Tecnalia develops a tool to assess the psychosocial benefits of renatured urban spaces


A total of 141 people carried out an analysis of 8 locations in Donostia/San Sebastian to assess comfort, social cohesion, safety and other factors related to the quality of life in these spaces.

Renaturing urban spaces directly affects citizens' perception of their surroundings. This was demonstrated by the study to validate the NbS-CoBAs Scale developed by Tecnalia, a research and technological development centre, which is one of the partners in the LIFE Urban Klima 2050 project. The tool is associated with action C.7.2: Citizen science platform, which is aimed at helping people understand the phenomenon of climate change to enable them to collaborate in researching its consequences. While its use will constitute one of the three citizen science projects on the future platform, the survey is now available to anyone interested in contributing to the study with their assessments.

A total of 141 people took part in the first analysis and assessed 8 spaces in Donostia/San Sebastian, namely the Koldo Mitxelena, Zubimusu and Miguel de Unamuno parks, and five urban squares – Errota Aundia, Resines y Oloriz (or Lourdes Iriondo), Clara Campoamor, Padre Vinuesa and José Mª Sert – located nearby.

The analysis showed how renaturing and opening up urban spaces can have an impact on the quality of life of citizens. The results revealed that these changes not only improve comfort in all of the dimensions analysed (visual, noise, thermal and lighting), but also enhance the capacity to recover from daily fatigue or stress, the feeling of security (especially at night) and the use of places in which to relax. Renaturing has also been found to bring about additional improvements, such as positive emotional changes and greater environmental justice, particularly in terms of green spaces.

Of the spaces studied, Koldo Mitxelena Park is particularly noteworthy due to the co-benefits it provides to the community. The high degree of renaturing there has made a significant contribution to comfort in terms of visual, noise and light conditions. It has also demonstrated a restorative capacity, bringing about positive emotional changes, such as a sense of peace, calm and tranquillity. Another notable feature is the presence of green areas, which promote environmental justice.

Meanwhile, the Miguel de Unamuno Park on the university campus has also seen a significant degree of renaturing, and offers a number of social co-benefits as a result. Its design encourages social cohesion and participation, while its large expanse and allure add to its restorative capacity. Moreover, this is a safe space both during the day and at night, thereby making it an environment that is conducive to social interaction and well-being.

However, not all renatured areas reach their full potential in terms of co-benefits. Although the Zubimusu Park is highly valued for its water features, such as ponds and waterfalls, it has been associated with fewer co-benefits than expected. The lack of maintenance and poor condition of the park have been identified as the main factors that have limited its contribution to the community.

As far as squares are concerned, Jose M. Sert square provides the greatest co-benefits in its urban setting thanks to its spaciousness, green areas, pond and rest areas. It is associated with social cohesion and participation, overall comfort and light, is safe during the day and at night, and is used as an area in which to relax.

Despite being completely artificial, the Clara Campoamor square received a better rating than expected. It has mainly been associated with co-benefits of social participation and safety, suggesting that other factors may also influence perceptions of urban spaces.

Lastly, Padre Vinuesa square received the lowest score in all the aspects analysed. Its enclosed design, limited field of vision, lack of natural elements and poor maintenance make it an unattractive, unwelcoming space for the public.

The citizen science project that these evaluations feed into will help us understand how citizens value renatured urban spaces, and may also serve as a platform for raising awareness of the importance of renaturing our urban environments. It will also allow us to draw conclusions to guide us in remodelling and designing urban spaces that are safe and inclusive, and to maximise co-benefits for psychosocial well-being.