Wherever possible, build as to make the soul sing.
Troubled times can bring important issues to the surface and shine a bright light on them. These issues may seem less important when all is going well. Two examples are our economic supply chains and our long-term public health, both emotional and physical.
How we design and invest in our communities effects both of these important issues. We can build stronger local economies where more of our money supports the communities in which we live; and we can build our communities in ways that are proven to promote much greater public health.
We are not helpless bystanders on these two issues, they are both within our ability to influence if we work together.
Our economic supply chains have been exposed as vulnerable over the past 18 months. With focused effort we can build our communities in more self-sufficient ways. We will not eliminate the reality of global supply chains, but we certainly can create a more sustainable local economy that creates, distributes and buys more locally. This “local economic priority” is directly connected to our built environment.
We can also create a healthier community which is directly affected by our
built environment. The study I’ve attached below is a very thorough analysis of studies from around the world on this topic. If we want to live longer, healthier, and happier lives we need to change how we think about and invest in our local community.
In this study titled “The Built Environment as a Determinant of Physical Activity: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Studies and Natural Experiments.” (link) clear evidence suggests:
Changes in the built environment were associated with increased transportation-related and overall physical activity.
Behavior is responsive to the built environment and active transportation (biking and walking).
Creation of new infrastructure for walking, cycling and public transportation is related to overall increases in physical activity and correlates with the decreased use of private cars.
The number of destinations with 4 positive associations dramatically increase physical activity. (Multiple points of value)
There are strong correlations between pleasantness and positive neighborhood features and physical activity. The more beautiful and interesting our communities are, the more we are willing to invest time physically in them.
Street and pedestrian connectivity, land use and destination mix, and overall neighborhood design are important factors for supporting physical activity among adults.
Men who increased their perception of aesthetics of the neighborhood were 2.25 times more likely to increase overall walking compared to those who did not change their perception.
The bottom line:
If we build more beautiful communities, that are mixed in use with services and production, and connected with trail systems and parks, we will engage with that environment in a more active way. This should become one of our highest community priorities.
Rapidly remove barriers to connectivity, substantially invest in cycle/pedestrian infrastructure, enable and build beautiful mixed use “15 minute” communities in every corner of your city. That’s a life investment with generational benefits.