This article originally appeared in Building Magazine on 09.04.2014. Jon Kirkpatrick is head of sustainability at Lend Lease EMEA.
It has previously been argued that the design and layout of towns and cities plays an important role in the health and wellbeing of their inhabitants, with experts suggesting that up to £1bn a year could be saved on healthcare if the UK introduced better town and city planning.
With the number of obese Britons continuing to rise, not to mention the cost to the UK taxpayer, what can developers of large-scale residential and commercial schemes do to help?
Moreover, is it possible to design buildings that actually improve the health and wellbeing of their inhabitants?
That’s exactly what we are seeking to do at Elephant & Castle, our £1.5 billion regeneration scheme in South London, where we are delivering nearly 3,000 new homes, as well as new shops, restaurants and community facilities, including a brand new park that will be full of inner city nature.
Given its Zone 1 location, Elephant & Castle is already one of the most well-connected and accessible places in the capital. Yet, despite being within walking distance of the City and a short bike ride from the West End, the vast majority of residents and workers choose almost any mode of transport available to them other than walking.
To encourage healthier and more environmentally sustainable ways of travelling, we are providing more than one bicycle storage rack for every home we create and fewer than 25% of the homes will have car parking spaces. Better sign posting throughout the area will also make walking a more obvious and more appealing choice for people looking to get around the area.
At a time of austerity and with increasing concern about the physical well-being of the population, healthier and more cost-effective ways of getting from A to B are becoming increasingly popular.
A signature feature of city centres, and one that is often accused of contributing to the poor health of their inhabitants, is the density of high-rise buildings and lack of open space. Dimly lit streets, covered underpasses and narrow spaces make walking or jogging not only unappealing, but physically challenging. Poor design can also impact the safety and security of an area, a further deterrent for those seeking a less sedentary lifestyle.
Designing environments where people want to spend time and importantly, feel safe and at ease, is vital to supporting a healthier way of life.
New open spaces and pedestrianized zones, set around communal courtyards, form the basis of our plans for Elephant & Castle which, we hope, will encourage residents and visitors alike to spend more time outside, walking, jogging and exercising. Better lighting will also improve the safety and security of outdoor spaces, further increasing the appeal of sustainable means of transport.
Access and proximity to sporting facilities, whether at home or at work, is another major consideration in urban town planning which plays a significant role in the health and wellbeing of inhabitants. Our commercial development in Stratford, The International Quarter, is situated in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, a stone’s throw from some of the world’s leading sporting facilities, including the London Aquatics Centre and The Copper Box Arena.
We believe that by putting people first and creating places where people choose to visit and spend their time, it is possible for developers and town planners to create environments that can ultimately encourage a healthier and more productive way of life for all those concerned.
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