Good design can improve health by encouraging physical activity. Dr. Gayle Nicoll, Dean of the Faculty of Design at OCAD U, co-authored an important new publication research study, Active Design: Affordable Designs for Affordable Housing. The study looks at cost-effective strategies for incorporating active design principles in affordable housing developments, and these strategies are aimed primarily at increasing physical activity among children aged 3-18.
The study builds on the award-winning Active Design Guidelines published by New York City in 2010, which Dr. Nicoll also co-authored.
Gayle Nicoll. Photo by Christina Gapic.“Active design is an environmental design practice that aims to provide opportunities for people to achieve recommended levels of physical activity to promote health and avoid chronic disease within their daily lifestyle,” explains Nicoll. “Active design helps to address the critical health epidemic of our current time — obesity and related chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.”
As a result of advancements in technology and lifestyle changes in work and entertainment North Americans have become increasingly sedentary, leading to higher rates of chronic diseases. But this surge does not affect everyone equally: research shows affluent people are less likely to be overweight or obese than people living in low-income households, in part due to the costs related to access to fresh produce, recreational facilities and programming. Nicoll’s research shows that active design strategies can be economically incorporated into urban, site and building design.
“It’s one of the rising issues of our times,” says Nicoll. “The next generation will likely be the first to have a shorter life span than their parents. It’s so important for us to incorporate opportunities within our public spaces, workplaces and home environments for people to achieve recommended levels of physical activity in our daily lives. This includes physically active recreation and active transportation, such as walking, cycling or using the stairs instead of the elevator.”
In her scholarship Nicoll works directly with health providers and architects. Her focus is on translating the substantial evidence from academic research and best practices related to influence of environment on human behaviour into design practice and public policy. Her new publication has the potential to become one of the most important references for affordable housing providers and designers across North America interested in the active design movement.
Nicoll and her colleagues hope to continue developing this series of reference publications, delving further into how active design can be incorporated into suburban developments and across diverse populations, including the elderly and those with mobility issues.
Active Design: Affordable Designs for Affordable Housing. Image provided by Gayle Nicoll.
Nicoll co-authored the publication with Dr. Karen K. Lee of the Built Environment and Healthy Housing Program at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Jennifer Du Bose at the Georgia Institute of Technology College of Architecture. OCAD U played an important role in the production of the book: Environmental Design student Parham Karimi produced the graphics; and Graphic Design student Ansel Schmidt provided the graphic layout and production, under the supervision of the Graphic Design Co-chair, Roderick Grant.
Nicoll and Lee will be conducting a workshop on Active Design as part of the Urban Ecologies Conference at OCAD U in Toronto, June 20-21, 2013.
Download the publication:
Active Design: Affordable Designs for Affordable Housing.
Active Design Guidelines