Community Facilities

Developing co-located and integrated community facilities, such as schools and sport and recreation facilities, can maximise the efficiency of travel networks and service provision and enhance opportunities for sports participation, physical activity, well being, community interaction and cohesion.

  1. Source: Active Living Research. Active Living Research (2012). Promoting Physical Activity through Shared Use of School and Community Recreational Resources. San Diego.
  2. Source: Sallis, J. F., et al. (2012). “Role of Built Environments in Physical Activity, Obesity, and Cardiovascular Disease.” Circulation 125(5): 729-737.
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Defining ‘Community Facilities'

Community facilities are premises used for providing educational, recreational, artistic, social or cultural facilities to the public. This can include:

  • Schools, colleges and universities 
  • Sport association headquarters
  • Senior citizen centres
  • Neighbourhood and community centres
  • Churches
  • Community and child health centres
  • Health and fitness clubs
  • Art and entertainment venues
  •  Local government authority
  • The private sector

This can also include the shared use of school or community facilities for weekend farmers markets to assist in the sale and distribution of healthy, locally grown food.

Schools are a significant contributor to the place making of a neighbourhood and become a focal point for a new community.  Recreational areas and open spaces are an important component of school sites both in the delivery of education and providing larger open spaces capable of accommodating a range of community sport and recreation needs and use after school hours.

Schools are also good places to teach children the value of sport and nature play and to get them active. The locations of schools within the neighbourhood and the access along the routes to school can facilitate or hinder use of active modes of transport (i.e., walking or cycling) to and from school.  School sites are therefore an important element in designing and establishing healthy and active communities. 

Prioritising flexible spaces to ensure demand

It is important to ensure that there is flexibility in the way community facilities are provided.  Opportunities to co-locate facilities or provide for shared use of infrastructure should be explored to ensure they are flexible, sustainable and viable in the long term and meet the needs of the community.

The design and adaptability of buildings and/or open spaces should be considered. New community infrastructure must respond to the dynamic and changing nature of communities.  The design of facilities needs to be flexible, innovative and adaptable to meet the needs of a variety of users and changing demographics.

Demand on sport facilities and playing fields is an ongoing matter for government, sporting groups and the wider community. There are many high-quality sport and recreation facilities within school sites. These are often an ideal venue for facility sharing, which can provide benefits both to the school and the wider community user groups.

Shared use of school facilities is the most common mechanism for delivering shared use community infrastructure. Greater use of school facilities and playing fields out of school hours use (which suits most sport and recreation groups that generally want to use the facility during the evenings and weekends) is one potential solution to easing the pressure on local sports fields and facilities. This is also an important way to strengthen school and local community partnerships.

Facilitating physical activity & health

Integrated community facilities play a vital role in creating healthy communities, enhancing wellbeing, and building social networks. [64] Shared use of sport and recreation facilities helps to increase community access to these services, as well as providing open spaces of a sufficient size to accommodate sporting spaces and infrastructure. These are important places for regular physical activity, social interaction and the development of a sense of community (see also SENSE OF PLACE design feature). It is also cost effective to provide social and community infrastructure through integrated facilities, shared use of facilities and multiple uses of space.  

There are many additional benefits to joint provision and shared use of sport and recreation facilities, including [64]:

  • Less duplication and maximum use of community facilities and services 
  • Reduced operating costs
  • Increased usage and revenue
  • Shared capital costs, services, resources and expertise 
  • Creation of a community hub - a focal point for community activity 
  • Improved relationships between community groups and organisations 
  • Increased community ownership of facilities
  • Access to a broader range of services and expertise – improving opportunities for participation in sports and active recreation programs
  • Increased viability of clubs and facilities 

Schools are an important daily destination to which children and adolescents may walk. [1, 2] Active commuting to school can contribute to children achieving recommended physical activity levels. [3-7] Several studies have found that children who walk to school are likely to engage in more physical activity overall [6, 7] and are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than children who used motorised travel. [3] Participation in active transport to school has the potential to improve health through its contribution to overall physical activity levels and fitness. [8, 9]

Throughout the school day, physical education classes and playtime (i.e., recess breaks) represent two important contexts in which children have opportunities to be physically active. [10, 11] A recent review found that the contribution of recess to total daily physical activity ranges from 5% to 40% for boys and 5% to 31% for girls. [11] The design of primary schools and playgrounds has also been associated with children’s physical activity levels at recess. [10-14] The inclusion of varied play opportunities is critical for encouraging physical activity in schools. [15-18]