Scholarly article on topic 'NaWo - a Tool for More Sustainable Residential Location Choice'

NaWo - a Tool for More Sustainable Residential Location Choice Academic research paper on "Social and economic geography"

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Transportation Research Procedia
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{sustainability / "spatial structures" / mobility / "residential mobility" / "housing and mobility costs"}

Abstract of research paper on Social and economic geography, author of scientific article — St. Tischler, M. Mailer

Abstract Urban sprawl is a major problem in many metropolitan areas. Especially in cities with high housing prices people are looking for residential locations in suburban or remote areas where residential costs are lower. Still, these decisions are often made without being fully aware of the consequences on mobility patterns and transport costs. Furthermore, residential location shapes social, economic and environmental issues and thereby the sustainability of human life. To foster sustainable residential location choice a decision-making aid which is focused on the effects of residential location on daily mobility has been developed as part of the project “Sustainable choice of residential locations” and made available in the greater Munich area as well as the Austrian province of Tyrol. Using this web-based calculator (“NaWo”), property seekers are given an initial insight into the distances to be covered at the desired location considering their personal mobility behavior. With this awareness-raising measure, it is possible to take the sustainability aspect into greater consideration in residential location choice with regard to the costs, impact on the environment and the opportunities for social inclusion.

Academic research paper on topic "NaWo - a Tool for More Sustainable Residential Location Choice"

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Transportation Research



Transportation Research Procedía 19 (2016) 109- 118

International Scientific Conference on Mobility and Transport Transforming Urban Mobility, mobil.TUM 2016, 6-7 June 2016, Munich, Germany

NaWo - a tool for more sustainable residential location choice

Urban sprawl is a major problem in many metropolitan areas. Especially in cities with high housing prices people are looking for residential locations in suburban or remote areas where residential costs are lower. Still, these decisions are often made without being fully aware of the consequences on mobility patterns and transport costs. Furthermore, residential location shapes social, economic and environmental issues and thereby the sustainability of human life.

To foster sustainable residential location choice a decision-making aid which is focused on the effects of residential location on daily mobility has been developed as part of the project "Sustainable choice of residential locations" and made available in the greater Munich area as well as the Austrian province of Tyrol. Using this web-based calculator ("NaWo"), property seekers are given an initial insight into the distances to be covered at the desired location considering their personal mobility behavior. With this awareness-raising measure, it is possible to take the sustainability aspect into greater consideration in residential location choice with regard to the costs, impact on the environment and the opportunities for social inclusion.

© 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-reviewunder responsibility oftheorganizing committeeof mobil.TUM 2016.

Keywords: sustainability, spatial structures, mobility, residential mobility, housing and mobility costs

1. Introduction

Worldwide metropolitan regions are confronted with the negative impacts of urban sprawl. The number of people living in metropolitans regions is increasing mainly by migration. Especially in cities with high housing prices people are looking for residential locations in peri-urban or remote areas where residential costs are lower. However, people

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +43-512-507-62404; fax: +43-512-507-2909. E-mail address:

2352-1465 © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the organizing committee of mobil.TUM 2016. doi:10.1016/j.trpro.2016.12.072

St. Tischler*, M. Mailer

University of Innsbruck,Unit for Intelligent Transport Systems, Innsbruck, 6020, Austria


changing their residential location have to adopt their mobility behavior. Since most journeys start or end at home the choice of living locations determines daily travel and has a very high impact not only on urban mobility.

Housing is the central feature of human life. As with other living creatures, a person needs a place of refuge - be that as protection against natural influences (weather, for example), protection against adversaries or even to maintain social contacts. The proverbial "roof over your head" not only offers protection from the weather but as its principal function psychologically and physical reproduction in the form of personal hygiene, family life, rest and relaxation, intimacy and physicality. Therefore the residential location forms the central point of people's daily life.

In social geography housing is regarded as one of basic principle of existence (Maier et al., 1977). These principles are related to activities to meet fundamental human needs. Housing is a basis for meeting fundamental human needs. But not all fundamental needs can be met directly at home. So changes of location are necessary to carry out activities associated with other basic principles of existence. For example, the need for food is associated with the provision of food, which is normally taken care of by the activity of shopping these days. Mobility is thereby of vital importance. Even if mobility itself is often described as a basic principle of existence, it actually rather takes the role of the enabler. Since people have settled down, the home, as a starting point of journeys which serve to meet the basic principles of existence at other places, is the center of everyday life. Most journeys start or end at home.

In many countries people and families moving in suburban regions are very often captive car users due to the fact that locations of their daily activities like work, school, shops and even leisure facilities cannot be accessed by foot, bicycle or pubic transport. On the other hand commuting by car is causing severe traffic problems in cities. But also on the individual level car dependency results in high efforts and expenses for daily mobility. Many people are not aware that high travel costs reduce or even nullify lower housing costs in suburban regions and has negative effects not only in ecological terms (e.g. carbon footprint) but also on quality of live (e.g. dependency and obligation of escort trips).

Housing demands space, energy and building material including the necessary infrastructure for this. In countries of Central Europe such as Austria, almost 25% of overall energy consumption is used in private households (e.g. heating and hot water etc.). But during the last decade, this value remains more or less stable while the energy consumption of traffic is still rising (more than 75% during the last 25 years) with a portion of 33% related to the overall energy consumption (BMWFW, 2015, p. 23). Hence, transport and housing in addition to industry are responsible for a large part of greenhouse gas emissions. The increased emergence of the concept of sustainability in the fields of housing and construction manifested in recent years - based on a predominantly property-related consideration of the issue. More efficient heating systems and thermal insulation to save energy have thereby moved into the focus of science and funding. However, the effect of residential location is hardly included in energy calculations.

Several studies have been undertaken to analyze the change of spatial structures in metropolitan areas and the role of residential mobility and residential location choice (Wu, 2004; Knox and Pinch, 2000; Kim, 1994). Still, the decision for residential place and all its resulting ecological, economic and social impacts often remain unconsidered. Changing a residential location or underlying location decisions are as a result also ultimately crucial for spatial-structural procedures and impacts on traffic. However, it is not clear how sustainability issues exert a direct or indirect influence on residential location decisions and to what extent increased awareness-raising amongst property seekers can be facilitated in particular from the viewpoint of sustainable mobility.

So, home and the residential location also shape social, economic and environmental issues and thereby the sustainability of human life. Still, decisions on living locations are often made without being fully aware of the consequences on mobility patterns and transport costs, often resulting not only in high costs and time consumption in daily mobility but also in high dependence on private car. But how can people looking for a new residence be made aware of the consequences their location choice might have on overall costs (housing and mobility), environmental impacts and their everyday life?

This question formed the basis of a research project conducted recently in the area between the Bavarian capital Munich and the Austrian province of Tyrol. In the project "Sustainable choice of residential locations" (short title "NaWo?"; in English "Well, where?" (shall we live)) a decision-making aid to sustainable residential location has been developed.

Introducing this project and the tool, the paper first reviews the process of migration, focusing on the greater Munich area and dealing with transport/land-use interaction by discussing the role of mobility when selecting a new residential location. According to starting hypotheses that from the point of view of sustainability the requirements of performing everyday mobility demands are of high importance for the assessment of residential location, the importance of mobility in addition to other issues which influence residential location choice is in particular analyzed and presented in more detail. These issues formed the basis of the development objective of giving property seekers the opportunity to include the arrangement associated with a residential location and costs of daily mobility in the decision-making process of residential location choice with the aid of a tool. This approach is presented in the final chapter of the paper.

2. Housing, Mobility and Migration

2.1. Theoretical background

The starting point for considerations concerning this is changing human needs in terms of importance over time as well as the environment and lifestyle shaped by these needs. Two courses of action are in principle available in such cases: People with specific lifestyles select specific residential locations or they develop certain lifestyles at specific residential locations (Rossel, 2012, p.322).

As part of a research project at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, more than 9000 interviews a year have been carried out since 2010 in order to investigate the reasons for a change of residential location more closely. The results show that - independently of the type of departure region - usually a change in the household type is the trigger for a house move (Delbiaggio 2012, p. 29).

It is, however, also noticeable that in rural areas a change in the work situation is significantly more often associated with a change in residential location than in cities. This circumstance can be explained by the fact that alternative job offers in the city do not usually result in greater changes in daily mobility needs, while in rural regions career options are distributed across a much greater area due to the lack of alternatives and this causes a sometimes considerable change in everyday mobility behaviour.

The Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development (ILS, Dortmund) examined the characteristics and reasons of migrated households using extensive surveys of more than 20.000 households in the research project "Demographic change and migrations in the urban area" (Dittrich-Wesbuer et. al. 2008). The main findings of the study are as follows:

• Residential location selection criteria are primarily depending on personal circumstances.

• Housing costs are the prime deciding factor for younger single households and couples when looking for housing

• In addition to the costs, households with children primarily take more consideration of criteria concerning the environment (children-friendly, green and open space, care and educational opportunities) when looking for housing

• For senior citizens, proximity to family and friends and shopping facilities is important when choosing a new residential location.

• Housing costs are a key criterion independent of the type of household and the location of the desired new residential location

Last but not least the authors came to the conclusion that the criteria of "connection to buses and trains" as well as "car parking spaces" are not the most relevant feature in residential location selection processes (Dittrich-Wesbuer et. al. 2008, p. 7). This conclusion shows a discrepancy compared to other recently conducted studies such as "Wohnungsnachfrage im Großraum München" (Thierstein et. al., 2013) that describe "connection to buses and trains" as very important aspect of location choice in the Munich area. However, analyzed in more detail the results reveal that the type of residential area itself has significant influence on the personal relevance of accessibility to public transportation services. In urban areas, "connection to buses and trains" was of much more importance in the location selection process than in sub-urban areas.

Thus, it is apparent that the issues of everyday mobility - which is an important financial aspect, too - seems to be hardly consciously present to resident seekers and it appears to be dependent of the residential area they are focussing on. Only in households with older occupants it can be established that regardless of the residential location proximity to facilities of daily need and social contacts is the dominant perspective when looking for housing..

2.2. Present situation in the greater Munich area

Particularly in metropolitan areas with a positive migration balance like Munich and areas where space for settlement is very limited like Alpine regions the problem of urban sprawl due to high housing costs in urban area is of high significance.

In Munich the positive migration balance is mainly caused by migration within Germany and from foreign countries. By the end of 2015, Munich's total population has reached more than 1.5 Mio. inhabitants. Every year approximately 10-15% of Munich's population move to and from the city and another 10-15% move within Munich (Landeshauptstadt München, 2016). Between 2001 and 2010, around 50% of the migrating people moved from the city to its surrounding communities in the greater Munich region (Landeshauptstadt München, 2012, p. 33).

In a survey the motives of incoming and outmoving residents have been identified. For people moving to Munich the far most important motive seems to be the proximity to the workplace (table 1). For more than half of all interviewed persons - no matter if family, multi-person-household or single household - a short distance between their residence and workplace has been the crucial factor for the decision to move into the city (Landeshauptstadt München, 2012, p. 51). Furthermore, the city offers a wide range of facilities to perform activities for satisfying personal needs and lifestyle (Landeshauptstadt München, 2012, p. 19).

Table 1. Relevant and most important motives for incoming residents (source: Landeshauptstadt München, 2012, p. 51)

Motive (multiple mentions possible) Relevant motive Most important motive

Proximity to place of work 59,2% 45,7%

Accessibility with public transport 51,7% 27,6%

lifestyle 50,6% 27,1%

leisure time facilities 47,4% 18,6%

cultural facilities 43,7% 15,0%

shopping facilities 37,1% 8,7%

Proximity to city center 35,3% 14,8%

Image of city 30,8% 9,0%

close to relatives / friends 28,1% 16,8%

High quality of public green 24,5% 5,3%

cleanliness 21,0% 3,9%

If inhabitants of Munich move away from the city, they do so because most of them seek for a healthier environment - less noise, less air pollution, more green and open space (table 2). Approximately for every third interviewed person the wish for a garden and apartment or house of their own was relevant for decision making. Other often mentioned motives are high costs for - in comparison - small apartments or houses in the city. Thus the perception of inadequate housing or living conditions such as small number of rooms, high living costs, environmental impacts such as noise and air quality and missing green areas are still important reasons for people between 20 and 40 years to decide to live in suburban areas rather than within the city (Landeshauptstadt München, 2012, p. 33).

Table 2. Relevant and most important motives for outmoving residents (source: Landeshauptstadt München, 2016, p. 58)

Motive (multiple mentions possible) Relevant motive Most important motive

Healthier environment (less noise, less air pollution etc.) 46,4% 31,2%

Household enlargement 45,7% 32,8%

Wish to have own garden 36,2% 23,1%

Living costs of old apartment / house 32,0% 24,4%

Old apartment / house too small 31,8% 18,2%

ownership of residential apartments 30,7% 24,3%

Higher quality of residential area 27,7% 13,3%

Unfavorable conditions for children 20,3% 12,0%

No parking space 15,7% 5,5%

Proximity to workplace 12,2% 9,8%

New job 11,3% 8,6%

However, one of the key findings is the mutual dependence of rent and flat size: migration to Munich causes an increase in rent/sqm of 39% and a decrease of flat size per capita of 27%, whereas migration away from Munich leads to an increase in flat size per capita of 51% and a decrease in rent/sqm of 25%. The comparison of the results with the survey conducted in 2001 shows no significant changes of motives (Landeshauptstadt München, 2012, p. 53).

The authors of the study came to the conclusion that the city of Munich has only limited possibilities to influence the decisions of in- or outmoving households (Landeshauptstadt München, 2012, p. 20). On the other hand, a balanced regional settlement development is one of the main objectives and challenges towards implementing sustainability principles in daily routines of mobility and living. Hence, measures such as new web-applications for rising awareness of the financial, social and environmental consequences in daily routines on new residential places might be a helpful device to achieve the targets.

3. Developing a decision making aid

The tool developed in the project "Sustainable choice residential location" ("NaWo-tool") is based on the idea to help people considering the consequences of their location choice by providing a free to use web-application giving information about costs for housing and mobility and allowing a comparison of different locations. Starting point is the so-called "housing and mobility cost calculator" that was implemented for the first time in Hamburg in 2009. At the beginning of the concept phase for the new web application, some similar tools that have been developed in lasted years were studied in more detail to gain information about their strengths and weaknesses and possible new functions.

3.1. Similar tools

• The Residential and Mobility Cost Calculator Munich can be regarded as the "predecessor tool", hosted by the Munich Transport and Tariff Association (Münchner Verkehrsverbund MVV). Its technical approach follows the

residential and mobility cost calculator Hamburg as both tools were developed by the same project team (private planning office Gertz-Gutsche-Rumenapp). Its main objective is to provide property seekers a free instrument to consider mobility costs based on the individual situation at an early stage when choosing a new residential location. The focus of the calculator was primarily on two cost factors: housing costs (property costs, running costs) and travel time and expenses between home and the workplace for different modes of transport. Beside costs for housing and mobility it also gives information about the environmental impacts (carbon footprint) and allows a comparison of different locations. The user benefits from quick results by minimum required input. However, the tool focuses on the mobility and living costs for individual households, without any reference to additional aspects of residential locations such as shopping or medical facilities in the near surrounding etc. • In the project MORECO - mobility and residential costs two web-applications - one addressing households, the other one addressing spatial planners and communities - have been developed to ensure reliable information and high transparency of long-term mobility and residential costs. The main focus of the household tool is to compare different locations in order to differentiate the relationship between the choice of a residential location and the induced mobility costs. It intends to demonstrate how mobility costs can vary when households move to dense/well supplied areas in comparison to less dense/poorly supplied areas. The developed tool for settlement assessment aims on giving objective and transparent information on different project sites for new settlements.

Summing up the characteristics of these similar tools it can be asserted that they are mainly focused on the calculable aspects of housing and mobility, e.g. travel distances, prices, fuel consumption etc. But as we have seen, some relevant motives for migration to and from the city centers such as location of leisure time, educational or cultural facilities, environment etc. cannot be calculated and therefore are not included in the web applications. However, these aspects have a considerable impact on daily mobility and hence mobility costs that should not be overseen - especially, since the new web application claims to cover economic as well as social and ecological issues of sustainability.

3.2. Additional factors besides costs

As outlined in other articles (e.g. Scheiner, 2006), spatial structures at the place of residence are an expression of a household decision for this location and manifests itself either in staying or moving. Population groups and their individual mobility behavior play are of essential importance due to certain locational decisions. In order do justice to the holistic sustainability approach in the area of construction and housing, it is necessary, in addition to energy efficiency and construction biology, also to consider more closely the location of the residential property from the perspective of personal needs and resulting mobility demands.

Thus, in addition to the costs for housing and mobility the NaWo-tool aims at highlighting the influence of residential location choice on the daily mobility. To consider the consequences on everyday life this tool focusses on the accessibility of facilities which are important in daily life such as schools, shops, public transport etc. in order to create a higher awareness amongst house hunting people about organizing their daily mobility at their potential new residential locations. So, economic and environmental analysis is extended to cover also impacts on mobility related to other activities of daily life, hence the social dimension of mobility which includes the fulfilment of human needs. Thus, the extended approach considers all aspects of sustainability related to the choice of a new residential location in matters of mobility. Dealing with housing and mobility it focusses on very central features of human life and the awareness for their interdependence.

However, having a detailed look on daily mobility patterns can also have impact on the cost calculation for instance when it becomes obvious that (another) car is needed to access school, shopping or leisure facilities.

Furthermore, a comparison of different investment measures in the area of housing and mobility in a study by the University of Applied Sciences, Vienna, proved that investments to reduce energy consumption in the area of mobility are significantly more cost-effective than those in the area of housing. Even measures which would already be economical with reference to a passive house perform substantially worse with regard to efficiency compared with

measures in the area of mobility (e.g. public transport ticket). The most effective measures are therefore those which bring about a change in travel behaviour with relatively modest resources (Pfaffenbichler, 2012, p.77-80).

3.3. The project "Sustainable Choice of Residential Locations"

The decision-making aid to sustainable residential location choice developed in the project "Sustainable Choice of Residential Locations" not only extended the functionality of the existing Munich housing and mobility cost calculator (WoMo) but also increased the area covered to the settlement area of Southern Bavaria and Tyrol considering the border region as one planning and investigation area, as in future residential location decisions will increasingly be made unaffected from (administrative) political boundaries.

In addition to the costs for housing and mobility, the influence of residential location choice on the daily mobility behaviour of the household concerned must demonstrate the key new goal. This should be the assessment of how many vehicles are really necessary per household in order to enable the daily activities of the basic principle of existence from the residential location. To clarify the necessity of escort-trips should also be clear as a result. Mobility studies from the partner regions examine travel behaviour in relation to trip purposes more accurately: journeys to and from work do account for a key part of daily journeys, but are not the largest category pro rata. Leisure journeys based on very individual behaviour patterns constitute these. Shopping, personal business and leisure account for approximately two thirds of all journeys in Germany altogether, whereby the trend is rising. Journeys to and from work are often surpassed by other trip purposes even in relation to the mileage covered. Leisure journeys tend to be longer, especially at the weekend. With regard to the absolute number of journeys and passenger mileage covered, leisure journeys are consequently the most significant. Often even shorter regular leisure journeys which take place during the week are thereby often at least just as relevant as longer leisure trips at the weekend for the overall context with regard to vehicle use and vehicle availability.

This underlines the fact that not only journeys to and from work cause time and financial expenditure, but also journeys for many other activities to be exercised in the course of providing basic necessities. In order to clarify the expenditure which arises in addition to the journeys to and from work to those seeking a residential location, the distances to selected infrastructure facilities in the residential environment are, for example, graphically represented in the new application taking OpenStreetMap (OSM) data as a basis (Fig. 1). As a result, the user obtains important additional information for the desirability of his residential location which could influence him in his choice.

Fig. 1. screenshot of surrounding map: requested place of residence (green house) with indicated education facilities (blue dots - schools,, kindergarten) and distance areas for walking (dark blue circle, d = 1km) and cycling (light blue circle, d = 3 km)

The focus of the relationship between home and the workplace or place of education is thereby also linked to personal shopping and leisure behaviour. The user also already had the possibility in WoMo of applying his leisure journeys, shopping trips, etc. into the housing and mobility cost calculator by adding further journeys - the importance of these journeys in overall mobility is, however, underestimated for the most part and there is often also a lack of specific information on the occasions associated with it.

So, the existing approaches will be enhanced by the following new functions:

• In addition to the housing/working relationship, daily mobility will be considered in more detail (daily review)

• Journeys by other household members will be taken into account (e.g. children)

• New, more intuitive graphical processing of the results

Although the additional functions do not add new monetary factors but primarily offer non-monetary information they still provide the basis for a better monetary calculation by allowing a more detailed and more extensive consideration of daily mobility behaviour by the user; at the same time the strength of Munich's Residential and Mobility Cost Calculator, coming to a conclusion with minimum input, is retained. In order to continue to shape the whole application attractively, initial results will therefore already be quickly forthcoming on the basis of only a few initial pieces of data requested at the start (age range, potential residential locations, number of persons in the household, renting / ownership, etc.) due to corresponding standard values from a comprehensive background database. In an expert mode, these standard values can be overwritten if required and so adapted to the personal living environment.

4. Conclusion

4.1. User-Feedback

During a first evaluation phase test users were encouraged to submit their feedback using a special questionnaire within the new web application. By June 2016 the project team received 40 responses, but the evaluation process is still going on when this article is published. So far, the results show that more than 80% of all users state that the tool provides important information for searching a new residential place. Approximately 50% have not adjusted default values such as living costs, fuel costs etc. in the expert modus. Although 90% of the users find the information provided with the surrounding map helpful they acknowledged that some well-known facilities are not displayed which shows shortcomings in the OSM-data.

4.2. Further development

Although all relevant features could be implemented in the new webtool the project team identified several tasks during the concept and implementation phase which might improve the quality and handling in a later project stage:

• Extension of the functions which provide information about additional, non-financial aspects of migration. As outlined in chapter 2.2, in- and outmoving households are seeking for healthier environments, facilities for leisure time, lifestyle etc.

• Comprehensive inclusion of non-motorized trips: actually, the calculation is focused on trips by car or public transport since they are determining costs, energy consumption und CO2 emissions. Especially in cities, car ownership is decreasing and not every household holds season tickets for bus, tram and underground. Although trips by foot and bicycle are already considered in the application, their importance can be further emphasized.

• Better implementation of OSM-data: currently, the application uses Open Street Map as base data for the surrounding maps. Various internal and external checks showed that the data is not in properly structured. Features are labeled in wrong categories (e.g. sometimes a primary school is defined as a POI, sometimes the information belongs to the building itself). Although the requests have been re-programmed several times, there are still considerable gaps.

• Keeping basic data up-to-date: once the tool is in operation, it requires frequent maintenance especially to keep the basic data up-to-date. With the implementation of OSM-data, helpful additional information such as location of shopping facilities, schools or doctors in the neighborhood of the proposed new residential location should be updated more frequently than data derived from official authorities. Other data such as e.g. housing costs still have to be refreshed at least twice a year. Last but not least fuel costs show the highest dynamic range, so it was discussed if the daily updated data could be obtained from an external platform.

4.3. Finally

The "Sustainable choice of residential locations" research project can make a contribution to raising more awareness amongst property seekers due to the development of a web-based application. In the process, not only are the time and financial expenditure caused by journeys to and from work made the subject of discussion, but also journeys for many other activities to be carried out as part of the provision of basic necessities. Driving distances covered additionally to the journeys to and from work by all persons in a household will be illustrated to the user in the new calculator. As a result the user should obtain additional important information on mobility as part of his individual activities and related mobility expenses for his desired residential location, which, in addition to the housing costs, he will ideally also consider in the course of the decision-making process.


The project "Sustainable choice of residential locations" (short title "NaWo?"; in English "Well, where?" shall we live) was financed as part of the Bavaria / Austria Interreg Programme founded by the European Union. The project was executed by a consortium consisting of University of Innsbruck (Lead), Münchner Verkehrs- und Tarifverbund MVV) and the private planning office Gertz Gutsche Rümenapp (GGR) from Hamburg. The application was programmed by SpaceNet from Munich.


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