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Definition


Active Design is a design philosophy that encourages architects and urban designers to use strategies for creating healthier buildings, streets, and urban spaces, based on the latest academic research and best practices in the field.

The Guidelines include:
  • Urban design strategies for creating neighborhoods, streets, and outdoor spaces that encourage walking, bicycling, and active transportation and recreation
  • Building design strategies for promoting active living where we work, live, and play, through the placement and design of stairs, elevators, and indoor and outdoor spaces
  • Discussion of synergies between active design with sustainable and universal design initiatives such as LEED and PlaNYC

The Active Design Guidelines were developed by the NYC DDC in partnership with several other City agencies, and consultants from relevant design fields.[1]




Issues Addressed


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Obesity Trends. Source: Active Design Guidelines
Active Design’s aim is to combat the epidemics of Type 2 Diabetes and obesity. It claims the way we have designed our buildings and cities have had a direct causal relationship to these epidemics. It states, in fact, that “architectural and urban design too often support unhealthy rather than healthy diets, and sedentary rather than active daily lifestyles. The Guidelines aim to reverse these trends, by “providing architects and urban designers in New York City and beyond with a manual for creating healthier buildings, streets, and
urban spaces.” Active design encourages[2] :

  • Stair climbing
  • Walking
  • Bicycling
  • Transit use
  • Active recreation
  • Healthy eating


The Active Design Guidelines also addresses the public space, namely the sidewalk. In viewing the sidewalk as a “room,” it encourages designers to understand that “sidewalks are an essential element of urban areas that must balance the need to effectively allow appropriate pedestrian circulation with the desire to create safe, active, and interesting public spaces that entice people to use them. Reprioritizing the design of sidewalks in such communities is a way to reassert the importance of the pedestrian as one of the street’s prime users. Enhancing sidewalks can improve both the built environment and public health in an increasingly urbanizing world.[3]

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A well-designed sidewalk. Source: Shaping the Sidewalk Experience




Considerations

One of the biggest challenges facing widespread implementation Active Design is the difficulty in retrofitting existing buildings and public spaces. While NYC has made Active Design a requirement for its buildings, it will be a slow process to achieve throughout the City.

Public perception is another difficulty. While putting up signs encouraging stair use made persuade some of the more progressive among us, most will choose the familiar or easy route.



Related Reports

The Guidelines



References


  1. ^ United States of America. NYC DDC, NYC DoHMH, NYC DoT, and NYC DCP. Active Design Guidelines: Promoting Physical Activity and Health in Design. New York City: City of New York, 2010. Print.
  2. ^

    United States of America. NYC DDC, NYC DoHMH, NYC DoT, and NYC DCP. Active Design Guidelines: Promoting Physical Activity and Health in Design. New York City: City of New York, 2010. Print.
  3. ^
    United States of America. NYC DDC, NYC DoHMH, NYC DoT, and NYC DCP. Active Design: Shaping the Sidewalk Experience. New York: City of New York, 2013. Print.