens is indisputable, but also to nature (see environmental psychology) and unfortunately nature other than greens is understudied. Research should be extended to include water bodies, icy landscapes and desert... and much more.  
31st Oct, 2017
Jun Yang
Tsinghua University
Dear Francisco, there is a recent publication from the WHO which discussed various indicators of green spaces. The primary indicator recommended by the WHO is an accessibility index: a green space (0.5 ha, or 1.0 ha) within 300-m distance. You can check out the publication.
Urban green spaces and health - a review of evidence (2016)
2 Recommendations
3rd Nov, 2017
Francisco De la Barrera
University of Concepción
The Great Myth!
... but successful! Almost all cities are below that threshold, so it has served as a good argument to increase the number (and area) of urban green spaces.
18th Nov, 2017
Pedro Calaza
Escuela gallega del Paisaje
Dear friends, you can consult the following publication where the distance 300 m to any green space >5000 m2 is used as an indicator by EU. https://www.publimetro.cl/cl/metroamp/publimetro-tv/2017/11/16/lo-creen-la-ciencia-demostro-los-escuchan-reggaeton-menos-inteligentes.html
6th Dec, 2017
Pedro Calaza
Escuela gallega del Paisaje
Dear Colleagues, the link in the last answer is not ok, the correct one is the following: https://www.gdrc.org/uem/footprints/eci_final_report.pdf
Apologies for any inconvenience. Best wishes. PC.
7th Feb, 2019
Maryann Harris
University College Dublin
That supposed WHO standard is still circulating in academic papers, blogs and webpages! I also have looked in vain. One of the difficulties in using the measure of square metres of green space per capita is that it can count all green space, including private green space which is largely inaccessible. The EU, through Eurostat and other agencies, has collected data on accessibility and green infrastructure gain/loss over time. These may be more useful standards to apply.
16th Apr, 2019
Chen Yi
Zhejiang University
I also have spent 2 hours for searching the original reference which states that 9 m2, and also ended with no clues.
1 Recommendation
26th Jun, 2019
Tuyeni Heita Mwampamba
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Thanks for all the links to actual studies and reports that DO provide standards and guidelines. I've seen the 9m2 citation also and could not find it.
22nd Jul, 2019
Artur Moises Gonçalves Lourenço
Brazillian Federal Institute of Technology Paraíba - IFPB
There's no any publication linking this data to WHO, it's a myth from web. For information only, the Brazilian Standards: "The Brazilian Society of Urban Arborization (SBAU) proposed as a minimum index for public green areas for recreation value of 15 m2 / inhabitant (SBAU, 1996)."
SOCIEDADE BRASILEIRA DE ARBORIZAÇÃO URBANA – SBAU. “Carta a Londrina e Ibiporã”. Boletim Informativo, v.3 , n.5, p.3, 1996.
22nd Jul, 2019
Dina Shehayeb
Nile University
While consulting for UN Habitat they found that the 9m2 myth was in the minutes of a meeting held at WHO. Never in any publication really. That is the closest they got to the origin of this citation. However, adopting any standard globally is problematic as it does not fit Arid Zones. EU or Brazil are places where greens are the natural landscape whereas there are other natural landscapes that do not include greens. This target and indicator of Quality of life in urban settlements needs articulation and elaboration.
3 Recommendations
22nd Sep, 2019
Naser Nejati
Shahid Beheshti University
It seems that more important than finding the origin study of the standard for green space (9m2 per capita) is that whether defining "STANDARD" for all cities in different countries a proper index for analyzing cities? For instance, whether for two cities in Europe and Africa that there are different climates the same green space must be considered?
1 Recommendation
11th Feb, 2020
María Teresa Baquero Larriva
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
Hi! that's true, I have been looking for that answer and never found an official source from WHO with the indicator of 9 m2 per capita of green space as it is mentioned in a lot of studies as the minimum recommended and they cited WHO documents as a source, all of them are false citations?
12th Feb, 2020
Zydi Teqja
Agricultural University of Tirana
Green space has been in the focus of research because of an emerging interest in the impact it has on human health and well-being in urban areas. One problem identified in many studies of this area is that in many cases articles do not clearly define what green space was studied.
Having studied the extensive literature of the last two decades, it is found that there is some confusion as to what different researchers understand by the term "green space". A number of different spatial scales and resolutions are used to describe the range of green spaces used in these studies. Most studies evaluating small-scale relationships show that urban green space can positively affect health. However, this is not clearly confirmed by studies using larger scales, such as city scale and census unit rate.
Because it is difficult to have a single, prescriptive understanding of green space, it would be better to formulate a definition of green space for the context of a concrete research that includes both qualitative and quantitative aspects. So, having a fix quantitative standard seems to be useless if not misleading.
2 Recommendations
7th Apr, 2020
Karen Hinojosa
Tecnológico de Monterrey
The source most cited for the 9 square meters of green space per capita is the WHO's Meetings report Urban Planning From evidence to Policy Action (2010) but having read it, the data isn't there. It's probably a cyclical citation situation that started with someone erroneously citing that as the source. Here's a link to the report: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/114448/E93987.pdf?ua=1
1 Recommendation
18th Apr, 2020
Zydi Teqja
Agricultural University of Tirana
The WHO Europe Report: "Urban planning, environment and health" 2010, describes several methodological approaches which then are used as background information for the working groups devoted to developing and discussing, the most suitable indicators to be applied for describing adequately the urban situation in relation to environmental health risks and concerns.
The benefits and the challenges faced in relation to the provision of more green and public spaces are discussed in this report mainly as a request of local authorities. The working group suggested some parameters for assessing the performance of cities in providing their citizens with adequate green and recreational areas, among them: Green and recreational space in absolute figures (sqm) and in% of municipality surface, possibly % of change of green space proportion over the years. No specific rule that requests a minimum size for green spaces is mentioned.
In Bon Meeting, November 2010, experts from 35 countries of WHO European Region and three international institutions defined the minimum set of indicators for monitoring the commitments to reduce health effects of environmental hazards in children which were adopted at the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in Parma, Italy. The meeting selected 18 environmental health indicators addressing Parma conference commitments (The Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, Parma, Italy, September 2010) for four Regional Priority Goals: (1) ensuring public health by improving access to safe water and sanitation; (2) addressing obesity and injuries through safe environments, physical activity and healthy diets; (3) preventing disease through improved indoor and outdoor air quality; and (4) preventing disease arising from chemical, biological and physical environments.
The background paper for Regional Priority Goal 2 contained six new indicators addressing Commitment (iv) “We aim to provide each child by 2020 with access to healthy and safe environments and settings of daily life in which they can walk and cycle to kindergartens and schools, and to green spaces in which to play and undertake physical activity. In doing so, we intend to prevent injuries by implementing effective measures and promoting product safety.” The 6 indicators are:
1. Population-weighted availability of green urban areas.
2. Population-weighted availability of sport and leisure facilities.
3. Access to public/green open spaces and sports/recreational facilities.
4. Proportion of children going to and from school by different transportation modes.
5. Injuries due to traffic accidents in children and young people.
6. Hospital admission due to unintentional injuries: drowning and falls.
Indicator 1 can be considered a standard of green space but the definition of this standard in this meeting is: "Proportion of individuals (of all ages) living within a specified distance from a public park, green space, recreational area or athletic or swimming facility.
Annerstedt et al. (2012), use 300m as "a specific distance" from a public green space (ANNERSTEDT, M., ÖSTERGREN, P.‐O., BJORK, J., GRAHN, P., SKÄRBÄCK, E. & WÄHRBORG, P.: "Green qualities in the neighbourhood and mental health – results from a longitudinal cohort study in Southern Sweden". BMC Public Health)
The 2016 WHO Report "Urban green spaces and health: A review of evidence" offers a review of evidence on the health effects of green space in urban areas and presents an approach to measuring urban green space.
In this report the indicator is defined as proportion of population living within 300m linear distance to the boundary of a green space. Two minimum sizes of green space are recommended 0.5 and 1ha. As there is not a consensus on the minimum distance, the report also recommends performing additional analysis for distances 200 and 500m.
I think that the WHO 2016 approach is one of the best tools we have to measure green space but the minimum distances and green space sizes should be tested in local conditions.
3 Recommendations
29th May, 2020
Tevfik Barbaros Ulutaş
Pamukkale University
After seeing too many citations, I read the entire meeting report (from Urban Planning to Evidence to Policy Action) but I couldn't find any clues. The wrong citation seems to be very famous.
29th May, 2020
Fabio Salbitano
University of Florence
Actually, the standard was never reportd in the frame of WHO official docments. During the preparation of FAO Guidelines on urban and periurban forestry, we tried to find out the text referring to the cited standard but it was impossible. SO, the interpretation is like this. In 1968, Italy published the standards for urban development and 9 m2 was the figure for green spaces in new construction areas. Meanwhile, Italy team was quite active in WHO and there is a unoffical report from Italy to WHO board where is used the 9m2 standard. Then the success story of 9m2 began. In the last documents of WHO on public/green open spaces, they are strongly reccommended in the policies and planning actions of the cities but it is always reported an appropriate dimensional standard with the conditions of the cities where they need to be implemented. And I guess it is quite right like that: cannot compare Antofagasta in the Atacama desert to Bangui, in the equatorial forest.
15 Recommendations
16th Jun, 2020
Martin Civeira
Universidad de Buenos Aires
I can´t find it, either. It´s probably a myth.
A list of indicators on Urban Green Spaces and recommendations about accessibility, included in WHO documents, can be found here: https://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/321971/Urban-green-spaces-and-health-review-evidence.pdf?ua=1
2 Recommendations
4th Oct, 2020
Mohamed Elkhateb
Cairo University
I think that this figure is the result of several experiences in many countries that enjoy the existence of green areas
or the average , for example, we find that Germany has a per capita share of 50 m2, while developing countries such as Egypt are 1/2 m2 per capita.
23rd Nov, 2020
Luís Valença Pinto
Mykolas Romeris University
I have also been looking for a confirmation of the WHO 9m2 reference, to no avail. Thank you Fabio Salbitano for the clarification on this issue! The mistake has been permeating through research articles, as well as EC and UN documents (e.g. https://tinyurl.com/y2yx897t, https://tinyurl.com/yxnuy67l).
Just adding to the comment by Zydi Teqja, regarding the WHO Urban Green Space Indicator (% of population living within 300m or less of UGS sized ≥0.5ha), the European Commission has also been using the same indicator in different contexts, such as in the European Green Capital project (https://tinyurl.com/y4qu5sfc) and the European Common Indicators - ECI (https://tinyurl.com/y3a9lt88).
Regarding the ECI, the linked document mentions on a footnote that both the European Environment Agency*, the DG Regional Policy, and the ISTAT (Italian Istituto Nazionale di Statistica) all use the concept ‘within 15 minutes’ walk’ to define accessibility.
* Check table 10.1 in chapter 10 of the original DOBRIS Assessment (need to download a ZIP file with HTML content at https://tinyurl.com/y2gq4syb).
3 Recommendations
24th Nov, 2020
Zydi Teqja
Agricultural University of Tirana
Dear Luís Valença Pinto thank you very much for your information
6th Jun, 2021
Zydi Teqja
Agricultural University of Tirana
Dear Fabio Salbitano can you recommend any reference of 1968 Italian standards for urban development where 9 m2 was the figure for green spaces in new construction areas. Thank you @Fabio Salbitani
2nd Jan, 2022
Cláudio C. Maretti
University of São Paulo
I found in Russo & Cirella (2018), IDB (1997), and others, including mentioning specific WHO documents (Health Indicators of sustainable cities, 2021), without being possible to confirm in the figures or any study or good considerations behind them. Despite being accurate or not, it is very important to consider the quality of green spaces, their accessibility and their spacial distribution, among other criteria.
3rd Jan, 2022
Christie A. Cole
Government of Canada
This document (Urban green spaces and health: A review of the evidence) does not discuss a "per capita" metric, but it provides a literature review and explains in detail how to analyze different regions within Europe. https://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/321971/Urban-green-spaces-and-health-review-evidence.pdf
2 Recommendations
23rd Jun, 2022
Peta Brom
University of Pretoria
I found it on an official WHO website last year, but it appears to have ben taken down since then.

Similar questions and discussions

Scientists Support Ukraine
Discussion
Be the first to reply
  • Ijad MadischIjad Madisch
Like so many, I am shocked and saddened at seeing war break out in Europe. My thoughts – and those of the ResearchGate team – are with the people of Ukraine and everyone affected.
ResearchGate is an international company, whose purpose is to enable scientists across the world to work together openly and collaboratively, regardless of borders or nationality. We have people from over 40 countries on our staff of around 200, and being based in Berlin, we are profoundly aware of the human cost of conflicts, the echoes of which have shaped and scarred our home city. We join with the international community in condemning the actions of the Russian state.
We have been asking ourselves: What can we do?
From today, we will offer free advertising space worth $2.5 million on our network to humanitarian organizations working to respond to the crisis. ResearchGate benefits from over 50 million visitors every month, and we hope this initiative can help raise funds and awareness for those organizations that are having direct impact and need support.
We also want to use our platform to highlight the response from the scientific community. Personally, I have found the messages of support from scientists everywhere to be truly heartfelt, and I would like to highlight some of the community initiatives I’ve seen here:
Additionally, I’m posting here some of the organizations responding to the crisis and actively soliciting donations:
To help gather more support for these initiatives, please consider sharing this post further (you don’t need a ResearchGate account to see it), and I will continue to update it with other initiatives as I find them. You can also click “Recommend” below to help others in your ResearchGate network see it. And if you know of any other community initiatives that we can share here please let us know via this form: https://forms.gle/e37EHouWXFLyhYE8A
-Ijad Madisch, CEO & Co-Founder of ResearchGate
-----
Update 03/07:
This list outlines country-level initiatives from various academic institutions and research organizations, with a focus on programs and sponsorship for Ukrainian researchers:

Related Publications

Chapter
This chapter explores the problem of integrated interdisciplinary research in the field of sustainable cities. The problematique of urban sustainability is studied in its historical and international context. Current research in the field is reviewed, and major gaps in interdisciplinary analysis are identified. This chapter makes first steps toward...
Article
The popular smart city concept, for some, is viewed as a vision, manifesto or promise aiming to constitute the 21st century’s sustainable and ideal city form, while for others it is just a hype. This paper places smart city practices from the UK under the microscope to investigate their contributions in achieving sustainable urban outcomes. Panel d...
Article
Full-text available
The study traces the results of the implementation of the Strategy for Sustainable Urban Development, as well as the integrated plans for urban regeneration and development and possible positive results that coincide with the requirements for the organization and construction of a Smart city. A sustainable city must allow long-term development with...
Got a technical question?
Get high-quality answers from experts.