2016 Year in Review

Research continues to affirm the inherent connection between our built environment and physical, social, and mental health outcomes. Throughout 2016, the Center for Active Design continued to work passionately to ensure that our homes, workplaces, and neighborhoods are designed to support health. Read below to learn more about our 2016 highlights. As we look forward to 2017, we couldn’t be more excited about new partnerships and initiatives that will transform communities in pursuit of a healthier future.

Fitwel: Supporting the Buildings that Matter for Health
To advance health and wellness in the workplace, the Center announced a soft launch of the Fitwel Certification Tool in May 2016. Developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the General Services Administration, Fitwel is a cost-effective, high-impact certification system that enhances occupant health and productivity through improvements to workplace design and policies. Through the Champions program, companies are applying Fitwel to over 50 buildings during the soft launch period. The Fitwel Ambassadors program was launched in December 2016, to train professionals about the power of using design and operations to impact health, and offer guidance on integrating Fitwel’s design and policy strategies within buildings. Visit fitwel.org for more information.

Assembly: Shaping Space for Civic Life
With funding from the Knight Foundation, the Center is leading Assembly, a pioneering initiative to understand how place-based design can enhance the civic life of communities. In 2016, CfAD released two key publications on this front. The Assembly Project Orientation clarifies core project objectives, highlights initial findings emerging from a detailed literature review, and illuminates research gaps for further exploration. Assembly Research Brief 1 summarizes an analysis of a rich existing data set known as the Soul of the Community survey, which points to a strong and statistically significant relationship between qualities of place and measures of civic engagement. Both resources are available for free download.

Active Design Verified: Supporting the Development of Healthy Homes
In its second year running, Active Design Verified (ADV) continues to support developers in integrating active design strategies within their affordable housing projects. Homeowner’s Rehab, Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts has joined Blue Sea Development Company, Urban Ventures LLC, and Vitus Group by committing to incorporating active design in new and renovated housing developments. Additionally, the Center partnered with the Department of Preventive Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai research team to evaluate impacts on the residents of a newly built affordable housing site in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The study will further connect active design in affordable housing to improved health outcomes.

2016 Excellence awards: Recognizing Design and Research Projects
This year’s Center for Active Design: Excellence awards recognized top design and research projects from around the world, selected by an independent jury of design and health experts. Twelve winners demonstrated a range of opportunities for leveraging design to support healthy, engaged communities— among them, a multi-generational park in Beijing; a longitudinal study connecting exposure to nature with reduced mortality; a culturally inclusive aquatic center in Toronto; and a vibrant 10-block streetscape enhancing civic life in Houston’s Midtown District. Google was recognized as the 2016 Thought Leadership winner for using design to maximize employee health and productivity. The 2016 Excellence awards were presented at the Celebrate Active Design event in New York City, which featured a thought-provoking panel on workplace wellbeing. View our Highlights and Panel videos here.

New York City: Healthy Living by Design Trainings
Following the publication of the Active Design Guidelines in 2010, New York City has continued to play a leadership role in implementing evidence-based design strategies to support health. In 2016, in collaboration with NYC’s Department of Design and Construction and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Center embarked on an expansive literature review to capture the latest research connecting place-based design to mental, social, and physical wellbeing. The literature review is informing the development of a training curriculum to guide design and development professionals across multiple NYC agencies, and support holistic health outcomes throughout the city. Trainings are scheduled to roll out in 2017.

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    Research Brief I developed as part of Assembly initiative.
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    Prospect Plaza is an Active Design Verified project in Brooklyn, NY.
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    Workplace wellbeing panel at Excellence Awards event. Photo: Yetsuh Frank
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    Training events to advance the impact of design on health.