Active Design Guidelines

Promoting Physical Activity and Health in Design


NYC Department of Design and Construction


In the 19th and early 20th centuries, architects and urban reformers helped to defeat infectious diseases, such as cholera and tuberculosis, by improving design of buildings, streets, neighborhoods, clean water systems and parks. In the 21st century, designers can again play a crucial role in combating the most rapidly growing public health epidemics of our time: obesity and its impact on related chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Today, physical inactivity and unhealthy diet are second only to tobacco use as the main causes of premature death in the United States. A growing body of research suggests that evidence-based architectural and urban design strategies can increase regular physical activity and healthy eating.

The Active Design Guidelines provides architects and urban designers with a manual of strategies for creating healthier buildings, streets and urban spaces, based on the latest academic research and best practices in the field. The Guidelines includes:

  • 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 -- for example, through the placement and design of stairs, elevators and indoor and outdoor spaces.
  • Discussion of synergies between active design and sustainable design initiatives such as LEED and PlaNYC.

Filed in: Health, Promoting Walking and Bicycling

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