The definitive report on the built environment’s impact on public health

How does the planning of neighborhoods and cities affect your health? Thanks to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), that’s answered in the first report that comprehensively summarizes the impact of the built environment on public health, and how changes can be implemented.

The study, the LEED-ND Report on Public Health & the Built Environment, measure five areas of health:

– Respiratory and cardiovascular health
– Fatal and non-fatal injuries
– Physical activity
– Social capital
– Mental health

over the following built environment characteristics:

– Regional Accessibility/Location of DevelopmentDevelopments sited in central cities or central business districts generate fewer automobile trips and emissions.
– Population and Employment DensityHigher density developments are correlated with increased physical activity, lower body masses and lower obesity rates.
– Land Use MixA doubling of neighborhood mix would result in a 5% reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT)
– Access to TransitThe highest level of transit use is observed at employment centers located within 500 feet of transit stops, 1/4 mile from residences.
– Streetscape Design/Pedestrian AmenitiesResidents of a highly walkable/bikable neighborhood are likely to exercise for at least 30 minutes one additional day per week.
– Bicycle AmenitiesPhysical activity studies reveal that access to, quality of, and density of bicycle amenities is correlated to higher levels of bicycling for recreational purposes.
– Access to Recreational FacilitiesIncreased physical activity is associated with decreases in obesity as well as a host of illness, most prominently diabetes, hypertension and cancer.
– Distance from RoadwaysStudies found that increased negative health impacts from PM, NOx, hydrocarbons, and CO are found between 2 to 300 meters from busy streets.
– Diversity of Population/Income in CommunitiesResearch has determined that the homogenization of communities is a key factor in reducing social capital.
– Roadway Network (encompassing network design, intersection traffic controls,
access management and traffic calming) – Research shows that vehicle speed and volume are the two primary causes of traffic and automobile/pedestrian crashes.
– Street Cross Sections (encompassing street width, on-street parking, and
pedestrian countermeasures) – The weight of evidence suggests that narrower streets are safer.

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