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Landscape and Urban Planning 77 (2006) 67–79

Evaluation of relative importance of environmental issues

associated with a residential estate in Hong Kong
C.K. Chau ∗ , H.K. Yung, T.M. Leung, M.Y. Law
Department of Building Services Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University,
Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR, China

Received 5 May 2004; received in revised form 22 January 2005; accepted 24 January 2005
Available online 17 March 2005


This study investigates the relationship between the residence and the relative importance of different environmental attributes
by focusing on a sample of residents in Hong Kong. Both discrete choice analysis and Likert-scale rating were employed to
reveal the importance and the hierarchical order of importance being used by the residents in their evaluation of six environ-
mental attributes. Our results generally showed that the residents actually evaluated the environmental attributes as what they
perceived. Our analysis revealed that neither the environmental quality of neighborhood area nor the housing estate design
exerted significant influence on the hierarchical order of importance considered by the residents. It was found that the nature
of environmental attributes exerted a significant impact. The residents were generally found to have placed greater importance
on those environmental attributes that would pose a threat to themselves rather than to the environment. Also, the residents
were shown to consider those environmental attributes that would threaten their personal health to be more important than those
would threaten their comfort. The long-term significance of this study is to enhance the understanding of different environmental
attributes associated with the housing estates. This enhanced understanding should help inform the decision making process on
prioritizing the implementation of environmental strategies within a housing estate when confronted with a limited budget.
© 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Preference; Environmental issues; Residential housing estate; Discrete choice analysis

1. Introduction Most studies have been examining the relationship be-

tween the degree of residents’ environmental concerns
Residents’ evaluations of the environmental qual- and their residential environment (Leftridge and James,
ity of their housing environment have been subject 1980; Van Liere and Dunlap, 1980; Arcury and
to considerable amount of research in recent decades. Christianson, 1990; Fransson and Garling, 1999).
However, the majority of these studies explored
∗ Corresponding author. Tel.: +852 2766 7780;
whether individuals living in urban and rural areas had
fax: +852 2774 6146.
different environmental concerns. Admittedly, the dis-
E-mail address: beckchau@polyu.edu.hk (C.K. Chau). tinction between urban and rural areas had not been

0169-2046/$ – see front matter © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
68 C.K. Chau et al. / Landscape and Urban Planning 77 (2006) 67–79

always clear in these studies even though it might im- gap by examining the relationship between concern for
ply differences in population densities and degrees of different environmental issues and residential neigh-
exposure to natural environment. borhood at two different levels: those of the housing
The environment of residential neighborhood ar- estate and its neighborhood. The study also examines
eas has often been considered to exert consider- whether the relative importance of different environ-
able influence on individuals’ concerns (Buttel, 1987; mental issues being evaluated by residents are the same
Arcury and Christianson, 1990; Jones and Dunlap, as those perceived by them. The long-term significance
1992; Bogner and Wiseman, 1997; Fransson and of this study is to enhance understanding of residents’
Garling, 1999). Other studies have repeatedly shown environmental perception and evaluation of the impor-
that some personal characteristics such as age, income tance of different environmental attributes associated
or education level do influence individual environmen- with their housing estates. This enhanced understand-
tal concerns (Van Liere and Dunlap, 1978; Jones and ing should help inform the decision making process
Dunlap, 1992). People living in urban and rural areas on prioritizing the implementation of environmental
have been found to possess different perceptions of strategies within housing estates when confronted with
their surrounding environment (Leftridge and James, limited budgets.
1980). Residents living in urban areas have been found
to be more concerned about the environment than those 1.1. Hong Kong: environment under stress
living in rural areas, in particular over local pollution
issues (Fransson and Garling, 1999). In general, the Hong Kong is a metropolitan city located in South
more urbanized the residence, the greater the tendency East Asia. Hong Kong’s administrative rule was re-
for an individual to acquire an environmental world- turned to China in 1997 after 150 years of British rule.
view (Arcury and Christianson, 1990). This is proba- Despite the economic cutback in the past 7 years, Hong
bly because urban residents is more likely to experience Kong still enjoyed a relatively high gross domestic
first-hand environmental problems as a result of more product of US$ 23,260 per head (at a market exchange
rigorous industrial activities and higher concentrations rate of US$ 1 to HK$ 7.8). With seven million peo-
of people (Van Liere and Dunlap, 1980). ple living in a small territory of area 1034 km2 , Hong
Findings from different studies have not always been Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in
consistent in showing that urban residents had greater the world (The Economist, 2004). This extremely high
environmental concerns than rural counterparts. Rural population density results in a majority of the popula-
tertiary students were found to be more ‘perceptive’ tion living in high rise apartments, with an average of
about environmental issues than urban students (Iozzi, only 15.6 m2 living space for each resident (Liu et al.,
1989). People living in large cities appear to have less 1999). As most of the property development in Hong
environmental concern as they had less interconnection Kong is concentrated in less than 15% of the territory,
between self and nature (Schultz, 2001). On the other the amount of green space available within the neigh-
hand, people living in urban areas have been found to borhoods of old urban and even new suburban districts
have no differences in environmental perception from is very limited.
those living in rural areas (Howell and Laska, 1992). The scarcity of the land also led to some environ-
Arguably, this may be due to the lack of a clear distinc- mental problems, such as lack of landfill sites for solid
tion between rural and urban populations and homo- waste. Currently, landfill sites are one of the primary
geneity in either rural or urban populations (Fortman concerns for the Hong Kong government as they are
and Kusel, 1990). estimated to have only a sufficient capacity to last for
Apart from these inconsistencies, all the studies re- another 7–10 years (Council for Sustainable Develop-
ported so far were mainly concentrated on the relation- ment, 2004). Ambient air quality in the territory is being
ship between the urban–rural residence and general en- exacerbated by tremendous rate of economic growth
vironmental concerns. However, very few studies have in neighboring Guangdong Province in China. The re-
attempted to measure the environmental concerns in re- cent outbreak of the contagious severe acute respiratory
lation to more specific issues, such as recycling and en- symptoms in March 2003 seriously alerted the residents
ergy conservation. This study is intended to bridge this to the importance of indoor air quality.
C.K. Chau et al. / Landscape and Urban Planning 77 (2006) 67–79 69

Most housing estates are located close to busy trans- with the relative importance of constituent attributes
port road networks, with an average of 286.7 vehi- (Haider and Rasid, 2002). Given that most preferred
cles per km of road network. This was the highest profiles are usually selected after the decision maker
among all the major cities in the world in 2001 (The tradeoffs among different major attributes (Louviere,
Economist, 2004). Hence, traffic noise and air pollution 1988; Louviere and Woodworth, 1983; Louviere et al.,
from vehicles exhausts are also major environmental 2000), Discrete choice analysis can be considered to
concerns. have the capability of portraying the actual decision
The scarcity of habitable land, concentrated trans- making process.
port networks and rising environmental awareness have Apart from using discrete choice analysis for re-
posed considerable environmental challenges for the vealing the environmental quality actually evaluated
Hong Kong Government. Faced with these challenges, by the respondents, a set of Likert-type scale questions
the government is currently in the process of formu- (1—least important to 5—most important) was also
lating a sustainable development strategy. As a first included in our survey to elicit their perceived environ-
step, the Council for Sustainable Development issued mental quality.
a public consultation document entitled ‘sustainable
Development: making choices for our future’ in 2004 2.1. Identification of attributes
(Council for Sustainable Development, 2004) to en-
courage feedback from all concerns. This document is Experimental design for discrete choice analysis
intended to elicit responses from the public in Hong started with the identification of a set of significant
Kong on solid waste management, renewable energy attributes and their associated levels for portraying
and urban living space. It is anticipated that the re- the different environmental quality profiles of a res-
sponses from the community would form the basis of idential building. A list of significant environmental
discussions and aid the drafting of guidelines on the attributes was mainly identified from the first ver-
implementation of key policy issues related to the sus- sion of Hong Kong Building Environmental Assess-
tainable development. ment Method (HKBEAM) (Centre of Environmental
Technology, 1996). HKBEAM is an environmental as-
sessment scheme developed for assessing the environ-
2. Research method mental performance of buildings in Hong Kong. Apart
from the HKBEAM, other relevant literature and as-
In order to elicit the preference of individuals on sessment schemes currently adopted for assessing the
the environmental quality associated with a residen- environmental performances of buildings in the world
tial housing estate, an empirical study was designed were also reviewed (for instance, BREEAM-Canada,
based upon a technique called discrete choice analysis. BEPAC (Canada) and LEEDS (US)) (Cole et al., 1993;
Discrete choice analysis has been widely used for elic- Centre of Environmental Technology, 1996; ECD
iting individual preferences in spatial consumer choice Energy and Environment Canada, 2000; US Green
modeling (Timmermans et al., 1992) and tourism Building Council, 2000). Among all the environmen-
and recreation research (Haider and Ewing, 1990; tal attributes, it was the intent of this study to include
Louviere and Timmermanns, 1990). only those environmental attributes that were consid-
Discrete choice analysis uses questionnaire survey ered to be significant from the perspective of occu-
as an instrument for eliciting preference from respon- pants and those that could be practically addressed by
dents. During the survey process, the respondents are building designs. Accordingly, the final list of envi-
asked to choose the one they most prefer from a set of ronmental attributes being examined in this study con-
alternative choice profiles. Each choice profile, com- sisted of landscaping, indoor air quality, energy con-
posing of a set of attributes with defined levels, is sumption, usage of recycling materials, indoor noise
evaluated as a whole by respondents during the sur- level and water consumption. Even though landscap-
vey. By analyzing the choices made by the respon- ing was not included as an individual environmental
dents, the probability of selecting a particular profile attribute in HKBEAM, it has been included in some
from a set of alternatives can be computed together of the latest environmental assessment schemes in the
70 C.K. Chau et al. / Landscape and Urban Planning 77 (2006) 67–79

world (US Green Building Council, 2000; Cole and Even though indoor noise level was originally ex-
Larsson, 2002; Building Research Establishment Ltd., pressed in terms of dB under HKBEAM, practical dif-
2005). ficulties existed for laypersons in distinguishing the
Given that the performance levels defined by HK- true difference between dB levels. In order to make
BEAM were developed with reference to extensive lo- it easier for respondents to appreciate the differences,
cal survey data, they should be the most appropriate the concept of speech intelligibility in acoustic design
ones to be used as attribute levels in our question- was introduced. Speech intelligibility is measured by
naire survey. A saving of 20% or more on operating the ability of the human auditory system to receive,
energy consumption level was considered to be per- transduce and transmit to the brain speech signals so
forming much better than the average standard level in they can correctly be perceived (Kryter, 1994). In this
the industry. Use of 5% or more recycling materials in study, the capability for a normal individual to hear
building construction was considered to be much better speech clearly at a distance of 5.6 and 3.2 m with nor-
than the industry practice on material recycling issue. mal voice effort was used for portraying the different
Achieving a 20% or more reduction on annual potable indoor noise levels. As there was no landscaping pro-
water consumption level was regarded as performing vision in HKBEAM, the two attribute levels defined in
better on the water conservation issue. On the other our questionnaire were extracted from the Hong Kong
hand, attaining the Level 1 of the indoor air quality be- Planning Standard and Guidelines (Hong Kong Special
ing defined by the Guidance Notes for the Management Administrative Region, 1996a).
of Indoor Air Quality in Offices and Public Places in Table 1 shows the six examined environmental at-
Hong Kong (Level 1 indicates the ability to provide tributes, in conjunction with the associated attribute
good health and comfort conditions for general public) levels and experimental design codes. The design code
(Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, 1999) was −1 represents the average performance level that can
regarded as performing much better than the average be easily achieved by a regular design, where +1 rep-
industry practice. resents a performance level that requires some special

Table 1
Environmental attributes and their attribute levels used in the survey
Environmental attributes Levels Design code
Landscaping Allow ≥0.5 m2 open space for each resident within the district neighborhood for +1
Allow less than 0.5 m2 open space for each resident within the district neighborhood for −1
Indoor air quality Incorporate building design that can achieve a level that can provide good health and +1
comfortable conditions for general public (Level 1)
Incorporate building design can only achieve a level which can provide good health for the −1
general public (Level 2)
Energy consumption Incorporate some special building design so as to achieve a 20% reduction on regular +1
operating energy consumption
Do not incorporate any building design to reduce the regular operating energy −1
Usage of recycling materials A minimum of 5% (by weight) of material used in the construction of building are +1
recycling materials.
Do not use any recycling materials in the construction of building −1
Indoor noise Incorporate special design to allow occupants to hear the speech clearly at a distance of +1
5.6 m with a normal voice effort in a living room
Do not incorporate special design to allow occupants to hear the speech clearly at a −1
distance of 3.2 m with a normal voice effort in a living room
Water consumption Incorporate special designs to achieve a 20% reduction on annual portable water +1
Do not incorporate any special design to reduce the annual portable water consumption −1
C.K. Chau et al. / Landscape and Urban Planning 77 (2006) 67–79 71

design in order to perform better than the average in- curs (Pearmain et al., 1991). With a fractional facto-
dustry practice. rial design with orthogonal array incorporating only
the main effects (i.e., a design with only a fraction
2.2. Experimental design/presentation of of the 26 possible combination profiles considered),
questions eight profiles were generated. A ‘foldover’ design was
adopted such that eight more profiles were generated
Our survey instrument consisted of two parts; Parts in a way that these profiles were the opposite of the
A and B; Part A contained a series of Likert-scale type original eight profiles. For instance, the attributes’ lev-
questions for eliciting the respondents’ perceived en- els in profile 1 were exactly the opposite of profile 9.
vironmental quality of a residential building. Part B This design was considered “balanced”, since −1 and
contained a series of choice cards specially designed +1 levels appeared an equal number of times for all
to facilitate the analysis by discrete choice analysis. the attributes in the choice profiles so as to remove any
Part B also contained a series of short questions in- bias on a particular attribute. Finally, 16 hypothetical
tending to elicit the personal details (age, income and environmental profiles were grouped into eight sets of
education level) of the respondents. Prior to a full-scale choice profile. The resulting fractional factorial design
survey, a trial run was conducted so as to remove any matrix used to generate the choice profiles is presented
ambiguities on the content of the questionnaire design in Table 2, with the design codes −1 and +1 represent-
and the method of delivering the questionnaire survey. ing the two distinct attribute levels.
Initially 20 respondents, comprising building services Table 3 shows a typical choice card being used in
engineers, planners, architects and members of the gen- our questionnaire survey. The survey was conducted by
eral public, were selected for our pilot study. Subse- face-to-face interviews in order to minimize the chance
quent to our pilot study, methods used for describing of misinterpreting the choice questions. Respondents
some environmental attributes were revised so as to were required to choose the one they preferred from
make it easier for respondents to understand. two constructed profiles for describing the environmen-
With two levels for six attributes, a full factorial de- tal quality of a residential housing in each choice card.
sign will give rise to 64 profiles combinations (26 com- Alternatively, they could also choose the ‘neither’ op-
binations). However, past experience suggested that in- tion. On the other hand, Table 4 shows a set of Likert-
dividuals could only manage between 9 and 16 pairwise type scale questions presented to the respondents for
comparisons before degradation of response quality oc- eliciting their perception on environmental quality.

Table 2
Fractional factorial design matrix
Choice profile Landscaping Indoor air quality Energy consumption Usage of recycling Indoor noise Water
materials consumption
1 −1 −1 −1 −1 +1 +1
2 −1 −1 +1 +1 −1 −1
3 −1 +1 −1 +1 −1 +1
4 −1 +1 +1 −1 +1 −1
5 +1 −1 −1 +1 +1 −1
6 +1 −1 +1 −1 −1 +1
7 +1 +1 −1 −1 −1 −1
8 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1
9 +1 +1 +1 +1 −1 −1
10 +1 +1 −1 −1 +1 +1
11 +1 −1 +1 −1 +1 −1
12 +1 −1 −1 +1 −1 +1
13 −1 +1 +1 −1 −1 +1
14 −1 +1 −1 +1 +1 −1
15 −1 −1 +1 +1 +1 +1
16 −1 −1 −1 −1 −1 −1
72 C.K. Chau et al. / Landscape and Urban Planning 77 (2006) 67–79

Table 3
A sample choice card (profile 1 and its “foldover” design)
Environmental attributes Profile 1 Profile 2
Landscaping Allow an open space of less than 0.5 m2 per Allow an open space of ≥0.5 m2 per resident
resident within the district neighborhood for within the district neighborhood for landscaping
Indoor air quality Incorporate building design that can achieve a Incorporate building design that can achieve a
level that can provide good health and level that can protect the good health for the
comfortable conditions for general public general public only
Energy consumption Do not incorporate any special building design Incorporate some special building design so as to
to reduce the regular operating energy achieve a 20% reduction on regular operating
consumption energy consumption
Usage of recycling materials Do not incorporate any recycling materials in Incorporate at least 5% of total recycling
construction of the building materials in the construction of building
Indoor noise Regular building design which do not Incorporate special acoustic design to allow oc-
incorporate any special design to allow cupants to hear the speech clearly at a distance of
occupants to hear the speech clearly at a 3.2 m with a normal voice effort in a living room
distance of 5.6 m with a normal voice effort in a
living room
Water consumption Incorporate special designs to achieve at least Do not incorporate any special design to reduce
20% reduction on annual portable water the annual portable water consumption
What would you prefer? () ( ) or neither ( )

2.3. Data collection densely populated and with better ambient air qual-
ity. Shatin has comparatively larger green belt areas.
In order to examine whether individuals living in Table 5 summarizes the demographical characteristics
areas of different environmental qualities would eval- and the environmental qualities of the two selected ge-
uate the environmental quality of a residential hous- ographical districts in Hong Kong.
ing estate differently, residents were selected from two One of the main aims of this study is to reveal
geographical districts in Hong Kong that represented whether individuals living in apartments with substan-
substantial differences in environmental qualities. tial differences in housing estate design will evaluate
Kwun Tong was selected to represent an area of poor environmental quality differently. The housing estates
environmental quality, as it is a district that carried the developed by both private and public sectors were se-
highest population density and the poorest ambient air lected to represent estates having substantial differ-
quality in Hong Kong. Kwun Tong has comparatively ences in housing design. In general, the housing estates
smaller green belt areas. Shatin was selected to repre- developed by the private sector tend to be better in terms
sent an area of better environmental quality, as it is less of architecture, materials, workmanship and internal

Table 4
Attributes adopted in the Likert-type scale questions
Environmental attributes Perceived level of importance (1, not important at all; 2, not so important;
3, neutral, 4, fairly important; 5, very important)
1. Landscaping 1 2 3 4 5
2. Indoor air quality 1 2 3 4 5
3. Energy consumption 1 2 3 4 5
4. Usage of recycling materials 1 2 3 4 5
5. Indoor noise 1 2 3 4 5
6. Water consumption 1 2 3 4 5
C.K. Chau et al. / Landscape and Urban Planning 77 (2006) 67–79 73

Table 5 March 2003 so as to minimize the possible effect of

Comparison of demographics characteristics and environmental quality of the housing estate design on the individual
qualities of two selected geographical districts in Hong Kong
evaluation of the importance of different environmental
Characteristics Shatin Kwun Tong attributes. Secondly, the housing estates selected were
Demographic characteristics built around 1980s such that their spatial plans were
Population density (per km2 ) 9253 55077 similar.
Land uses (Source: Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Residents living in the housing estates were selected
1996b) in a random manner. One out of five individuals pass-
Total area (ha) 2777 388
ing by the podium was approached for our survey. The
Residential uses (% of total area) 0.15 0.58
Open space (%) 0.09 0.11 respondents were selected only if they had been living
Green belt area (%) 0.35 0.12 in the housing estate for no less than 2 years. The whole
Ambient air quality
survey took about 8 min to complete.
Air pollution indexa (Source: Hong 39.9 56.4
Kong Special Administrative 2.4. Data analysis and procedures
Region, 2002)
a Air pollution index is provided by the Environmental Protection Discrete choice analysis is rooted from the dis-
Department in Hong Kong. The idea is classified into five bands in crete choice theory (McFadden, 1974; Ben-Akiva and
potential effects on health and the suggested precautionary actions Lerman, 1985), in which choices can be modeled as a
are summarized below: ‘low’ at 0–25, general public are advised to
reduce physical exertion and outdoor activities; ‘medium’ at 26–50,
function of the attributes of the alternative profiles rel-
persons with existing heart or respiratory illnesses are advised to re- evant to a given choice problem. It is assumed that the
duce physical exertion and outdoor activities; ‘high’ at 51–100, no relative importance is reflected by the part-worth utili-
immediate response action is suggested, long-term effects may be ob- ties associated with each of the attributes and the choice
served if exposed at this level persistently for months or years; ‘very selected by respondents will normally have the highest
high’ at 101–200, no response action is required, ‘severe’ between
201 and 500, no response action is required.
overall utility. Given that it is impossible to measure all
characteristics of a choice objectively, the overall utility
(Ui ) of choice i is considered to have both a determin-
spatial qualities. The housing estates developed by the istic component (Vi ) and a stochastic component (εi ).
public sector generally had a dominant characteristic
of having more spacious common areas than those de- Ui = Vi + εi (1)
veloped by the private sector of comparable property
values. For instance, the common areas within a pub- The deterministic component (Vi ) represents a vec-
lic sector estate accounted for about 22% of its total tor of attributes of the choice that can be measured. The
gross floor area. On the contrary, the common areas stochastic or random component relates to aspects that
within the private housing estates accounted for only prevent choice from being a wholly deterministic pro-
10–20% (Chan et al., 2002). In this study, the term ‘pri- cess, as implied by the systematic component alone. It
vate residents’ was used to represent people who were includes idiosyncratic, transitory and a myriad of small
currently living in relatively less densely populated liv- influences on choice whose combined effects appear
ing conditions, better quality of internal spatial design random over time and other random effects that could
and workmanship, but with smaller common open ar- result in an individual’s choice varying under identical
eas. The term ‘public residents’ was used to represent circumstances.
people who were living in relatively more densely pop- Although it is assumed that this type of choice be-
ulated living conditions, average quality of internal spa- havior is deterministic on the individual level, the prob-
tial design and workmanship, but with larger common ability of choosing alternative i can be modeled as an
open areas. aggregate stochastic process, which one can describe
All the housing estates selected for our study shared as
two common characteristics. Firstly, all the housing
Prob {i chosen} = Prob {Vi + εi > Vj + εj ; ∀i, j ∈ C}
estates selected had property values within a range of
HK$ 1.5–2.0 million (i.e., US$ 190,000–260,000) in (2)
74 C.K. Chau et al. / Landscape and Urban Planning 77 (2006) 67–79

where C is the set of all possible alternatives. If one as- between 21 and 40 years old. The majority of the re-
sumes that the stochastic elements of the utilities follow spondents had a high school education level, while over
a Gumbel distribution, i.e. the errors are independently 31.7% had a university or tertiary education level. Ar-
and identically distributed, the multinomial logit model guably, these groups of respondents should be able to
can be used and specified as generate more reliable results as it was expected that
they had stronger capabilities to understand the survey
evi method and the potential impact of different environ-
Prob {i chosen} =  vj (3)
e mental attributes. The average monthly income levels
for the respondents in the two districts were found to
where the probability of choosing alternative i equals
be comparable (US$ 1100 and 1217 for respondents
the exponent of all the measurable elements of alterna-
living in housing estates located in the areas of poorer
tive i over the sum of the exponent of all measurable
and better environmental qualities, respectively).
elements of all alternatives j. The standard multino-
mial logit model limits the systematic component Vi to
3.2. Empirical results—test for internal validity
linear-in-parameters functions, which are usually es-
and consistency
timated with a maximum likelihood procedure (Ben-
Akiva and Lerman, 1985). In this study, the multino-
In order to ensure the usefulness of our survey re-
mial logit model was estimated with the aid of the sta-
sults, internal validity and consistency tests were set up
tistical software SAS.
for verifying whether the respondents had the capabili-
ties of understanding the discrete choice analysis tech-
3. Results nique and whether the surveys were completed seri-
ously. Internal validity was checked by testing the ratio-
3.1. Respondents’ personal characteristics nality of the response choices. Given that the foldover
design adopted would result in a profile comprising all
One hundred and twenty face-to-face surveys were the better environmental qualities, it would be logical
successfully administered with the residents living in to assume that all rational individuals would select that
housing estates located in areas of different environ- particular profile. Thus, in case any respondents chose
mental qualities. Half of respondents were from the the irrational alternative in the choice card, the corre-
housing estates located in areas of poorer environmen- sponding response data set would be dropped from our
tal qualities, with a response rate of 40.8%. The other analysis. Surprisingly, no data were discarded as they
half came from the housing estates located in areas all passed the internal validity test. 67 out of 960 data
of better environmental qualities, with a response rate sets were discarded because respondents selected the
of 42.6%. Half of the respondents lived in the private ‘neither’ option.
sector residential estates, while the other half lived in The results of the study were also tested for internal
the public sector housing estates. The relative high re- consistency to examine whether the obtained results
sponse rates obtained were probably due to two specific were consistent with our prior expectations. In particu-
measures being introduced in this study. Firstly, HK$ lar, the signs in the parameter estimates were checked
10 (US$ 1.3) McDonald gift coupons were awarded to to ensure the validity of the results. In this study, all
those respondents that had successfully completed the the parameters were expected to carry positive signs,
questionnaire. This was considered to be an effective as it would be logical to assume that a rational individ-
strategy for boosting the response rates. Secondly, the ual would prefer better environmental qualities in the
respondents were randomly selected from the podium housing estates.
of the residential building estates, since it was antici-
pated that individuals would be more easily accessible 3.3. Evaluated environmental quality
and more likely to respond when they stayed in the
podiums. As the response data in Table 7 could fit the indi-
Table 6 summarizes the personal characteristics of vidual multinomial logit models reasonably well (Mc-
the respondents. Over 58% of the respondents were Fadden’s ρ2 > 0.2), our developed models should be
C.K. Chau et al. / Landscape and Urban Planning 77 (2006) 67–79 75

Table 6
Personal characteristics of respondents
Description Area of poorer Area of better Private Public
environmental quality environmental quality
Male 26 (43.3%) 32 (53.3%) 36 (60%) 23 (38.4%)
Female 34 (56.7%) 28 (46.7%) 24 (40%) 37 (61.6%)
Age (years)
<20 4 (6.8%) 3 (5%) 5 (8.3%) 2 (3.3%)
21–30 14 (23.3%) 22 (36.7%) 15 (25%) 21 (35%)
31–40 23 (38.3%) 15 (25%) 20 (33.3%) 18 (30%)
41–50 14 (23.3%) 12 (20%) 14 (23.3%) 12 (20%)
>50 5 (8.3%) 8 (13.3%) 6 (10%) 7 (11.7%)
Average respondent’s age (years) 30 30 30 30
Education level
Primary or below 12 (20%) 3 (5%) 6 (10%) 9 (15%)
Secondary 22 (36.7%) 31 (51.7%) 21 (35%) 32 (53.3%)
Degree or above 26 (43.3%) 26 (43.3%) 33 (55%) 19 (31.7%)
Average education level a a a a

Monthly income (US$)

<470 0 (0%) 2 (3.3%) 1 (1.7%) 2 (3.3%)
470–1282 18 (30%) 21 (35%) 14 (23.3%) 23 (38.8%)
1283–2564 15 (25%) 13 (21.3%) 18 (30%) 11 (18.3%)
2565–3846 5 (7.5%) 8 (13.1%) 12 (20%) 1 (1.7%)
>3846 1 (2.5%) 1 (2.5%) 1 (1.7%) 0 (0%)
Not applicable 21 (35%) 15 (26.7%) 14 (23.3%) 23 (38.8%)
Average monthly income (US$) 1101 1217 1628 811
a Represents secondary level.

able to be used for portraying the evaluation of en- tributes. The magnitude of the parameter estimate in-
vironmental quality by different resident groups. All dicates the importance of the environmental attribute.
the environmental attributes examined were consid- The larger the magnitude of the parameter estimate,
ered to be significantly related to the environmental the more important the environmental attribute will be.
quality in residential housing estates. Table 7 shows However, some parameter values are so close that they
the parameter estimates for different environmental at- should not be considered to be different statistically.

Table 7
Regression results from multinominal logit model
Environmental attributes Parameter estimate (relative rank order)

Area of poorer environmental quality Area of better environmental quality Private Public
Indoor air quality 1.05*(1) 1.59* (1) 1.19*
(1) 1.36* (1)
Indoor noise 0.90* (1) 0.89* (2) 0.73 (2) 1.10* (1)
Landscaping 0.55* (2) 0.97* (2) 0.79* (2) 0.59 (2)
Water consumption 0.53* (2) 0.62* (3) 0.42* (3) 0.77* (2)
Energy consumption 0.45 (2) 1.18* (2) 0.85* (2) 0.75* (2)
Usage of recycling materials 0.40 (2) 0.73 (3) 0.38 (3) 0.60* (2)
Log likelihood ratio 149.43 219.75 172.50 203.09
McFadden’s ρ2 0.24 0.36 0.28 0.32
* Indicates significant at 0.001 level, others indicate significance at 0.01 level; figures inside parenthesis indicate the relative rank orders.
76 C.K. Chau et al. / Landscape and Urban Planning 77 (2006) 67–79

ANOVA together with a follow-up Tukey’s HSD test door noise level to be the most important environmental
were performed at 0.05 significant levels to reveal any attributes, being followed by the remaining four (land-
significant statistical differences among the importance scaping, energy consumption, recycling materials us-
of various environmental attributes being evaluated by age and water consumption; Table 7).
different groups of residents. As a result, some param- Our results showed that indoor air quality was con-
eter values were so close that they were being placed sidered to be the most important environmental at-
on the same rank order. tribute by all residents, irrespective of whether resi-
dents were living in housing estate of different designs.
3.3.1. Residents living in housing estates located Residents living in areas of higher population density
in areas having different environmental qualities with poorer internal spatial planning, poorer quality of
Residents living in areas of different environmen- building design, had a stronger concern about indoor
tal qualities had slightly different rank orders on the noise level than residents living in less dense areas and
relative importance of attributes associated with envi- with a better quality in building design. This might be
ronmental quality of their residential housing estates due to the reason that they were already experiencing
(Table 7). Residents living in areas of poorer envi- more serious noise problem as a result of higher pop-
ronmental quality considered both indoor air quality ulation density, poorer acoustic design and poorer use
and indoor noise level to be the most important at- of construction materials and workmanship.
tributes associated with the environmental quality of
their residential housing estates. They considered the 3.4. Perceived importance
other four environmental attributes (landscaping, en-
ergy consumption, usage of recycling materials and It has always been accepted that the results de-
water consumption) to be of secondary importance. rived from Likert-scale ratings can be used to deter-
Residents living in areas of better environmental qual- mine the perceived importance of respondents (Flynn
ity evaluated the importance of the environmental at- et al., 1990; Verma and Pullman, 1998; Locker, 2005).
tributes in a slightly different way. Indoor air quality The means and standard deviations of the importance
was considered to be the most important environmen- of six environmental attributes being perceived by the
tal attribute, being followed by other attributes like in- respondents living in areas with different qualities of
door noise, landscaping and energy consumption. Wa- external environment and in apartments having differ-
ter consumption and material recycling were consid- ent designs are shown in Table 8. The larger the mean
ered to be of least importance. The difference in their value, the more important the environmental attribute
evaluation outcomes might be due to the reason that will be perceived. As before, ANOVA together with a
the residents living in densely populated area with little follow-up Tukey’s HSD test were performed at 0.05
open space were more sensitive to disturbances caused significance levels so as to reveal the possible statis-
by noise. tical differences among their perceived importances.
The resulting rank orders for the perceived importance
3.3.2. Residents living in housing estate of of different environmental attributes are also shown in
different designs Table 8.
Private residents considered indoor air quality to be In contrary with our expectation, the four groups
the most important attribute associated with the envi- of respondents had almost similar rank orders for their
ronmental quality of their residential housing estates. perceived importance of the six attributes related to en-
They considered indoor noise level, energy consump- vironmental quality. Indoor air quality and indoor noise
tion, landscaping to have equal importance (Table 7). level were perceived by all four groups of residents to
Water consumption and usage of recycling materials be the two most important environmental attributes.
were considered to be of least importance. The hier- The other four environmental attributes were consid-
archical order of importance of the environmental at- ered to be less important than indoor air quality and
tributes being evaluated by public residents was slightly indoor noise. All the residents did not perceive any dif-
different from those evaluated by private residents. ferences in the importance among landscaping, energy
Public residents considered indoor air quality and in- consumption, usage of recycling material and water
C.K. Chau et al. / Landscape and Urban Planning 77 (2006) 67–79 77

Table 8
Descriptive statistics showing the perceived importance of the respondents living in Shatin, Kwun Tong and private and public housing
Environmental attributes Mean (S.D.) Relative rank
Area of poorer environmental Area of better environmental Private Public
quality quality
Indoor air quality 4.83 (0.46)** 4.67 (0.57) 4.80 (0.48)** 4.70 (0.56) 1
Indoor noise 4.53 (0.65) 4.03 (0.84) 4.25 (0.75)** 4.32 (0.83) 2
Water consumption 3.42 (0.83)** 3.52 (0.87) 3.50 (0.89)** 3.43 (0.81) 3
Energy consumption 3.40 (0.69) 3.70 (0.72) 3.58 (0.72)** 3.52 (0.72) 3
Landscaping 3.38 (0.98)** 3.65 (0.88) 3.73 (0.95)** 3.30 (0.87) 3
Usage of recycling 3.25 (0.89)** 3.37 (0.94) 3.35 (0.90)** 3.27 (0.94) 3
** Indicates significance at 0.01 level, otherwise significant at 0.05 level.
# Indicates the relative rank order being evaluated by the four different resident groups.

consumption. This is possibly because the respondents The findings of this study should enhance under-
were either unable to differentiate their importance or standing of an individual’s environmental perception
actually did not perceive any differences in their im- and evaluation of the importance of different environ-
portance. mental attributes associated with their housing estates.
In comparing the results listed in Tables 7 and 8, The analysis revealed that neither the environmental
the rank orders of the attributes associated with envi- quality of neighborhood area nor the housing estate
ronmental quality being perceived by different groups design exerted significant influence on the hierarchical
of residents were similar to those actually being evalu- order of importance being considered by the residents.
ated despite minor discrepancies. However, there is no On the contrary, it was found that the nature of envi-
consensus as to whether the results from actual choice ronmental attributes exerted a significant impact.
will be the same as those from individual’s perception The residents in Hong Kong were generally found to
in different contexts (Verma and Pullman, 1998). have placed greater importance on those environmen-
tal attributes that would pose a threat to themselves
than to the environment. This observation may possi-
4. Discussion bly be explained by resorting to some theories devel-
oped in environmental psychology, particularly those
This work represents a novel application of discrete devoted to personal attitudinal differences on environ-
choice analysis to reveal the relative importance and the mental perceptions. In this regard, personal threat the-
hierarchical order of importance applied by a sample of ory is probably best for explaining the hierarchical or-
the residents in Hong Kong in the evaluation of differ- der of importance placed on different environmental
ent environmental attributes associated with residential attributes by the residents. Personal threat theory pos-
housing estates. The use of discrete choice analysis en- tulates that individuals will place more emphasis on the
abled us to portray the actual decision making process environmental issues that potentially results in greater
of the residents better as the empirical design forced personal consequences. Hence, an individual’s envi-
them to tradeoff among different major attributes dur- ronmental concern will generally follow a hierarchical
ing their evaluation. Also, this study reported a suc- order, i.e. concern for self, concern for others and con-
cessful methodology of exploring how the residents cern for biosphere (Schultz, 2001), as a person will be
made decisions that involved tradeoff among six dif- expected to value himself/herself to be more impor-
ferent environmental attributes simultaneously. Most tant than others or the environment. This reinforced
important of all, this study helped to reveal the per- some earlier findings that individuals would be more
ception of the residents on different environmental is- concerned with those aspects of environmental quality
sues in one of the most densely populated cities in the that pose a threat to individual’s health or well being
world. (Van Liere and Dunlap, 1978; Black et al., 1985; Gould
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