The world is developing fast. As time goes on, we live longer, more urban, and more connected.

As impressive as these improvements may be, we should not be fooled into thinking that these things translate to better health and well-being, however.

This is the thinking that multinational consultancy firm Arup has in mind. With this, they pointed out ten priorities to improve the health and well-being in cities. Here are the key points:

01. Focus on air quality

Air pollution is the primary cause of premature death, with around 7 million dying early because of it. While typically the focus is the reduction of outdoor pollution is focused on, indoor pollution should also be given equal attention.

Arup proposes to take emission reduction into consideration in building design. Some steps that can be taken include:

  • minimisation of energy sources
  • appropriate material selection
  • building ventilation and services design, and
  • control strategy

02. Design for building user comfort

According to Arup, embedding flexibility in the buildings is the best way to accommodate the different patterns of use:

  • acoustic and ergonomic space planning
  • personal temperature controls and task lighting
  • use of smart technologies
  • Employing advanced analysis, dynamic simulation and optimisation design tools
  • Pre- and post-occupancy evaluations

03. Understand the impact of materials

Some construction materials may emit hazardous chemicals which building occupants may inhale.

Safety is an important consideration in the selection of materials — apart from strength and cost — that might end up being overlooked in design.

04. Maximize the use of data

With so much data around us, designing infrastructure can even get smarter. By taking advantage of the information available to us, we can make better design decisions and have a multidimensional understanding of the problems in city infrastructure we have.

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05. Design for healthy streets and active travel

Urbanization has made cities very car-centric. A human-focused approach in city design will allow humans to reclaim the streets. A walkable, human-friendly design of a city will:

  • improve mental health,
  • attract inward investment,
  • improve air quality and urban microclimates, and
  • reduce noise.

06. Incorporate green and blue infrastructure

Much of the natural landscapes have been engulfed by the concrete jungle brought upon by the development of cities. It doesn’t have to be this way. The use of nature-based design will not only help the environment but also the city dwellers:

  • It leads to reduction in stress and mental health issues,
  • It improves community cohesion
  • It encourages an active lifestyle

07. Take evidence-based planning decisions

We cannot rely on our intuition when it comes to large scale city planning. Leaders should include a wide range of stakeholders the city has. They should also be proactive in research and joint-need assessments. This ensures that policies remain inclusive and grounded on sufficient evidence.

08. Create cities for all ages and abilities

Continuing on the notion of inclusivity, access should be maintained for the services and infrastructure of cities across all ages and groups.

As Arup states it, “The young and old have much in common. Mobility, perception, physical dependence, meaningful social networks and communication are all shared concerns.”

09. Optimize operations, behaviour and the built environment

Spaces should be designed taking into account how people will interact with it. Just like our streets, our buildings should be built with the people in mind.

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10. Improve the evaluation of health and wellbeing outcomes 

In order to set up a data-driven city, it must have the necessary tools for data collection. City leaders should then also invest in tools and methods which will effectively capture the effects of infrastructure and city design on health and well-being.

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