Active living Architecture – Assuring Good Health

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Proudly introduced by New York City Departments of Design and Construction (DDC),New Active Living Architecture gives you tremendous techniques on architectural as well as urban level to promote Health and Mental Hygiene. It focuses solely on tackling one of the biggest health issues today i.e. Obesity and related diseases like Heart attack etc. Such practices involves steps like making the staircase more visible than the lift or providing streetscape for pedestrians and anything which increases daily physical activity for us. These strategies are the game of common sense and one measure alone cannot bring a big change. A new working design system should be made to find a way of “active living”. This is a physically active way of living by paying more attention towards the design and suitability and it can have variations in the scale of Projects ranging from road systems to children’s park. Incorporating small active design strategies into a project can make it healthier for the end users. Also, fresh food access and grocery stores within in walking distances can assure good health.

Assuring Good Health

Obesity and Diabetes are turning into an epidemic and is wide spread in the society. One can see the impact of the disease in different age groups. According to the 2015 Youth Risk behaviour Surveillance System (YRBSS), 13.9 percent of high school students were obese, and an additional 16.0 percent were overweight.Adults ages 40 to 59 (39.5 percent) have higher obesity than adults ages 20 to 39 (30.3 percent) and ages 60+ (35.4 percent). Sixty percent of adults are not sufficiently active to achieve health benefits and Mississippi had the highest reported percentage of inactivity among adults at 31.6 percent.These data’s not only hauntsus but are also alarming to take immediate steps to make the environment more liveable. Today obesity and related chronic diseases is becoming the second main causes of premature death, where tobacco remains the first cause. Designer’s here play a crucial role to resist such issues by strategic planning and improving street systems, neighbourhood patterns, water supply systems and lot more.

Sustainable and active city

Designers not only ensure better health for the habitants butalso pay attention towards Universal Design.Design strategies that increase physical activity and improve health—for example, measures that promote walking over driving, stair over elevator use, and active recreation over television watching—also tend to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Urban designers and architects have the power to nurture physical activity by designing spaces and streets that encourage walking, bicycling and other active transportation. It is evident that these activities are cost-effective and can also take various forms in a simple design. Some recommended measures includes:

  • Improved Transit Systems
  • Easy access to recreational spaces like parks, plazas and open spaces to maximize physical activity
  • Pedestrian-friendly streets including landscapes, lights, benches and fountains
  • Increasing Bicycling Networks


Urban designers have therefore found five essential parameters, namely the “5D” keys to promote active designs. These are- Density, Diversity, Design, Destination accessibility and Distance to transit. Walking and Transportation use increases with density, diversity, good design, destination and transit access.


Small changes to promote regular activity in our daily lives make a prominent difference in any individual’s health status. An architect can create unique designs for a healthy life of an occupant and includes:

  • Promoting staircase use by providing convenient location for use, making it more appealing and comfortable
  • Increasing appealing walkways between the main functions areas in a building
  • Necessary areas to support exercise like shower and locker rooms
  • Pedestrian friendly building exteriors providing multiple entries and transparency for required walk flow

Various relationships between the design and physical activity is still developing in populated areas of a city.

Mixed Land Use:

It leads to less obesity as it is suggested that useful destinations like schools, stores, recreational spaces are in an area which is nearby, then people are more likely to walk. Providing these spaces near the residential areas motivates public to prefer walking. Elderly people can even enjoy brisk walking while performing day-to-activities. Work places and residences should have some parks, squares and walking areas nearby to increase physical activity.



Transit and Parking Systems:

A proper linkage between the transit systems can allow people to take up Public Transport accompanied by little walk to the bus stand. Providing better parking facilities affects the active modes of travel like bicycling, walking and bus too. Providing appropriate building entrance near the transit system, well connected streets, proper signage and maps for directions, furnished street networks and parking for disables can make huge impact on the minds of Public and can motivate them for Active Living life style.



Parks, Open Spaces and Recreational facilities:

They play a crucial role so designing them by any architect needs to be mandatory with necessary specific percentage of area allocated for theses spaces. Some basic techniques like aggregate open spaces in a large area for easy access, providing areas to exercise near offices and furnishing the street ways by providing lights, bollards, benches etc. helps the general public to maintain active lifestyles. Creating spaces which compliments the local culture of the city and diversifying spaces according to age groups can be of great benefit as each and every person find their own recreational space. Providing safe playgrounds, gardens and terraces for vigorous activities in the school premises in all climatic conditions and giving a healthy environment for physical education.


Public Plazas:

Creating these supports recreational activities and a safe environment for the passer-by’s to gather comfortably to perform recreational physical activities. Variety of physical functions like dancing, volleyball, badminton, simple board games and sometimes even simple sittings can attract people to come here and participate. They need maintenance and seeks partnership from the community group. They should be located near popular pedestrian streets levelled up for convenience.


Street Connectivity and Traffic calming:

Providing tremendous street connections with walkways for pedestrians and keeping the block size relatively small for good connectivity. Such designs should avoid connectivity between vehicles and walkers. The walk experience should be made easier through traffic calming measures. The overall experience should be made better by planting trees for visual appeal and that even benefits the environment. Shaded areas, exterior lights, seating, drinking fountains and restrooms should be provided at regular intervals. Streetscapes creates attractive walkways with different artworks and events.


Effective measures are taken in various parts of the world in starting physical lifestyle moments. In June 2009, the city of New York / parks & recreation opened the first portion of the innovative high line park. Built on an abandoned railway, the 1.5-mile-long park is one of only two urban railroad viaducts converted to park space in the world (the other is the promenade planter in Paris). The high line illustrates how cities as dense as New York can look for creative opportunities to carve recreational spaces out of the existing urban fabric. Visitors reach the 30-foot-high park through intermittently located stairs, including a monumental and highly visible “slow stair” that permits users to fully experience the transition from the street through the existing steel structure and up to the new landscape. Elevators allow access for those unable to take the stairs. at the park level, the high line features a mixture of landscape elements, including plantings, decks, innovative “peel-up” benches, water fountains, and recreational pathways. The project uses inventive design to encourage stair climbing, walking, and relaxation. The high line park was designed by James corner Field Operations and Diller scofidio + renfro, in partnership with the city and the non-profit group Friends of the high line.


So, Active Design with its multiple benefits of Universal Design and Sustainable Design makes it an essential element in professional planning and increasing physical activity and health through their work. Its value equations and cost effectiveness makes it the demand of the hour and so adopting its little techniques by the architects, urban designers, planners and building owners can lead to recognizable change towards an Active and Healthy tomorrow.

Photo credit :

-Abhilasha Jha.

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