In the past thirty years, cities have grown at a phenomenal rate. This abnormal growth is mainly caused by urban
expansion that overwhelms the balance between natural resources and the morphological characteristics of each
region. Today typical sprawling housing developments, shopping centres, highways and other developments
emerged from design principles that did not originate from any sense of the environmental context or to
humankind's relation to it. Many problems caused by urban growth, such as pollution, energy, segregation, sprawl
and lack of social and cultural consideration have become unsustainable to the urban environment.
There are many publications that examine sustainability from an objective (physical) point of view, mainly as a set of
problems to be resolved through advanced technology and progressive innovations. The author believes that there are
many other aspects as important as the objective aspects in terms of people's subjective preferences, as attitudes and
cultural aspects could contribute to sustaining the environment. Sustainability is approached in this thesis from
subjective and cultural aspects which include values shared by collective minds.
The hypothesis of the research is achieved through people's perception of the built environment as a tool to
understanding the man- environment relationship. The significance of involving people, their perceptions, needs and
preferences from a more genuine point of view is trying to explore and understand in depth the hidden forces and
values of things that maintain a sustainable system from the point of view of people. The study examines people's
perception and satisfaction in two settings Edinburgh and Ottawa.
The orientation of this research is exploratory and relies on qualitative and quantitative research. Deductive
inference explores in depth theoretical issues on the topic and analyses the principle of maintaining a sustainable
urban environment by addressing the issue from the literature and the case studies. Inductive inference is adopted
to maintain habitual notions and established values of the field survey by analysis of the collected data. The
theoretical approach adopted in this research is that of transactional, cognition and perception. This combined
approach assumes inseparability of context and considers people as a holistic entity.
The outcomes of this research identify major areas of contribution which relate to the discourse of sustainable
urban systems. A contrast was evident in connection with land use, mixed uses and transport in the cases of
Edinburgh and Ottawa, the former city being characterised by a more dense form than the latter's low- density,
sprawling form. A strong appreciation between home -work relationships was evaluated in both samples. This
research highlights the impact of subjective considerations on how peoples' maintain a sustainable urban