New analysis methods were assessed. The majority of audit tool items showed moderate/almost perfect reliability. The desktop method was a valid alternative to on-site auditing, truncated but more time-efficient and economical. 

For the attention of: Policy-makers and developers interested in designing high performance communal spaces in apartment buildings.

The problem: In the context of global urbanisation, creating high-density living environments that promote health, wellbeing and social connectedness is vital. In apartment buildings, residents live in close physical proximity and share communal areas, however not all areas are equal in design and quality, which may impact usage and opportunities for social interaction.

What we did and why: We developed and compared an on-the-ground and desktop approach to auditing communal area design and quality. The Communal Areas Audit Tool (CAAT) and Communal Areas Desktop Audit Tool (CADAT), which measured design features that can impact residents use of (and interaction within) communal areas, were assessed for reliability and validity.

What our study adds: Our work appears to be the first attempt to develop objective audit tool(s) that systematically and consistently assess a number of design themes across communal areas.

Implications for city policy and practice: The application of the Communal Areas Desktop Audit Tool would be highly relevant for large-scale data collection in studies examining the intersection between high-density apartment living, the provision and quality of communal areas and residents’ social outcomes. Note that this may become increasingly important in rapidly densifying cities.

Full research article: Communal area design in apartment buildings: development and comparison of a desktop and on-the-ground landscape assessment tool by Alexandra Kleeman, Lucy Gunn, Billie Giles-Corti & Sarah Foster. City Know-how editor: Marcus Grant.