Using active design principles to create healthier communities: theory and practice
Greengage Associates Chris Burgess and Rob Miller along with Rob Holt of Sport England presented at the 2018 Healthy City Design conference. They spoke about ‘Using active design principles to create healthier communities’
They presented and explained how active design principles were incorporated into masterplan development projects, providing examples of their implementation, and outlining the benefits they bring.
Framework: Health and wellbeing benefits associated with different urban design interventions are becoming increasingly commonplace in new developments. However, historically, there has been a lack of a co-ordinated approach to defining the most impactful interventions. Sport England developed the ‘Ten Principles of Active Design’ by drawing from urban design practice and practical examples, which promote environments that offer individuals and communities the greatest potential to lead active and healthy lifestyles. Their practical implementation brings together developers, planners, designers, transport consultants, and health professionals.
Practical application: The principles were applied as part of a sustainability strategy on the redevelopment of a large housing estate in southeast London. Many of the principles are not new to experienced design teams, but their application, in a coherent framework with tangible results, is less common.
The principles are: activity for all; walkable communities; connected walking and cycle routes; co-location of community facilities; multifunctional, open spaces; high-quality streets and spaces; appropriate infrastructure; active buildings; management, maintenance, monitoring and evaluation; and activity promotion and local champions.
Outcomes: Applying the principles on a live project provided a solid test case for how they work in practice. The design team was very receptive to the ideas, and the use of a framework for their implementation stimulated significant buy-in from the developer. Use of such principles by a housing association allows them to design-in features that will benefit its residents. Use of the principles also allowed for the development of a narrative that helped support the scheme through the planning process.
Implications: As health and wellbeing moves up the agenda for local authorities and developers, there’s a need for frameworks that support implementation. Sport England’s active design principles provide an industry-supported framework to maximise benefits to the health of the population.