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Designing Buildings That Battle Obesity

A new handbook produced by New York's design and construction department sets out guidelines for creating buildings that encourage activity.

We talk a lot about designing greener buildings, but how about designing healthier buildings? The NYC Department of Design and Construction has been hard at work establishing guidelines for the relationship between public health and public space. A new handbook they've published, Active Design Guidelines, is focused on not only the green-design principles outlined by LEED certification but also "active design," constructing areas that encourage things like physical activity and interactive play.

Designed by Luke Hayman and Shigeto Akiyama of the New York firm Pentagram, the handbook is a spiral-bound binder that's easy to read at your desk or take into the field. The book is divided into two sections, urban design and building design, and also offers commentary on LEED and New York's impressive sustainability plan, plaNYC. Large photos of enticing spaces and urban environments include lots of open space, bike parking, and gardens—all located within New York city limits. The book is available for purchase as a hard copy but perhaps best of all, it can also be downloaded for free as a PDF.

It's incredible to see how decisions designers make within a space—even little things, like the placement of stairs—can make a huge difference to the well-being of the people who use it. Active Design Guidelines helps make these invisible benefits visible, and anyone who reads this will begin to notice where improvements can be made to the city all around you.

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