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Designing Places for Active Living

It is well established that the physical environment (which incorporates the built and natural environments) impacts health and wellbeing - both at the individual level and at the community level. Unfortunately many built environments encourage sedentary lifestyles and contribute to the modern public health epidemics of obesity, cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. These same built environments encourage car dependence and the resultant environmental impacts such as the greenhouse effect, air pollution and noise pollution. They may also potentially undermine community strength and cohesiveness, because people don't have opportunities to meet and connect simply by being active in their local area. People may also be reluctant to use poorly designed and maintained built environments because they perceive them as unsafe.

Designing Places for Active Living seeks to contribute to the range of initiatives addressing these and other issues by proposing key design considerations for urban places in metropolitan, regional and rural areas. These design considerations have the potential to positively impact individual and community health and wellbeing in the broadest sense, thereby meeting multiple health, environmental and social objectives.

The other strength of this resource is that it is developed with the current NSW planning context in mind. It aims to link into the policies and processes associated with the Sydney Metropolitan Strategy and the Subregional Strategies, while also being relevant for other parts of NSW. In particular, it will help address priorities associated with encouraging liveable communities and use of sustainable forms of transport. Importantly, it does not necessarily require additional resources for implementation, rather incorporation of the key design considerations into the planning, design and development stages of minor and major brownfield and greenfield projects.

Who should use this resource

This resource will be useful to a wide range of practitioners in local and state government, private consultancy, the development industry and other design and health professionals. Such users may include town planners, traffic and civil engineers, road safety officers, community safety officers, architects and urban designers, developers and local government councillors.

How to use this resource

This resource is divided into seven design focus areas:

  • Cities, towns and neighbourhoods
  • Walking and cycling routes
  • Public transport
  • Streets
  • Open Space
  • Retail areas
  • Workplaces

For each focus area, there is a design objective, some important design considerations and links to key references and additional resources for detailed design guidelines and specifications. New references will be added as they become available.

This resource is not meant to address all aspects of these focus areas but rather, to provide a concise overview with links to other references for more detailed information. It is the responsibility of the user to ensure compliance with the requisite legislation, regulations, codes and standards.

Further reading

Gebel K et al (2005) Creating Healthy Environments - A review on the links between the physical environment, physical activity and health. Sydney: NSW Health Department and NSW Centre for Overweight and Obesity.

Transportation Research Board (2005) Does the built environment influence physical activity?: Examining the evidence. United States of America: National Academy of Sciences.

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