5 Important Elements of a Livable Environment


The need for shelter is a fundamental requirement, not just for humans, but for every creature on the planet. All living things need a relatively safe space in which to live, rest, and prepare for another day of acquiring the resources necessary for survival. Most other living things select their habitats based on the availability of food and mates, how tolerable the climate and topography are, and the relative lack of predators, but humans are different. We apply different criteria to an area, including the availability of modern conveniences such as power, digital connectivity, and water infrastructure, in order to determine whether it is one we would like to live in. Thus, the concept of livability.

What Does Livability Mean?

Livability is a concept that remains ambiguous and difficult to pin down. Its definition continues to change over time, as social factors, technological advancement, geopolitical upheaval, and environmental shifts all play their parts in determining whether a location is livable or not. However, there have been attempts to provide a concrete definition of what livability is.

One of the more recent and more successful definitions of livability comes from a study done by Dr. Mohamed Kashef, an engineer and research associate at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. According to his definition, a location is considered livable if its physical and social features come together to create an environment in which the residents would be able to be both productive and fulfilled. 

In this way, the concept of livability is very closely tied to that of the urban environment. Prior to the development of the modern-day city as we know it, most residential communities were either clan- or family-based. Humans typically sought strength and safety in numbers among those who they considered worthy of their trust: their immediate family, and maybe a few others who shared some kind of kinship. 

However, it was with the rise of the renaissance cities that people deliberately chose to depart from the relatively safe confines of a village full of close kin, residing instead in an environment that, while alien, also presented new opportunities for personal growth. It should be noted that many of these opportunities were completely dependent on interaction with and social integration into systems designed and run by other people, with whom no kinship had been established; entering into a university is the best, clearest example of this.

Indicators of Livability

Given this illustration of what a livable community might look like, it becomes a little easier to identify what its characteristics are. While there are many of them, and the list continues to grow, they can be broadly categorized into the following:

Environmental Safety and Security

Like all other creatures, humans will depart from or avoid any location they consider unsafe. This encompasses both personal safety from war, lawlessness, and crime, as well as environmental safety and avoidance of toxic waste, disease, and other harmful externalities. 

Availability of Resources

This encompasses two important considerations: the capacity to acquire resources for oneself, also referred to as employment, and the actual availability of these resources via modern purchasing and supply chain linkages. If these two factors are absent, a location is not likely to be considered livable.

Infrastructure

In order to be livable, a location must feature all the conveniences of modern life. In the past, these were relatively simple: roads, walkable paths, stabling for service animals, and perhaps housing were the biggest infrastructure considerations. Today, modern citizens consider the relative sufficiency of electricity, water linkages and indoor plumbing, and data connectivity via mobile and hardline protocols to determine whether a location is livable or not.

Public Services

Modern citizens have come to rely on the government to play its part in establishing a livable community. Therefore, today’s residents expect certain services to be widely available in order to consider a location livable. These include post or mail delivery, public works and road maintenance, emergency services, and the availability of health care services when needed. This also relates to the first category regarding safety. Citizens rely on both law enforcement and the armed services to maintain peace and order and prevent both internal insurgency and foreign threats, and without these, a location would not be considered livable. In the same way, they rely on their governments for proper waste disposal and handling of toxic materials.

Sociocultural Inputs

So far, the categories mentioned have dealt largely with physical and corporal requirements for livability. On the other hand, sociocultural inputs or factors will include many things that have to do with personal meaning and fulfillment, which were part of the initial definition posited for livability. These factors include the availability of a potential life or sexual partner, opportunities to build friendships and other kinds of relationships, educational opportunities, availability of chances to engage with art and other cultural artifacts, the ability to practice one’s religious beliefs, and many other things besides.

It is important to note that all these factors operate as interconnected systems once at work within a community. The excess or lack of one or another of these will inevitably impact other factors as well, resulting in a cascade of events that raise or lower a location’s livability. Determining which of these are of prime importance to an individual will be vital in defining one’s own definition of livability.


JL Santiago Aquino

A millennial lifestyle blogger from Caloocan City who adores trying new things. ✨ “Make jokes. No stress. Love. Live life. Proceed. Progress!”

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