The Mayor has also issued an Executive Order requiring that all new construction and major renovation projects in New York must use active design strategies. Active design strategies include providing more visible stairwells, which could mean that thousands of New Yorkers will take the stairs and save 500,000 pounds each year. The NYC Department of Design & Construction (DDC) has published its active design guidelines.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, architects and urban reformers helped to defeat infectious diseases like cholera and tuberculosis by designing better 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 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.
This is an important step in fighting obesity, a chronic disease that kills over 5,000 New Yorkers each year. New York City’s initiatives have already decreased childhood obesity by 5.5% between 2007 and 2011, and in 2012 it established an Obesity Task Force. By mandating physical activity design strategies, the city hopes to continue to decrease obesity through increased exercise.
Physical Activity and LEED
The pilot credit, called “Design for Active Occupants” intends to improve the health of building occupants through physical activity while reducing environmental impacts. It requires at least one main stair to travel from the building entrance to the other floors, and then allows the project team to choose from a suite of physical activity design strategies.
Physical activity design strategies include including lighting and/or sensory stimulation in stairwells, providing an exercise room, providing exercise equipment at work stations, daylighting in stairwells, visible stairs, and putting signage that encourages stair use in elevators.
LEED and Active Design Training Course Active Design and LEED
Baani Singh, a New York based LEED AP BD+C and experienced green building professional, worked on a LEED certification project that incorporated design strategies for physical activity and achieved the pilot credit, developed the course.