Our Approach

Our approach to Active Design transforms the built environment through the following four key concepts:

Active TransportationActive Transportation

Does the project support a safe and vibrant environment for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders? Sample design considerations might include:

  • Wide sidewalks and safe crosswalks
  • Traffic calming elements that slow driving speeds
  • Street trees and plantings
  • Lighting, benches, public art, and other sidewalk amenities
  • Interconnected bikeways and ample bicycle parking
  • Comfortable bus stops with benches and protective shelters

Active BuildingsActive Buildings

Does the project encourage greater physical movement of users and visitors within the building site? Sample design considerations might include:

  • Stairs that are accessible, visible, attractive, and well-lit
  • Wayfinding signage and prompts that encourage stair use
  • Interesting circulation spaces that promote walking
  • Space for lactation support
  • Kitchen and casual eating spaces to promote healthy eating
  • Outdoor bicycle parking and secure indoor bicycle storage
  • On-site exercise facilities and play spaces
  • On-site gardening opportunities
  • Sidewalk and façade elements that enhance the pedestrian realm, such as street trees, benches, canopies and windows
  • Access to indoor and outdoor walking trails
  • Nearby and easily accessible public transit facilities

Active RecreationActive Recreation

Does the project provide access to recreation and play spaces that accommodate different ages, interests, and abilities? Sample design considerations might include:

  • Parks, plazas, and playgrounds that are easily accessed by pedestrians and cyclists
  • Spaces and activities that respond to unique local and cultural preferences
  • Amenities that allow people to enjoy spaces for longer periods of time, such as trees, lighting, water fountains, and seating
  • Natural elements and landscapes
  • Colorful ground markings that inspire active and creative play
  • A safe play environment, including use of safety surfacing, for children of all ages and abilities


Does the project offer opportunities for growing or purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables? Does it provide ready access to tap water? Sample design considerations might include:

  • Space for a full-service grocery store
  • Space for a farmers market, or a small fruit and vegetable stand
  • Community and school gardens
  • Rooftop gardens and greenhouses
  • Visible water fountains with faucets for refilling portable bottles
  • Mapping or wayfinding to local fresh food options and water fountains

The Active Design Guidelines offer urban and building design strategy checklists (see Resources Section at right) that serve as a good starting point on understanding Active Design strategies. Communities around the world are finding new and creative ways to tailor the concepts of Active Design to their own project needs. To learn more, visit the Case Studies section of this site and download the Active Design Guidelines.

  • User Side Images Image 47
    Wide sidewalks and storefront windows help to create walkable communities. Photo Credit: Skye Duncan.
  • User Side Images Image 156
    Ground markings in children's play spaces can incite creative movement and play. Photo Credit: NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene
  • User Side Images Image 129
    Interesting circulation spaces and open stairs within a building can promote regular walking. Image Credit: Perkins & Will.
  • Cycling even just 15 minutes or 2.5 miles twice a day is enough to burn the equivalent of more than 10 pounds annually.

  • When using playgrounds that are painted with designs for games and imaginative play, kids engage in moderate to vigorous activity for more than 50% of their recess period.