The prevalence of low-density, automobile-dependent communities has resulted in unsustainable lifestyles that increasingly threaten human health and well-being. In addition to inflating housing and transportation costs and increasing carbon emissions, disconnected communities reliant on cars create sedentary lifestyles. The lack of access to environments that encourage daily exercise, provide clean air and water, and offer affordable services and nutritious food has meant growing epidemics of depression, obesity, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease.
Working with landscape architects, communities can promote human health and well-being by encouraging the development of environments that offer rich social, economic, and environmental benefits. Healthy, livable communities all improve the welfare and well-being of people by expanding the range of affordable transportation, employment, and housing choices through “Live, Work, Play” developments; incorporating physical activity into components of daily life; preserving and enhancing valuable natural resources; providing access to affordable, nutritious, and locally produced foods distributed for less cost; and creating a unique sense of community and place.
Landscape architects help communities maximize opportunities for daily exercise like walking and biking. Landscape architects encourage communities to move towards compact, transit-oriented land-uses by designing Complete Streets and other transportation networks that connect mixed-use developments, neighborhood schools, and a range of affordable housing choices. They assist communities in developing healthy green buildings and open spaces that promote efficient water and energy use and provide substantial amounts of vegetation to clean air and cool temperatures. In doing so, these communities can avoid the expensive health epidemics associated with automobile dependence, sedentary lifestyles, along with the high costs to the environment brought by dysfunctional patterns of living.
In a completely revamped Healthy and Livable Communities guide, which is part of ASLA’s series of sustainable design guides and toolkits, there are hundreds of vetted Web sites, research studies, and projects to explore in the following areas:
- Public Health & Community Design
- Low-Carbon Land Use
Image credit: ASLA 2010 Professional Honor Award. Rooftop Haven for Urban Agriculture, Gary Comer Youth Center, Chicago, Illinois. Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects.