Indicator landscape

Urban sprawl

The expansion of settlements and infrastructures in Switzerland means that the landscape is increasingly interspersed with buildings, installations, roads, railways and other infrastructures over ever larger areas. A major reason for this urban sprawl is that people frequently do not work, live and pursue leisure activities in the same location, resulting in a demand for transport services.

Assessment of the state
poor poor
Assessment of the trend
unsatisfactory unsatisfactory
Urban sprawl (TLM 2014) 2018: 2.38 Urban sprawl (TLM 2014) 2014: 2.08 Urban sprawl (Vector 25) 2010: 2.475 Urban sprawl (Vector 25) 2002: 2.22 Urban sprawl (Vector 25) 1980: 1.946 Urban sprawl (Vector 25) 1960: 1.251 Urban sprawl (Vector 25) 1935: 0.87
*DSE: Settlement units per km2 of countryside. The values for 2014 to 2018 are not comparable with the values for 1935 to 2010. Reason: Change to method in the course of the transition from Vector25 (analog 1:25,000 national map) to TLM 2014. However, the 2014–18 values are comparable.

Data for the graph: Excel
Source: WSL
2020 Southern Alps: 2.07 2020 Central Alps: 0.79 2020 Northern Alps: 1.34 2020 Central Plateau: 5.05 2020 Jura: 2.22 2020 Switzerland: 2.38 2014 Switzerland: 2.08
*DSE: Developed units per square kilometre of landscape

Data for the graph: Excel
Source: WSL

Urban sprawl has been on the increase for a long time. Whereas in 1935 it was still less than 1 DSE/m2, in 2000 it was measured at more than 2 DSE/m2. The rate of increase was particularly sharp in the 1960s. Between 2014 and 2018, urban sprawl continued, with values above 2 DSE/m2, although a change in the data basis makes a direct comparison with the preceding time series difficult. The pace of urban sprawl may have slowed somewhat; development is now assessed as 'unsatisfactory' and no longer 'negative'.

By far the greatest urban sprawl is on the Swiss Plateau, with over 5 DSE/m2. The increase between 2014 and 2018 was also highest in this region. The values for the southern flank of the Alps and the Jura are above 2 DSE/m2, while those for the northern flank of the Alps are below 2 DSE/m2. The least sparsely populated area is the Central Alps, with less than 1 DSE/m2.

International comparison

In 2018, urban sprawl in Europe was surveyed using the Swiss method. The final report (EEA/FOEN) shows that urban sprawl in Switzerland (2.57 DSE/m2) is greater than the EU average (1.64 DSE/m2) and, for example, in France (2.33 DSE/m2). However, the degree of urban sprawl in Germany (3.83 DSE/m2) and the Netherlands (6.61 DSE/m2) is greater.


The indicator is based on the urban sprawl measurement parameter, which quantifies and measures urban spraw for the entire country.  The "Weighted urban sprawl" indicator is based on three measurement parameters: distribution of settlement areas (dispersion, DIS), urban penetration (UP), which takes the settlement area into account, and population and employment density (utilisation density, AD). These parameters are combined and weighted in order to measure the degree of urban sprawl. In this way, it is possible to compare landscapes of different dimensions.

Basis for assessment of the trend
Targeted trend Initial value Final value Variation in % Observed trend Assessment
Stabilisation 2014 2018 14.42% Growth*  unsatisfactory*
Basis: Urban sprawl (TLM 2014)
Last updated on: 15.03.2023

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