The BIG project - Bettering life quality with Integrative GIS

A collaboration between FXP and the University of Gävle




A model for sustainable development of the city
– with the well-being of citizens in focus


The BIG project runs over three years and aims to develop a tool for urban planning in which community services, ecosystem services, and citizens’ quality of life are taken into account. By collecting large amounts of data about the city and connecting these to citizens’ health and well-being you can increase the understanding of how healthy, sustainable, and livable cities should be built in the future.

The BIG project is a project in the field of City Science and is a collaboration between FPX and the University of Gävle (HIG). The BIG project runs over three years and is expected to contribute with innovative and practical tools for sustainable urban development. The purpose of the project is to develop a new digital methodology for urban planning that is able to provide a dynamic picture of how the environment in a city affects everyday experiences.

By producing, combining, and cross-analyzing a variety of types of GIS maps and survey data, the project will develop a warehouse of databases useful for the city og Gävle. The project will look at both welfare services (i.e. what municipalities and county councils offer, such as healthcare, schools, and public transport), ecosystem services (i.e. the benefits we get from nature’s work, such as plants purifying air, bushes dampening noise or bees pollinating crops) and nature experiences that allow people to connect with nature. From this platform of information, city planners and researchers can gather essential knowledge to develop sustainable, healthy, and livable cities. This will be important for the analysis of existing built area as much as for predicting the spatial structure of new construction.

Gävle becomes a test bed
The city of Gävle is the project’s test bed. After the all the data will be collected, the city will be a living laboratory for a method that can be used in the area of sustainable urban planning. The BIG project will thus create real benefit for the municipality in their work, with great opportunities to start practical side projects and novel research areas.

Several previous studies have analyzed relationships between built environments and green areas in the city, either from an ecosystem perspective or from a quality of life perspective. However, in this project we consider ecological and social sustainability equally and analyse both aspects are in combination. The project will develop and combine different GIS maps in combination with large amounts of empirical experiences obtained from surveying citizens living in Gävle.


The project will analyze four different landscapes:

Project goal

The project aims to create knowledge for urban solutions that can simultaneously promote healthy ecosystems, healthy people, sustainable mindsets, and socially sustainable living.

Salutogenic landscapes


Landscapes able to promote peoples’ health and wellbeing.

Salutogenic design is health-promoting design. Salutogenesis focuses on the origins of health, in contrast to pathogenesis which focuses on the sources of a disease, so the salutogenic approach is dominated by encouraging physical and geographical design solutions that can act as sources of physical and mental health for a single person or the entire community. The inclusion of the salutogenic solutions in the urban design is considered essential to foster sustainable healthy communities.

Salutogenic landscapes will be assessed by analyzing people’s exposure to air pollution, noise pollution, restorative experiences, training facilities, and the degree of walkability and cyclability of people’s habitat.


Socially sustainable landscapes

Practices in architecture to promote socially sustainable landscapes aim to equitably improve the quality of life of the community as a whole. This means encouraging an equitable availability and accessibility of urban services as much as ensuring a safe and diverse social interactions within the community.

Socially sustainable landscapes will be assessed by analyzing individual life satisfaction, social cohesion, social diversity, sense of safety and security, and the degree of equality in accessing basic urban services like recreation, transportation, and food availability.



Ecologically resilient landscapes

Ecologically healthy landscapes able to withstand disturbances without losing their desired biodiversity and ecological functions.

Ecologically resilient landscapes are healthy and biodiverse ecosystems. These landscapes are characterized by diverse and abundant life, along with species habitats, and ecological processes that form the foundation of healthy and redundant ecological functions. Ecologically resilient landscapes are the foundation to ensure an ecological state conducive to personal welfare and desirable social structures over time.

Ecologically sustainable landscapes will be assessed by analyzing various ecosystem services, the diversity of natural environments, their ecological connectivity, and their level of biodiversity

Biophilic landscape

Landscape able to promote sustainable relationships between people and nature.

In addition to the above areas with maps and databases, a fourth area will also be combined and analyzed together with the others. Biophilic landscapes focuses on the design of environmental features that promote human’s innate attraction to nature and natural processes. The current unsustainable trajectory of development is suggested to be outcome of a cultural disconnection between nature and humans that has established philosophical roots in Western societies. Biophilic landscapes aim to counter this by promoting meaningful and educational interactions between people and nature across all age groups and gender.

Biophilic landscapes will be assessed by analyzing the quality and quantity of nature experiences that people have in the urban landscape throughout their everyday routines.

The project’s latest news

The project’s planned partial results

The first prototypes on the various maps / GIS layers
Publication of news on and Urban Studio /

Experimental map of Gävle
Map of ecosystem services
Two scientific articles
Publication of news on and Urban Studio /

Two scientific articles
Handbook for planners
Publication of popular science text
Publication of news on and Urban Studio /



Project team

Dr Matteo Giusti, researcher in Sustainability Science at HIG, is Principal Investigator and project manager. He has previous experience of designing and running PPGIS studies and he is an expert in sustainable human-nature relationships and regenerative dynamics. Email:

Anders Brandt, Associate professor in geospatial information science with expertise in physical geography, GIS and spatial multicriteria decision analyses. Email:

Nancy Joy Lim, PhD in Geospatial Information Science. She has technical competence in modelling, GIS analysis, and geovisualisation.

Andrew Mercer, PhD in Physical Geography, with technical GIS expertise and expertise in BIG DATA science.

Karl Samuelsson, Ph.Lic, is specialised in using GIS, PPGIS and spatial statistical models to explore relationships between the urban physical and social environment and people’s experiences and well-being. Email:

Stephan Barthel, Assistant Professor, will lead doctoral students and act as a mentor for the project group. Email:

Gloria Macassa is a MD and a Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology. In the project, she contributes with her expertise on the nexus social and environmental sustainability, health and wellbeing through a health equity lens. E-mail:

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