Designing Healthier Neighborhoods
To begin with, the way a neighborhood designed has big impact on how healthy and happy its people are. Over the years, there have been a lot of studies carried out regarding the effects of neighborhood design on health and well-being. Meanwhile, major health challenges including premature death, poor physical and mental health and health inequalities in a community still prevails. Therefore, many of these are reflection of places in which we live, for better or worse. (Townshend, 2022)
Figure 1: Five interlinking themes by Tim Townshend
Furthermore, it makes sense to rethink the current urban strategies due to dramatic increase of “avoidable illness” associated with lack of physical activities. However, this could be reduced through
- Health education
- Increased walkability
- Access to green spaces
- Social cohesion
- Reduced automobile dependence through efficient urban and transport design.
What makes a healthy neighborhood?
A healthy neighborhood should provide all its users with an environment that allows to meet their requirements and fulfilment.(Townshend, 2022). Moreover, a healthy neighborhood should have:
- Decent housing: Should meet space standards with proper insulation and access to the outside space.
- Adequate public green spaces: Helps escaping the sedentary life style choices to tackle current avoidable health issues.
- A walkable movement network: Allowing citizens to commute to and from work, with access to the amenities in closer distances
- Adaptive landscape responding to seasons: By introducing walls of climbing plants and colorful trees are simple ways to achieve environments that change with the seasons.
- Sharable places: Multi purposes spaces accommodating different age group for community engagement and mutual sense of belonging in a place
Principles for a healthy place making
Scales of planning
Figure 2: Framework for healthy place making by Fred London AoU
Equitable use of space
Using scale in urban planning, equitable use of urban space can be attained by restricting vehicular traffic from inner cities. To elaborate, this helps in creating series of vibrant public spaces as well as a better active transport network around major nodes in the city. Therefore, self-sufficient neighborhood have a great impact in current urban scenario. For example, a 15-minute neighborhood allow locals to meet majority of their needs in a smaller radius. If not all of them, within a quick bike ride or stroll from their house. In addition, a 15-minute city not only creates safer, quieter, more diverse, inclusive and economically vibrant neighborhood, but also serves as an organizing principle for urban development and urban life. (Sutcliffe, 2021)
Figure 3: Illustrations by N.Bascop ‘Paris En Commun’ interventions could look like in Paris.
It is important to realize that walkable communities promote interactions in the streets. It could be commuters, cyclists, pedestrians. They could be one among other at different times which creates diversity among the users and the way they use the space. Finally, key components of a walkable community include compact, mixed use urban neighborhood with integrated green spaces for meeting user’s need with in a smaller radius. (Fred london AoU, 2020)
Figure 4: Pedestrian friendly city: Sauchihall avenue, Glasgow
Besides, creating Neighborhood blocks reduces the planning scale to intimate levels. Notably, by eradicating social isolation, nurture community and human scale developments etc. Accordingly, places must feel safe, have easy access to social amenities, free from the effects of noise and traffic pollution that encourages people to come together. In fact, the most effective residential layouts are those that are arranged along well-lit public streets, that are shaded by trees and have cars parked inconspicuously.
Figure 5: A vision for healthy neighborhood at Fitchburg, Germany by place makers.
Movement networks – Environmental integration- Community empowerment
In fact, environmental Integration in Cities like Singapore, Zürich, and Vienna have well-thought-out plans to create a long-term equilibrium between built form and green space. It is Indeed proven by Neuron scientific researchers that green spaces links to lower levels of stress with higher levels of wellbeing. To put it in another way, presence of green spaces create positive stimuli in human brains. For this reason, taller blocks are used to replace low-density housing, increasing the number of homes while preserving the amount of green space. (Fred london AoU, 2020)
Figure 6: Biophilic design: Park royal Hotel, Singapore Figure 7: Upmarket residential and office development, Hafen city
Healthy and sustainable neighborhood through Urban Permaculture
In general, the permaculture movement started out as reimagining rural agricultural landscapes and it has an exciting potential in co-creating cities that are abundant with multiple species. For this reason, we can collectively design urban permaculture spaces that are ecologically regenerative. (Ellis, 2020)
Figure 8: Permaculture- Design ethics and principles by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren
To sum up, by working in nature’s pattern keeps the users away from diseases. Also, helps in creating a healthy generation to endure the odds in present day urban conditions. While sometimes cites being dismissed as concrete jungles, they are in fact filled with an abundance of non-human nature as well. Therefore, co-existence with nature could initiate active neighborhood and foster vibrant, diversity-based ecologically sustainable communities.
Figure 9: Smart urban farming by Avoid obvious architects, Hongkong
In short, this emphasizes the fundamental principle of permaculture that “diversity fosters resilience”. At the same time, the most exciting thing about permaculture in cities is the collective ability to imagine a healthy and sustainable neighborhood, which is ecologically regenerative and socially justifiable.
Ellis, B. (2020). Urban sustainability and the possibilities of urban permaculture. Retrieved from Permaculture women’s guild: https://www.permaculturewomen.com/urban-sustainability/
Fred London AoU. (2020). Six principles for healthier placemaking. Retrieved from Here and now: https://journal.theaou.org/health-equity/six-principles-for-healthier-placemaking/
Sutcliffe, M. (2021). What is a 15-minute neighbourhood? Retrieved from Smart transport: https://www.smarttransport.org.uk/insight-and-policy/latest-insight-and-policy/what-is-a-15-minute-neighbourhood
Townshend, T. (2022). Designing our cities to tackle global health issues. (N. University, Interviewer)