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PR- 053-10
January 31, 2010


First of Its Kind Set of Guidelines Will Help Architects, Planners and Urban Designers Combat Obesity, Diabetes and Other Chronic Health Problems

City Will Encourage Firms to Incorporate the Measures When Designing Publicly-bid Projects

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Design and Construction Commissioner David J. Burney, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas A. Farley, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and City Planning Commissioner Amanda M. Burden today announced the release of New York City's Active Design Guidelines, a first-of-its-kind blueprint to help architects, planners and urban designers combat obesity, diabetes and other chronic health problems through urban and building designs that promote physical activity. The Active Design Guidelines, developed together with the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter (AIANY), were drawn from published evidence and vetted by experienced architects and designers. Though voluntary, they will define best practices for those charged with planning and constructing buildings, streets and neighborhoods, and they will help designers seize opportunities to encourage physical activity. The City will encourage architects and planners to use the recommendations when designing publicly-bid projects and will work with firms to implement them. The guidelines are available at

"Architecture and health issues may not seem like overlapping areas, but the design of buildings, plazas and other outdoor spaces can make a real difference in the level of physical activity they allow and promote," said Mayor Bloomberg. "The Active Design Guidelines - the first of their kind in the nation - will provide architects, planners and urban designers with a framework for incorporating designs that will improve public health."

The guidelines provide strategies for both outdoor designs and overall building designs. The outdoor design recommendations include approaches for neighborhoods, streets, and outdoor spaces that encourage active transportation and recreation, including walking and bicycling.

The guidelines dovetail with PlaNYC, New York City's comprehensive sustainability initiative. PlaNYC prepares the City to absorb future growth by creating affordable and sustainable housing, providing parks or playgrounds for every neighborhood, and reducing traffic congestion.

"The Active Design Guidelines provide architects, urban designers and planners with a range of design choices that will enhance the opportunities for mobility in our built environment," said Design and Construction Commissioner Burney. "These best practices, many supported by research evidence, will make a significant contribution to the livability of our City by extending the concept of 'Universal Design,' which removes some of the traditional barriers to pedestrian activity in our buildings, streets and parks."

Over the past three decades, obesity has become an epidemic across the country. A sedentary lifestyle contributes to obesity. The health benefits of physical activity include not only reducing obesity but also reducing rates of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer and depression. In recent years, it has become clearer that the physical environment influences people's levels of physical activity and other health-related behaviors. If planners, architects and builders adopt the principles in the Active Design Guidelines, they could help make the City both healthier.

History has shown that environmental design can play a crucial role in improving public health. Environmental improvements, including clean water facilities and buildings with adequate light and ventilation, helped control the infectious disease epidemics of the 19th century.

"Our forebears controlled cholera and tuberculosis by redesigning cities assuring safe water and improving housing," said Dr. Thomas A. Farley, New York City Health Commissioner. "To successfully conquer today's epidemics of obesity and diabetes, we need to adopt the same strategy --we must design our environments to promote physical activity and healthy eating."

Through a wide range of programs targeting different aspects of the pedestrian and cycling experience, the Department of Transportation has made walking and cycling a more attractive choice for New Yorkers. DOT is continually expanding efforts to redesign streets and intersections to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety, make walking and cycling more enjoyable, and improve access to transit, particularly for vulnerable populations such as school children and senior citizens.

"Walkability is a huge part of New York City's status as a world class city to live and work in, or to visit," said Transportation Commissioner Sadik-Khan. "Streets that are safe and welcoming invite people to share our public spaces and support our local businesses."

The Department of City Planning also has worked to promote bicycle use in New York City. Last year the City Council adopted a zoning text amendment proposed by City Planning requiring outdoor bicycle parking in commercial and community facility buildings citywide. These regulations are complemented by Local Laws 51 and 52, which respectively, require that secure bicycle parking be provided in existing office buildings and that tenants be allowed to bring bicycles into buildings.

"The Active Design Guidelines support City Planning's initiatives to create more walkable, bikeable and inviting neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs," said City Planning Commissioner Burden. "Since 2002, we have worked to make bike parking available, provide incentives for neighborhood grocery stores that sell fresh food and vegetables, channel development to transit hubs and allow for more open space for residents to enjoy. The guidelines are an excellent complement to these accomplishments, and will create new and exciting ways to encourage New Yorkers to be more active and promote healthy lifestyles."

Over the past five years, AIANY and the Department of Health have hosted "Fit City," an annual conference to explore the concepts and applications of wellness in the built environment, its history and its future. Many of the ideas generated in these conferences have come to fruition in the Active Design Guidelines.

"It's exciting to have helped facilitate such a monumental collaboration among city agencies," said Rick Bell, Executive Director of AIANY. "Architects will use this guide as a new standard in design. I can't wait to share this important document with the design community, and continue the conversation about how to make New York a healthier place for all its residents."



Stu Loeser / Andrew Brent   (212) 788-2958

Matthew Monahan   (Design and Construction)
(718) 391-1641

Jessica Scaperotti   (Health and Mental Hygiene)
(212) 788-5290

Seth Solomonow   (Transportation)
(212) 839-4850

Rachaele Raynoff   (City Planning)
(212) 720-3471

Emily Nemens (American Institute of Architects NY Chapter)   (212) 358-6126

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