Skip to content Skip to navigation

Research & Ideas

Search this site

​Mike Lepech: How do you quantify urban quality of life?

A civil and environmental engineer says that ​pinpointing the right metrics for things like safety and community can help planners optimize their urban designs.

Man holding child's hand

What do we want from our cities? | Image credit: iStock/Saklakova

Quality of life is something that we feel very intuitively, but how do we quantify it?

In a presentation at the Digital Cities Summit 2016, Stanford associate professor of civil and environmental engineering Mike Lepech outlines how pinpointing the right metrics for things like safety and community can help planners optimize their urban designs. For example, Lepech says, a neighborhood that places a premium on energy efficiency could easily end up with a terrible StreetScore (a metric of urban social sustainability developed by MIT).


Lepech maintains that there is a great opportunity to set appropriate targets for urban sustainability so long as that data is generated from people. “We can see what types of streetscapes, what types of community action people really love, and then not only design new communities to use those, but design renewed communities in existing urban areas that will leverage that even more,” he says. “The new streams of data that we have coming are allowing us to better and better understand ourselves and what we want out of the cities that we build and that we live in.”

Get Updates from Stanford Engineering