City dwellers who are weary of the concrete jungle often seek out a bit of nature. Whether they visit an urban park or find a small green space, residents can gain a host of benefits.

Research in environmental psychology shows that natural environments can help brighten moods, reduce stress and renew focus. NC State University experts used turned to immersive virtual reality (IVR) to test perceptions of green enclosures.

Researchers with the Center for Geospatial Analytics used a robot to capture 360-degree, high-resolution images of a downtown Raleigh plaza and of a city park, then manipulated the vegetation to create several different environments. In the downtown plaza scenario, virtual visitors near tall buildings wanted to be surrounded by as much green vegetation as possible, says landscape architect Payam Tabrizian, an NC State doctoral student in the College of Design and lead author of an article about the research.

The top-rated landscape design among the 90 testers was one with trees on all four sides in a medium-density arrangement. “In an urban setting, being enclosed by vegetation feels restorative.

It can serve as a shield from the urban environment and create a kind of refuge where people can sit and relax for a while,” says Tabrizian. “People preferred urban environments that were very green and being enclosed in vegetation didn’t seem to bother them that much.” That wasn’t the case for visitors to virtual versions of Raleigh’s Fletcher Park. Read more from…

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