Stair Prompt Signage

Project: Stair Prompt Signage
New York, New York
Free signs encourage building users to “Burn calories, not electricity – Take the stairs!”

Project dates: Sign released in 2008; distribution ongoing

Project partners: City of New York / Health & Mental Hygiene, Design & Construction; American Institute of Architects New York Chapter; Real Estate Board of New York; GreeNYC

Project summary: Historically, many buildings included a beautiful, grand stair which people freely used on a daily basis. Over time however, stairs have been relegated to the back corners of buildings, often with an indirect and confusing route to the entry point. When the quickest and most direct route is provided to building elevators, it becomes second nature for individuals to rely on elevators for vertical circulation throughout a building.

Research and evaluation studies have overwhelmingly shown that placing motivational signs at points of decision – such as at the base of stairways or at elevator banks – can successfully prompt people to use the stairs. The signs can inform people of the health benefits of using the stairs, or can simply remind people of the option to use the stairs. Because of strong evidence showing the success of this type of signage, the CDC Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends using point-of-decision prompts to increase the amount of people choosing to take the stairs rather than an elevator or escalator.

In 2008, New York City released an official stair prompt sign bearing the statement “Burn Calories, not electricity – Take the stairs!” The signs are available free of charge, and can be ordered by calling 311. Approximate 30,000 stair prompt signs have been distributed through targeted outreach and implementation efforts.

Active Design Highlights:

Point-of-decision stair prompts encourage building users to take the stairs. Regular stair use has been linked with numerous health benefits, including reduced stroke risk, greater lower limb strength, reduced cholesterol levels, and improved cardiovascular health. Further, stair use helps burn calories and assists in weight management. Just two minutes of stair climbing per day can burn enough calories to prevent the average annual weight gain of U.S. adults. Finally, when fewer people use elevators and escaltors, stair use can also contribute to a reduction in building energy consumption.

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    New York City Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene Stair Sign
  • Men climbing 20-34 flights of stairs per week have a 29% lower risk of stroke.

  • Stair prompts that encourage stair use for health benefits have been shown increase stair use by a median of 50%.