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close this bookInitial Environmental Assessment: Urban Development - Series no 12 (NORAD, 1996)
close this folderPart I: Urban development. The urban environment, projects and environmental impacts.
close this folder3 Possible environmental impacts
View the document(introduction...)
View the document3.1 Air, water and soil
View the document3.2 Vegetation, fauna and ecosystems
View the document3.3 Management of natural resources
View the document3.4 Climate
View the document3.5 Landscape, architecture and cultural heritage
View the document3.6 Health
View the document3.7 Way of life


This survey considers both direct and indirect environmental impacts. It can often be difficult to distinguish clearly between these two types of impacts. The causes of direct impacts can be linked directly to certain aspects of measures and activities. Indirect impacts can result from other types of activities associated with the project, or processes initiated by the project. An assessment of all possible environmental impacts stemming from urban development is impossible and pointless within the confines of this booklet. This survey also presents recommendations for mitigative measures.

3.1 Air, water and soil

Air: Pollution of air is an increasing problem in large cities, and especially in those which have inadequate ventilation, meaning that they are located in areas with little wind and stagnant air. The main sources of air pollution in urban areas are domestic combustion for heating and cooking, motor vehicles, waste incineration, energy production and industry. The emissions have local impacts, but may be transported over large distances and contribute to regional, national and global pollution. The spread is dependent on wind and temperature, vegetation cover and topography. Urban areas in developing countries contribute with an increasing share to the global emission of greenhouse gases and gases damaging to the ozone layer.

Domestic heating and cooking is often based on wood, coal or coke. The emissions consist of sulphur dioxide (SO2), carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOC), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons ( PAM), methane (CH4), and nitrogen oxides (NOx). In addition come soot and dust, which may be a considerable local environmental problem. Domestic air pollution is exacerbated by inefficient stoves, and in some places poor insulation of houses, resulting in unnecessarily high consumption of fuel. Indoor air pollution may also be substantial and may cause health injuries (cf. 3.6). In order to reduce domestic air pollution, measures may be implemented which improve combustion and/or introduce other energy sources which pollute less, like for instance gas, paraffin, solar energy etc.. Large scale measures may be demanding due to the large number of households which will be involved, and the comprehensive changes which may be needed to physical structures (rebuilding and insulation of houses) and relevant daily routines. Development of more efficient stoves and ventilation systems may however be both cheaper and less comprehensive.

Emissions to air from motorised transport consists basically of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), volatile organic compounds (VOC), methane (CH4), lead (Pb), soot and dust. Measures to reduce and stabilise emissions may focus reduction of transport needs, preparation for a transition to more environmentally sound transport types, limit use of vehicles and/or introduce new technology which reduces emission amounts (cf. 2.2). New technology to reduce emissions, e.g. catalysts, has been introduced in several developed countries. However, this measure encounters special problems in developing countries. The purchasing power of the population is generally too low for a rapid trade-in of the vehicle fleet. And the possibility of authorities to control and implement restrictions is often minimal.

Emissions to air from industry and energy production are discussed in booklet 9, and air pollution from waste management is discussed in booklet 11. In addition to the substances mentioned above emissions from these activities might contain heavy metals, chemical substances etc.. Among measures to reduce emissions one may mention energy-saving measures as well as taxes on emissions and environmentally hazardous practices in industry and energy production.

The impacts of air pollution are many and often serious, and it may take a long time before impacts occur. Health problems are an important impact which affect people directly (cf. 3.6), but also fauna and flora are affected. Many of the substances contribute to acidification of water and soil through precipitation. CO2, NOx and volatile organic compounds (VOC) impact the atmosphere. The creation of greenhouse gases like CO2 which probably cause an increase of the global average temperature, has been especially focused. NOx and VOC create tropospheric (close to the ground) ozone. The generation of tropospheric ozone increases with strong sunlight, as is the case in the tropics. Ozone close to the ground is a dangerous gas which may damage vegetation and crops, and it may cause health injuries to animals and people. Smog which may consist of photochemical (oxidising) substances and other dangerous chemicals may be created over large cities. Air pollution may have a corrosive impact on materials and constructions.

In building and infrastructure projects one should assess whether the project will cause considerably increased emissions to air, both in the construction and operational phase. Too few cities in developing countries implement systematic measurements of air pollution. However, it is clear that the level of pollution varies from city to city. It also varies between various seasons, and it may even vary daily.

Water: Urban development may have a considerable impact on the hydrological cycle (see booklet 7 "Water supply"), both by affecting surface run-off, groundwater replenishment, flood extent, and erosion and sedimentation processes. Areas covered by tarmac, buildings and networks of pipelines, culverts, canals and facilities for water supply and drainage, contribute to this. The utilisation of water from both surface and groundwater sources may exceed the natural replenishment of these sources. The groundwater table may recede which may affect the water supply for both humans, animals and vegetation in and around urban areas. And salinization of groundwater may occur. In addition areas may sink, damaging buildings and other urban structures. Pollution of water in urban areas happens primarily in cases of uncontrolled discharges from houses, waste management, industry and energy production, plus surface run-off (drainage or storm water).

Many houses in urban areas in developing countries are not connected to a sewer system (cf. 1.3.3). The systems which exist are often haphazard and purification facilities are nearly non-existent. Development of sanitary conditions is necessary in settlement areas in order to reduce or prevent water pollution. The population should participate in the design of these measures. Inexpensive solutions and training in hygiene (see booklet 7 "Water supply") should be emphasised. Household waste may pollute water and block drainage pipelines if waste management systems are not present (see booklet 11 "Waste management").

In several places industry discharges pollutants and toxic substances directly to the drainage systems without purification, causing water courses to contain a mixture of non-purified sewage and industrial waste. Some important industrial pollutants are inorganic salts, acids and bases, organic substances, heated water, dyes, toxic substances, micro organisms and radioactive substances (see booklet 9 "Industry and energy"). A special characteristic of developing countries are the many small and intermediate activities in urban areas. Large quantities of hazardous waste created in industry may be irresponsibly managed. Hidden dumping sites may become environmental time bombs (see booklet 11 "Waste management").

Pollution from urban areas may through surface run-off, spread to water sources some distances from the urban areas. Rivers, lakes, groundwater reservoirs, estuaries, coasts, beaches, and the ocean may suffer considerable pollution, with impacts on drinking water, health, fishing and aquaculture, ecosystems, aesthetic values, recreation and tourism. Pollution of water sources may give the following impacts: Particles in waste water may cause siltation and cause the recipient to become shallow. Nitrogen and phosphorous are especially important nutrients, which can cause algal blooming (eutrophication). If the water source lacks nutrients, the introduction of nutrient salts within certain limits may be an advantage. In freshwater phosphates are main causes of the algal blooming, while nitrates are the main causes in saltwater with a high saline content. Extensive introduction of organic material to water sources may alter the balance of oxygen and create anaerobic (lack of oxygen) conditions which may cause death of fish and alter the composition of species. In addition smell will occur and the water will taste bad due to gas development in the water. Garbage such as paper, textiles, plastic etc. in the water is unpleasant, and may disturb activities like fishing and bathing. Heavy metals may harm human beings, and are acutely toxic to aquatic organisms. Chlorinated organic compounds take a long time to break down. These may accumulate in the food chain, and may be toxic and affect the taste of drinking water. Tar substances (including PAH) are primarily focused because they may be carcinogenic to human beings. Mineral oil may in large quantities be lethal to aquatic birds and eggs, larvae, spawn and rooted aquatic organisms. The introduction of heated or cooled waste water may cause undesired changes to the composition of species.

Both for large and small construction projects the use of surface or groundwater sources should be assessed with regard to water supply capacity and responsible management of wastewater. This should be ensured both with regard to the construction and the operational phase.

Soil: Pollution by heavy metals like lead, cadmium and mercury represent probably the most serious contamination of soil in urban areas. The sources are mainly industry, mining, inadequate waste management, and motorised transport. Soil can, in the same way as water, also indirectly be contaminated through precipitation which carries airborne pollution. (See also booklets 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.)

3.2 Vegetation, fauna and ecosystems

Urban development may, through for instance construction projects, require large tracts of land and cause considerable encroachments in nature. Flora and fauna and ecosystems may deteriorate by for instance the composition of species and number of species in an area being changed. One should consider whether special sections of the project area have qualities which should be protected or conserved (cf. 1.3.5). This also pertains to small scale construction projects. The fauna and flora outside urban areas may also be affected, for instance through pollution, noise and increased human activity and consequent wear. The land use can lead to a fragmentation of habitats for vegetation and fauna resulting in remaining areas becoming too small or fragmented to sustain ecological functions. Ecosystems one intends to conserve should have a certain minimum size. Distances between fragmented areas are also important. The larger the distances the less possibility animals have for movement between the areas and thereby securing a sustainable stock. The existence of corridors in which animals may freely move between habitats may be crucial. If fragmentation cannot be avoided such green corridors should be protected or established. Vegetation is generally less dependent on this type of connection if the species are not dependent on animals for pollination.

Animal husbandry, agriculture, wood collection, fires etc. can increase considerably in the urban fringe. This problem may be especially prevalent in developing countries because many people moving from rural to urban areas continue with agricultural activities. The flora and fauna in the urban fringe can change through the disappearance of several species, while other species may thrive on the new situation and stocks may increase in number. The growth and expansion of urban areas may also alter the local ecology in ways that promote growth of contagious organisms. Mosquitoes are an example. Usually mosquitoes shun polluted water, however some species have adapted to the urban environment and breed there (cf. 3.6).

Conservation and establishment of vegetation in urban areas will be advantageous for animal life. Forest areas and other vegetation can be integrated in the design of construction projects. Much vegetation is lost through unnecessary removal or damage during construction. Conservation worthy vegetation or nature can be protected by fencing during the construction phase. Conservation of existing vegetation and nature within urban areas should still be considered against the possibility that this might increase the total urban area and thereby increase pressure on the surrounding nature. Instead of conserving existing vegetation, imported trees and other vegetation is often utilised for enhancement of surroundings in cities and in various construction projects. The introduction of exotic species may be ecologically doubtful both with regard to uncontrolled spread or displacement of local species, and with regard to introduction of new plant diseases (see booklet 3 "Forestry").

The causes of degradation of areas and ecosystems may be many and complex. In addition to those already mentioned one may speak of lack of or inadequate land taxation, special land tenure conditions, squatter settlements on conservation worthy areas etc..

3.3 Management of natural resources

Population growth and increased concentration of people in urban areas will result in increased strains on natural resources if a sound management is not secured. Water, forestry, soil and mineral resources etc. which are vital for urban economic development can easily be excessively exploited and be lost. Deforestation, erosion, changes to the groundwater table and various other impacts may be the result. Land use conflicts in the urban fringe are common, for instance through development projects being implemented on agricultural areas or areas used for other natural resource exploitation or recreation. The impacts of urban utilisation of natural resources and areas may be found far away from the city limits.

The urban need for building materials may function as an example. Use of concrete and bricks may represent a substantial pressure on gravel, sand and clay resources. Impacts may be considerable for landscape, vegetation, groundwater, etc. (see booklet 10 "Mining and extraction of sand and gravel"). Currently a large portion of the global economy is spent on materials for buildings, including construction, maintenance of houses, offices etc.. A considerable percentage of the global resources of wood, minerals, water and energy is used for construction purposes. Much of this consumption takes place in industrial countries, but construction activities are also increasing in several developing countries. Many environmental impacts caused by buildings occur before the buildings are put into use - through construction activity, production of building materials, and transport. In addition the operation and running of many modern buildings may require large amounts of energy.

Both construction and destruction of modern buildings generate large amounts of waste. A reduction of materials used may have potential long-term impacts on local and global environment and natural resources. Both reuse and recycling of materials are relevant. Reuse is defined as using material components, for instance roof tiles, again in their entirety. Recycling means that the components are broken down to their single constituent parts which are then used again, like for instance melted copper from electrical circuits. Both loss of materials and consumption of energy can be reduced. To the degree it is possible, materials and design which are adapted to local conditions and access local natural resources should be chosen during construction. In tropical areas, for instance, soil and woven palm leaves etc. represent possible construction materials. These can be recycled by nature itself when they have served their duty (cf. also 2.1).

An ecologically sound use of materials may entail:

· that choice of technology is done closer to the user, and that production takes place in smaller industries in the vicinity of the user,

· that consumption of raw materials is based on renewable resources or rich stock resources, and that products are suitable for recycling and material-saving constructions,

· that production processes using less energy and durable materials are preferred, and that transport distances are made as short as possible, and

· that polluting industrial processes and materials are avoided, and that consumption of energy based on fossil fuel is kept as low as possible.

3.4 Climate

Built-up areas both impact and are impacted by the climate conditions of the location. A climate analysis may give useful information for planning of an environmentally adapted new construction or reconstruction activity. Poor climate adaptation may cause health injuries, increased consumption of energy, damages to buildings, and higher maintenance and running costs. The climate can be utilised positively in several ways, for instance through wind or thermal air movement ventilating polluted outdoor areas, or that solar energy is utilised both inside and outside the building. A climate analysis can give knowledge on:

· wind velocity and wind direction for the various seasons,
· type of wind - whether it is warm or cold,
· angle of sunlight in relation to latitude and local conditions of shade,
· outdoor temperature,
· amount of precipitation,
· local topography, and
· how the various factors interrelate, for instance how temperature and topography affect wind.

In the tropics physical structures in urban areas (buildings, tarmac streets etc.) will be warmed up during the day, and be subjected to relatively little cooling during the night. Cities dominated by concrete and tarmac may have temperatures that are between 5-10°C higher than the surrounding countryside. Heat waves are exacerbated and may in worst cases be fatal for elderly and sick. Consumption of energy, including transport, may also contribute to the warming up of cities. In quiet, sunny weather a canopy of hot polluted air might be created over the city.

Several methods of climate adaptation might be considered in construction projects and/or physical planning. One method is the location of buildings in the landscape and the utilisation of vegetation as windbreaks or shade. The design of the buildings and use of materials may also affect indoor consumption of energy and indoor climate (cf. 3.6 and Table 3).

3.5 Landscape, architecture and cultural heritage

Urban development and projects of a certain magnitude, be it buildings, roads or other constructions, will entail considerable physical encroachments on the landscape. To which degree visual damages occur depends on the form of the landscape or terrain (valley, ridge, plain), type of surface cover (vegetation, agriculture or settlements), and scale (the relative dimensions of the project compared to dimensions of the landscape). How transition zones between the various types of surface cover or terrain are changed is of importance. Large differences in scale between project and affected landscape may increase the negative impacts. One should particularly consider changes to the richness of variation and complexity of the landscape. Some landscape types are especially vulnerable to encroachments. This pertains to coastal areas, open cultural landscapes adjacent to urban areas (fringe zone between rural and urban areas), and visually exposed hills and ridges. The urban landscape consists of the natural and cultural landscape where the city is situated, the built-up area and the placing of various objects (signs, trees, sculptures etc.) in the city. Construction projects may cause both functional and aesthetic impacts on settlement structures and urban landscape. Transport measures, design of housing environments (both indoor and outdoor areas) and the respective location of the various service functions like for instance schools, shops, and public buildings will have different impacts if a clear functional division of land use or an integration of various functions in the housing environment is selected.

Architecture and building traditions are of great importance for the visual character of the city or urban area. Individual buildings or building environments contain a symbolic value and convey a signal which may be important to consider in construction projects. Changes to building environments through establishment of new buildings may have consequences for the population's identification and experience of the place where the building is located. Large buildings and/or buildings established as part of development projects may come to have a normative function as ideals for small and large developers. Choice of design and materials should therefore be carefully considered. Two different strategies may be relevant: a) Adaptation to existing buildings is especially relevant where there already exists a relatively homogenous architecture and building tradition. Caution should be shown in encroachments which alter the holistic impression. New projects can be adapted to existing construction either by building on old traditions or by tailoring new solutions. b) Creative urban design can be relevant where any homogenous architectural language and building tradition does not exist, but rather a mixture of various styles and traditions. Daring may be shown in the design of new projects. It may be relevant to give the project a design which represents something new, and which can contribute to alter the holistic impression of the area in a positive direction.

If the modification of existing traditional building habits or architecture is desired the following questions should be posed:

· has the local population contributed to the formulation of the needs?
· is local design being considered?
· are locally available materials utilised?
· are energy-efficient materials being utilised?
· are traditional techniques and handicrafts being considered?
· is adequate consideration given to social organisation and division of labour in the local community?
· can the users maintain the buildings?
· can new technology be modified for use in existing or future buildings in the area?

Various construction projects and several activities in urban areas like for instance waste management, industry and transport may damage the cultural heritage. This may happen through projects and activities being located too close to the cultural heritage and creating visual disturbances, noise, vibrations and/or pollution of air and water. Air pollution may corrode materials thereby destroying monuments and buildings of aesthetic, cultural and architectonic value. Too little emphasis is given to this issue in urban development. In addition to loss of cultural heritage the consequence may also be loss of revenue from tourism. In addition to local losses, the cultural heritage of national or international interest may be damaged. The sites included in the UNESCO "World Heritage List" are for instance included in the last group.

3.6 Health

The quality of people's living conditions is decided by health, labour conditions, economy, education, social relations, housing and neighbourhood environment. Health is considered the most important of these factors. Poor health can seldom be compensated and usually has consequences for the other factors. The concept of health covers two main components; physical and mental health, which mutually affect each other. The broad definition of health defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) gives the basis for this discussion of health impacts. WHO defines good health as a condition of perfect physical, mental and social well-being and ability to function, and not just an absence of disease.

The physical environment of urban areas can affect health directly, for instance through noise and pollution. Other aspects of the physical environment have indirect impacts. The possibilities for social contact in the neighbourhood may be affected by how the surroundings are designed and organised, and social networks are again important for physical and mental health. Physical planning and construction projects shape the physical environment and thereby influence the daily life and living conditions of people in ways which cause both positive and negative health impacts. Several environmental factors are affected, which in turn may impact health. These factors can be divided into three main groups; physical and chemical environmental factors (air, drinking water, noise, waste, light, radiation), psycho-social environmental factors, and accidents.

Polluted air can cause several types of diseases and injuries, ranging from minor irritation of mucous membranes to allergic reactions, respiratory diseases, asthma and chronic lung diseases, and cancer. Important outdoor pollutant substances are described in 3.1, but the indoor climate of houses, offices and factories can be polluted and hazardous to health. Poor indoor climates in modern buildings is a well-known phenomenon. Such buildings are often termed "sick houses". The causes may be additives in building materials, furniture, paint, carpets, etc. which release formaldehyde, heavy metals, organic solvents etc.. Buildings containing air condition facilities may trap these substances indoors causing concentrations to become health hazardous. Modern ventilation systems can spread substances, fungi etc. that are hazardous to health. Electrical facilities may result in noise and create extremely low frequency fields (ELF). Several symptoms and diseases may occur as a result of poor indoor climate. An overview of this problem area is given in Table 3 at the end of this booklet.

Polluted water may contain bacteria, virus, organisms and chemical substances which may be harmful to people (see 3.1 and booklet 7 "Water supply").

Noise may constitute a substantial health problem in urban areas. The most common sources are transport, technical installations, neighbours, construction activity, and recreational and cultural activity. The negative impacts are both physiological; like hearing impairment, changes to blood pressure, respiratory and digestive systems, social; like disturbances of communication and social life, and mental; like problems with sleep, tiredness, concentration problems and stress. Traffic noise and pollution is a large problem related to transport lines in urban areas. The problems are, however, not just a direct impact of construction of new roads, railways etc.. Changes to traffic currents can result in existing transport lines receiving increased traffic for shorter or longer periods. It is therefore not enough to consider local noise and pollution problems, but also which impacts the new transport line has on traffic in other areas. (More about noise in booklet 8 "Transport").

Low frequency electromagnetic fields (EMF) can be created by power transmission lines. Science has not yet agreed on to which extent EMF may cause biological reaction, but recent findings indicate it may be health damaging to live close to power transmission lines. The strength of both electrical and magnetic fields is reduced with distance from the power transmission lines.

The visual expression of physical environments creates reactions among people and may impact mental well-being and behaviour. The design, substance, colour and other characteristics of the surroundings induce moods, experiences and thoughts. The surroundings may induce alienation or a sense of belonging, disgust or pleasure, insecurity or security depending on the visual expression.

Studies have shown that a reliable social network is important for both mental and physical health. Weakening of social networks, which previously held people together, has been suggested as one of the explanations for increased urban crime, violence and mental instability (mental ailments, drug abuse). Rapidly growing settlements with few arenas for contact, recreation and common activity may contribute to lack of social integration (also see 3.7) The strengthening of existing social networks or establishment of new networks may prevent health injuries. The physical design of a settled area may be important and can be influenced. The design of for instance a housing area is decisive for how many natural meeting points that exist, and thereby how many possibilities people have to meet others through informal encounters or organised activities. Changes in neighbourhood conditions may require cooperation between various institutions, professionals and local population.

The number of injuries and accidents is of great significance when assessing the health status. The frequency of urban traffic accidents in developing countries is often higher than in many industrial countries. The causes may be increased traffic together with poor traffic training, lack of traffic separation, poor driving conditions, inadequate road marking, few traffic penalty measures, and poor vehicle standards. Health hazardous working environments, inadequate safety measures, and outmoded poorly maintained technology may cause many workers to suffer permanently reduced ability to work or that they become completely invalid. The localisation of settlements in the vicinity of industry, mining and extraction of sand and gravel, oilfields, garbage dumps, transport lines or areas which are especially vulnerable to natural hazards may result in accidents or be harmful to health.

Negative impacts of urban development may be reduced or avoided by securing that health and environmental considerations are present in physical planning, and that these form the basis for choice of materials and design of construction projects.

To avoid people being subjected to noise, radiation and polluted air from other activity the following should be secured prior to initiation of any construction project (for instance residential areas):

· that the project is located away from pollution sources,

- and where necessary ensure that buffer zones are present or that the project is located at an adequate distance from pollution sources,

- and/or establish measures to reduce pollution at the source.

· that the project is located away from areas with noise from roads, airports etc.,

- and where necessary implement noise reduction measures along transport lines and soundproofing of houses.

· that alternative locations have been properly assessed.

In order to avoid exposing inhabitants to natural hazards one should make sure that urban development is not located to or takes place in the following areas:

· flood plains, coastal zones and other areas vulnerable to floods,

· areas with unstable soil, or areas vulnerable to landslides,

· areas with especially saline soil,

· areas with seismic or volcanic activity,

· areas that are especially steep or humid, or

· areas with large amounts of contagious organisms.

If the urban development project cannot be moved to another location, the design must be adapted to the local conditions.

Several traffic safety measures may be relevant to avoid or reduce the extent of accidents and injuries. One distinguishes often between passive and active measures in connection with preventive efforts. Passive measures are often better prevention against accidents than active measures, which often require substantial personal action on the part of the individual. Examples of passive measures which can be included in physical planning are road safety measures, speed reducing bumps, separating pedestrians and cyclists from cars etc.. For optimum impact passive measures should be combined with training and awareness campaigns.

Conservation or establishment of areas for recreation and outdoor life may be relevant as preventive health measures. Green structures should be easily accessible and should not be separated from housing areas by barriers like for instance transport lines.

The type of physical design of settled areas which gives the best possible impacts with regard to environment and health may vary from case to case. One can distinguish between two main types of settlement; open and dense. An open settlement can be founded on light, air and green structures. These factors should be considered against the environmental impacts of more land requirement, increased transport needs, and possible complex neighbourhood conditions etc.. A dense settlement pattern uses less area, reduces need for transport, and may result in closer and more simple social networks in the neighbourhood. Dense urban areas have traditionally been connected with slum and health hazardous surroundings. Slum clearance and upgrading of such areas may however create safe living conditions both with regard to health and social conditions. Dependent on design and density of the settlement, densification can in several cases be a more environmentally sound urban development than scattered buildings entailing expansion over new areas.

3.7 Way of life

The process of urbanization may create social and ethnic conflicts through various population groups migrating to urban areas and confronting a completely new way of life. If employment and possibilities of practicing religion and different ways of life are not met the possibilities of conflict may increase. Conflicts may occur when urban development through land expansion or increased need for natural resources impacts areas utilised by population groups which have not adopted urban life and desire to retain their way of life.

Housing projects may result in that people must move from illegal settlements or slum areas. Forced relocation may entail a break with the established social environment and social network (see also 3.6). Alternatively the possibilities of rehabilitating existing settlement areas can be considered, in which case the inhabitants participate in decisions on design and content.

In the Case of construction projects (houses etc.,) religious and cultural aspects must be considered. These may be decisive for whether parts of a building and/or its outdoor area must be prepared for religious activities or special ways of life, customs or conceptions.