2015 Year in Review

Shaping engaged communities
With funding from the Knight Foundation, the Center is developing the Design Guidelines for Robust Engagement, a first-of-its kind publication offering cities, civic leaders, and designers a comprehensive set of design strategies that support participation in civic life. This pioneering effort dissects the role of place-based design in impacting informed local voting, participation in public life, stewardship of the public realm, and civic appreciation and trust. We look forward to continuing this work with Knight, as we demonstrate the role of design in fostering vibrant and engaged communities.

Building Healthy Places
The Center served as the expert content advisor and co-author to the Urban Land Institute’s Building Healthy Places Toolkit: Strategies for Enhancing the Built Environment. Over the past year, we translated the latest research to identify 21 evidence based design recommendations that impact physical health and social engagement. Targeted toward developers, owners, and investors, this publication provides practical, implementable design strategies within the purview of the real estate development community.

Active Design Verified in affordable housing
The Center joined with the Partnership for a Healthier America to launch “Active Design Verified””—an initiative promoting implementation of low and no cost Active Design strategies that support obesity prevention in affordable housing. Developers who commit to join the “Active Design Verified” program receive training and technical assistance, verification of implementation, and public recognition of success. The commitments made in this first year will affect more than 4,250 units of housing nationally, in both new and renovated projects, impacting the lives of thousands of children and families across the U.S.

Original research on healthy workplace design
There is a growing recognition that the design of our workplaces has a major impact on all aspects of our health. With funding from the American Society of Interior Designers Foundation, and in partnership with Steelcase, Perkins+Will, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the Center is investigating the impact of adjustable workstationson employee health and wellbeing. To date, we have conducted a literature review to further inform our understanding of the impact of design on social, emotional, and physical health in the workplace. We have also developed a rigorous research methodology on sit/stand behavior, which will generate findings to fill a much-needed gap in the existing literature.

Active Design implementation in NYC
The Center grew out of NYC’s work on Active Design, and we continue to collaborate with our City partners to advance implementation. In the past year, we have conducted literature reviews to understand the impact of Active Design strategies on mental health and health equity within the design of housing, hospitals, and neighborhoods. We shared our findings through two sold-out events: “Active Street Design—Creating Safe, Healthy and Sustainable Streets,” and “Active Design for a Just and Equitable City.” Our technical assistance work with NYC has allowed us to better understand the potential of hospitals and affordable housing to act as catalysts for community-wide health.

Celebrating your successes
The Center continues to recognize innovative research and design projects through its annual “Excellence awards.” After receiving a multitude of submissions from around the world, an independent jury of design and health experts selected 11 projects as this year’s winners. Winning projects ranged from: a transformed city in Spain; a truckyard-turned-public park in Oklahoma; a vibrant affordable housing project in New Mexico; and an impactful community-based research tool used in the U.S., Israel, and Mexico. The 2015 Excellence awards were presented to winning projects and design teams at a celebratory event in New York City. The growth of the awards program continues to define successful implementation of Active Design by celebrating projects that have facilitated broad-based community transformation.

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    Experts from wide-ranging disciplines shared ideas at our November workshop to discuss an upcoming publication on design and civic engagement.
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    As the expert content advisor to ULI’s Building Healthy Places Toolkit, we developed 21 evidence-supported design recommendations to help developers, owners, and investors promote health among their building occupants. Photo: Serena Peck.
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    Through the Active Design Verified initiative, developers commit to integrating health-promoting strategies into their affordable housing buildings. Photo courtesy of Vitus.
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    With funding from the ASID Foundation, we have partnered with Steelcase, Perkins+Will, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to research the impact of adjustable workstations on employee wellbeing. Image courtesy of Steelcase.
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    The Center held its 2nd annual Excellence awards, honoring 11 design and research projects for their innovation and effectiveness in using Active Design to promote better health.