Indicator soil

Settlement and urban area

Areas of land in a natural state are an essential and limited resource. In a country like Switzerland, in which utilisable land is scarce, it is especially important to use the available land as economically as possible. Expanding the area of developed land not only results in the loss of fertile land, but also represents a threat to the diversity of species. Furthermore, the quality of our natural environment, which has a major influence on our physical and spiritual well-being, is also diminished as the result of intensive development and its negative impacts.

Assessment of the state
impossible to evaluate impossible to evaluate
Assessment of the trend
negative negative
Settlement and urban area in square kilometres 2013/18: 3271 Settlement and urban area in square kilometres 2004/09: 3079 Settlement and urban area in square kilometres 1992/97: 2819 Settlement and urban area in square kilometres 1979/85: 2495

Data for the graph: Excel
Source: Federal Statistical Office: Land Use Statistics 

Between 1979/85 and 2013/18, the settlement area developed area in Switzerland expanded by 776 km2, or 31%. Residential areas grew by as much as 61%, twice as fast as the population. 

The main reasons for this are as follows

  • the fast-growing population
  • the increased demand for personal mobility, which means more and more roads have to be constructed
  • the need for more living space, which is partly attributable to the increasing degree of affluence

The settlement area per inhabitant has hardly changed in the 33 years studied and is now 396 m2. 


The zone land use statistics of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office determine land cover and land use in Switzerland using aerial photos taken by the Swiss Federal Office of Topography. Thanks to the sets of statistics for the periods from 1979 to 1985, 1992 to 1997, 2004 to 2009 and 2013 to 2018, it is possible for the first time to make statistically secured and spatially differentiated assessments of the changes in land use throughout the entire country. The results of these development land use statistics can be used for documenting the extent of human intervention and natural processes that alter the country's environment and landscapes. The parameter used as reference for this purpose is the total of the mean population of the municipalities at the time at which the aerial photos are taken. The term "developed areasettlement and urban area" refers to all zones and infrastructure that are used for residential, transport and production purposes (excluding agriculture and forestry), trade and services, and utilities, waste disposal and recreation. The term "special development zoneurban area" refers to supply and disposal facilities (energy production, sewage treatment, waste treatment, etc.), quarrying/mining zones, landfill sites, construction sites and ruins, and buildings in these zones.

Basis for assessment of the trend
Targeted trend Initial value Final value Variation in % Observed trend Assessment
Stabilisation 1979/85 2013/18 31.10% Growth negative
Last updated on: 18.01.2024

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