Active Design Can Improve Residents’ Health

Affordable housing design can have a positive impact on residents’ health with minimal costs to the developer, according to a new policy brief from the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) and the Center for Active Design (CfAD). Coined from a New York City interagency collaboration, active design is an evidence-based approach that identifies urban planning and architecture solutions to support healthy buildings. Practical active design solutions include facilities for physical activity, well-designed stairs that encourage daily use, infrastructure to support walking and biking, as well as free and low-cost programming to support resident health. (See developer Stephen Whyte’s view on incorporating active design into Vitus’ affordable housing developments.) A pilot study conducted in the Bronx, N.Y., backs the positive effects of active design. The Icahn School of Medicine of Mount Sinai compared the health of residents at Arbor House, a 124-unit building with active design solutions, with residents in a building without those features.

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