ULI Washington News

2014 Trends: Building Healthy Places

By Matthew Blocher

Ed McMahon, Senior Fellow, ULI

Whitney Austin Gray, PhD, Health Research and Innovation Director, Cannon Design
Dana Pillai, Executive Director, Delos Labs
Laura Cole, Vice President of Marketing, Willowsford, LLC

Around the world, communities face pressing health challenges related to the built environment.  Traditional real estate development practices often foster sedentary habits.    From health care facilities to urban agriculture and beyond, healthy places are being designed, built and programmed to support the physical, mental and social well being of the people who live, work, learn and visit there.  The panel focused on current trends to make the link between human health and development of communities such as Willowsford in Leesburg, places and buildings.

Highlights of the session include an overview of health challenges that are faced today and the fact that designers, architects, engineers and real estate professionals will have a greater impact on health than physicians.  All of the leading causes of death are related to the environment and to behavior, which are areas that many sectors of the real estate industry continue to develop product and places that will improve the quality of people’s lives.  For example, Central Place was designed and built as a health strategy to provide people with an area for fresh air, activity, etc.  Today’s public spaces and building amenities are designed and built to encourage activity and interaction, which have a direct positive impact on people’s lives.

An overview of where you live and how long you will live provided an interesting insight of many areas of the country and in the world.  Isolated communities and locations, as one would expect, are less healthy than more active and engaged locations.  DC ranks high on the list of US cities, though the US as a whole does not rank nearly as high as a significant number of countries.  It has been proven that people are willing to pay premiums, significant in some cases, to improve the quality of their health/lives – Community Supported Agriculture Programs (CSA), park premiums, gym premiums, etc.

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