Case Studies

  • Example of results from HtHp Survey.
  • Implementing Survey on a Tablet at a Community Event.
  • Using Google Map to Analyze Results.

CASE STUDY 1: The Neighborhood Life Survey (NLS)

The Neighborhood Life Survey (NLS) was a project funded by the Bullitt Foundation and was the basis for the creation of SUPR Map. The NLS aimed to accomplish three goals: (1) assess social perceptions of neighborhood quality for the South of Market (SoMa) EcoDistrict (for more information on EcoDistricts see:; (2) characterize individual behaviors related to energy use and materials (waste) management within the SoMa; and (3) create an online mapping application. To this end, NLS aimed to understand neighborhood concerns through exploratory application of an online mapping tool that engaged citizens in specific neighborhoods of Portland, Oregon.

The NLS applied the online mapping application by applying the six aforementioned steps. We describe each of these steps below as they relate to the SoMa EcoDistrict.

Step1 | Sustainability, SoMa Eco-District
We characterized the social perceptions about neighborhood quality, energy use, and materials management, by using a NLS, which consisted of specific questions to SoMa residents and others affected by the neighborhood.

Step 2 | SoMa Eco-District, Neighborhood
We identified the audience of the SoMa EcoDistrict, which centered on the Portland State University campus (downtown Portland, Oregon). The audiences were arrayed according to a framework that juxtaposes ownership status (renter versus owner) with tenure in the neighborhood (time spent in the area). These two axes provides for a systematic stratification of communities in the neighborhood.

Step 3 | Registered on SUPR Map
The NLS was developed specific for the SoMa EcoDistrict, and consisted of general questions related to energy use and materials management by household, and also specific questions about the qualities of the neighborhood (for a specific example of the SEES see:

Step 4 | Identify Place Characteristics
The survey was developed keeping in mind user-friendliness and accessibility to the respondent, functionality, intuitiveness, language, and length. The substance of each question, its phrasing and sequencing were carefully considered to ensure validity of research objective. For example, respondents were asked to identify three places in the SoMa area they visit. They are then asked to name the place, and describe details about visiting that place (reason for visiting, frequency and timing). The other questions on the mapping portion of the NLS included identifying places with the following characteristics: containing a need, keeping the same, requiring a change, and having a unique asset. These general questions allowed respondents to consider the quality of different places in the neighborhood.

Step 5 | Online Implementation
Although the NLS was administered online using postcards, emails, and other outreach methods that allowed for respondents to log into a site and provide input, we also acknowledged that the SoMa contained individuals who were did not have immediate access to computers or online systems. To that end we also developed paper surveys at designated locations with places to drop completed surveys. In addition, we attended neighborhood meetings to administer the survey. The combination of outreach methods allowed for a diverse mix of audiences to represent the perception of the neighborhood. be collected allowing for different approaches to analysis of the results.

Step 6 | Analysis via ArcMap
The results from the online and in-person survey responses were downloaded to spatial analysis software (ArcMap 10.x), and geocoded to represent points for each question. Through analysis, the points were divided according to question and specific respondent population (e.g. student, faculty, resident, employee, etc.). Further spatial analysis – hot and cold spots – were created using to represent convergence and divergence of responses. The resulting maps were transferred into Google Earth Pro for visualization purposes, and used for engaging community members to understand the underpinning of the findings.

The final stage of the analysis was to integrate the results from the Neighborhood Life Survey with datasets that were derived from experts, including socio-demographics, water and energy use, and habitat in the area. The integration of ‘bottom up’ social perceptions and ‘top down’ agency-derived data allowed us to identify places where sustainability projects can have multiple benefits by improving their social and environmental qualities.

CASE STUDY 2: Healthy Trees, Healthy People

Healthy Trees, Healthy People (HtHp) program at Portland State University is a United States Forest Service funded project that aims to find canopy designs that most effectively improve the public's health. HtHp is comprised of an interdisciplinary research team, and thirteen partnering cities from across the United States, who will collaborate through 2015 to quantify the health benefits of the urban forest. With a goal of assessing biologically-based improvements to air quality and urban heat islands, one of the goals of HtHp is to develop a spatially-explicit decision making tool for land managers to prioritize urban forestry campaigns that improve the public’s health.

More information about HtHp can be found at Below we use the same six-step approach to illustrate how a the SUPR Map platform was applied to identify specific tree planting locations for each of the 13 partnering cities.

Step 1 | Tree Planting Locations
The HtHp team conducted a two-part survey over the fall of 2013 and winter 2014. The goal was to identify how urban forestry professionals in 13 select pilot cities identify and prioritize tree planting locations. The first survey (fall 2013) aimed to understand how and in what way an online mapping tool may help with this task in these cities. The use of the SUPR Map survey (winter 2014) aimed to understand the locations for tree plantings in response to improving the public’s health in each of these cities.

Step 2 | Urban Foresters, Land-use Planners, and Public Health Officials
The audience for the HtHp survey was created through identifying a national network of public health professionals, land use planners and urban foresters who may play a role in the management of the urban forests.

Step 3 | Registered on SUPR Map
The HtHp researchers registered on SUPR Map and developed a two question survey.

Step 4 | Identify Places in Need of Trees in Response to Public Health Benefits
The SUPR Map survey (winter 2014) consisted of two questions. The first component asked respondents to select up to 3 locations (at a neighborhood or comparable size) within their jurisdictions. They were instructed to place a ‘polygon’ in three areas where an expansion of the tree canopy would potentially improve the public’s health. The second part asked them to explain in more detail why they selected those locations (eg., reducing heat island effect, decrease energy use, combat air and/or water pollution, etc.). The locations collected by the HtHp team allowed for a spatial understanding of areas in their partnering cities that local managers identified as in need of more tree canopy.

Step 5 | Online Implementation
Due to the vast geographic diversity of the audience, this SUPR Map survey only provided a link specified to each partnering city. The SUPR Map survey was administered to all stakeholders and partners via an emailed link, and through a series of memorandums and reports.

Step 6 | Analysis via ArcMap + Google Earth
The results from the survey, while still preliminary, are illustrating significant spatial patterns and agreement by participants on which areas in their jurisdictions require more trees. The open-ended questions have also describe concerns about reducing urban heat island effects and mitigating air pollution as the main goals of increasing the urban forest among many of the HtHp partnering cities.