Developing buildings and site designs that specifically support increased levels of physical activity through the provision of spaces and facilities can promote incidental physical activity. This can include the design of the building’s circulation system that encourages stair use, provision of end of trip facilities, convenient access to public transport options, and natural surveillance of the streetscape.

  1. Source: Buehler, R. (2012). Determinants of bicycle commuting in the Washington, DC region: The role of bicycle parking, cyclist showers, and free car parking at work. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment 17 (7): 525-531.
  2. Source: Vischer J. (2003). Designing the work environment for worker health and productivity. Design and Health: International Academy for Design and Health.
  3. Source: Paffenbarger RS, Jr., Hyde RT, Wing AL, Hsieh CC. (1986). Physical activity, all-cause mortality, and longevity of college alumni. The New England journal of medicine. 314(10):605-613.
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Defining 'Buildings' 

A building is any human-made structure used or intended for supporting or sheltering any use or continuous occupancy.  The shape and size of buildings are influenced by culture, history, climatic conditions, availability of building materials, land prices, ground conditions, specific uses, safety implications, aesthetic reasons and regulations.  

Built for physical activity and health

Most adults and children spend the clear majority of their day inside and the location and design of these buildings may encourage or constrain physical activity and social interaction.  Buildings and their sites with the provision of spaces and facilities can encourage residents to keep active.  For example, by providing convenient access to public transport options, and natural surveillance of the streetscape, you can encourage employees to choose active modes of transport instead of driving their cars.  Indeed, there now exists a body of evidence indicating that interventions aimed at changing the internal design and amenities of buildings, such as motivational point of-decision prompts, such as signage, aesthetically pleasing staircases, the provision of facilities or amenities (such as showers, bike storage), internal decoration/ aesthetic qualities, or the environment surrounding the building can result in increases in physical activity.[2] 

The following sections look at the impacts of the external design and location of buildings as well as specific issues relating to the design of shopping centres, sport and recreation facilities and workplaces in relation to physical activity and social interaction.