The Science Is In: The healthiest neighborhoods are both walkable and green

Kaid-BenfieldMost of us, most of the time, don’t make much connection between place – the neighborhoods where we live, work, and play – and our health. Not unless we’re thinking of such obvious local health concerns as an outbreak of infectious disease in the community, serious levels of pollution or toxicity nearby, or perhaps about local health care services and facilities. Absent those kinds of circumstances, we tend to take our neighborhoods for granted when it comes to health. But we shouldn’t, because there is a rapidly growing body of evidence demonstrating that the shape and character of our communities matters a great deal to our health.

Continue Reading

Places that Pay: Benefits of placemaking v2

“Reconciliation is making peace with reality, our ideals, and the gap in between,” via Her Honour, Janice C. Filmon, Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba. Much of our work here at PlaceMakers is about redirecting the trajectory of where we are headed with the targets needed to ensure the wellness of our environment, equity, and economy, so that stopgap measures are kept to a minimum. The studies that quantify how the form of our cities, towns, villages, and hamlets effects this wellness is essential to building the political will to make change. Listed below are the 65 key works I’m most likely to quote, to make the case for developing the city and town planning tools we need to make a difference for the resilience of people, planet and profit. Continue Reading

CNU Climate Summit Highlights

A group of concerned urban designers, architects, ecologists, and economists gathered last week in Alexandria, Virginia, to discuss resilience at the CNU Climate Summit. Unable to join, I reached a few participants by phone and followed the Twitter hashtag, #CNUClimate, to hear highlights of the presentations and working groups. Several of their ideas resonate with the resilience thread here, and is another step in the process of answering some of the questions we often pose. Warning, this blog is long and heavy on direct quotes.
Continue Reading

Ten key ingredients of a green and healthy community

Kaid-BenfieldIf someone asks what a green community, or a healthy one, means to you, what comes to mind? I’m willing to bet that for most people it is the visible and tangible aspects: a lovely city park, perhaps, or mature street trees, or bicycle lanes on a city street. If you’re a bit more wonky, you might also think of access to healthy food, or to public transportation. If you work on these matters for a living, you might think of more technical matters such as where we get our energy, what happens to our waste, and whether neighborhood streets are designed in a pattern that facilitates walking to accomplish everyday errands. Continue Reading

Hurricane Harvey provides a sober reminder that resilience is about mitigation and adaptation

Most of us faraway bystanders are observing Houston’s response to Hurricane Harvey with concern at the devastation as well as encouragement at the stories of compassion. With sympathy to the current human suffering from Harvey, we are wishing Houstonians continued strength, fortitude, and safe passage this week. No amount of comprehensive planning or zoning reform can prepare a city for the sort of flood Houston is currently experiencing. An expected 50” of rain in a few days makes this an event that no place in the world is likely to sustain without massive personal and economic impacts. Perhaps not even the Netherlands, who has led the world in stormwater management for hundreds of years, with protection, prevention, and preparedness.
Continue Reading

The Trifecta: Urbanism, architecture, and nature

We often blog on the benefits of nature integrated into urbanism and wellbeing outcomes of walkability. The real trifecta is when walkable urbanism, human-scale architecture, and nature come together via placemaking. A recent study from the University of Warwick points out that a scenic view delivers equal health benefits to access to nature: “Cohesion of architecture and design boosts people’s health and happiness, not just the number of parks and trees.”

Continue Reading

Nature Cities: Wellness and public space

The idea of rewilding started out as a movement to conserve, restore, and reconnect natural areas, and has expanded to how we reintegrate ancient practices into our modern lives. From a flat-footed squat to full emersion in nature to structured programs like ReWild Portland, the idea of letting go of some of our domestication to reconnect with nature is compelling. From a city planning perspective, the human rewilding ideas that interest me the most are the inspiration of cities, towns and villages that are making nature more accessible to our everyday habits. And the paybacks for those efforts. When nature is integrated into urbanism, wellness surges.
Continue Reading

Nature’s Healing Ways

The other day while walking my dog, I was trying to count the ways nature makes us healthier, as a means of distracting myself from the fact that the temperature was -40, with wind chill. That’s the point where Celsius and Fahrenheit converge. However, since this is my 9th winter in my beloved Winnipeg – one of the three coldest big cities on earth – I was dressed for the occasion and was keeping to the sidewalks in the active core. Here tight setbacks and street trees provide shelter from the wind, neighbourhood shops and cafés offer places to stop in and warm up, and short blocks provide plenty of places to turn around when the time is right.
Continue Reading

What Makes a Good Main Street Work?

Shortly before this essay’s original posting, I participated in a terrific conference called From Main Street to Eco-Districts: Greening Our Communities, hosted by a chapter of the American Institute for Architects in Corning, New York. Held a block off of Corning’s own, magnificent “Main Street” (actually named Market Street), and including many of the people who have helped make that street so successful, the conference started me thinking about the whole idea of Main Streets and what makes the best of them such delights to experience.

Continue Reading

Four Characteristics of Active, Healthy Neighborhoods

Kaid-BenfieldScientists are learning more and more about how where we live affects the amount of exercise we get, and thus how fit and healthy we are likely to be. In general, city dwellers are particularly well placed to get regular exercise if they can take care of some or all of their daily errands without getting into a car: walking is good for us, and so is taking public transportation, because almost every transit trip begins and ends with a walking trip.

Continue Reading