healthy: happy: places
working for social and public health

The purpose of this project is to guide the design of any regeneration framework or new development containing or providing inhabitable dwellings, to create more positive environments that offer all residents the opportunity to opt for healthier lifestyles, enabling them to form vibrant and supportive communities, now and in the future.
The tool works with a 12-point assessment system grouped in 4 categories:

HUMAN: Design knowing that the most important street user is the pedestrian; particularly children, the elderly and vulnerable people.
Road hierarchy must be designed in neighbourhoods for pedestrians to circulate freely and safely, for children to play and for neighbours to interact. Cars are a necessity and design should consider the practicalities of car usage and parking. However, car dominated environments must be strongly discouraged.

EXPERIENCE: Design functional, safe, easy to navigate and interesting cycling and pedestrian routes across the development and beyond.
Routes must be provided for residents to cycle, skate and walk safely to all places within the neighbourhood through the shortest and most direct route possible. These purpose-made paths must be entertaining, interesting and fun; they must include kinetic experiences such as acceleration and slow motion; and sensorial experiences, for example through the use of biophilia (sun/shade, water, etc.) or with pavement colour, sound, smells and textures. Cycling, skating and walking should be made a “fun” experience to encourage children and adults alike to opt for these healthier modes of transport for short and medium distances, as opposed to car usage.

NAVIGATION: Design street patterns and block sizes/shapes for easy navigation and leading to destinations.
Routes must be made visible, attractive and accessible. Residents and visitors alike must be able to find their way around the neighbourhood easily. Building character, landscape and pavement texture/colour should be used as tools to create legible paths, edges, nodes and central points. Direct, short and easy to navigate routes must connect meaningful places within the neighbourhood and beyond, and not lead to meaningless or private spaces. Routes must be made interesting and variable, providing a diversity of entertainment and amenity in short fractions within a circuit. Walking must be a sensorial experience with a multiplicity of events.


FOOD: Design for urban food chain and smart waste management.
Developments including commercial uses within or in close proximity to neighbourhoods should provide infrastructure, access and dwellings for the operation of local food supplies, seasonal/frequent market activities and food exchange banks. Landscape in public, communal and private land should include as many edible species as possible (such as fruit trees, herbs and berries). Food waste should be reduced to a minimum through design and management. Appropriate design approaches of adequate scale must be demonstrated for waste disposal, storage and collection of all domestic, commercial and industrial waste.

EARTH: Design to encourage direct contact with soil.
Every resident should have an opportunity to engage in individual or communal planting.  Verges, planters and areas of grassland across the development should be designed in a way that they are accessible by the public to allow residents to take ownership of private, communal and public areas and to encourage people to be in direct contact with soil regularly. This would allow residents to organise community activities that improve the environmental performance of the development such as seed planting for bee pollination or planting of edible species for local wild fauna.

SEASONS: Design to optimise the opportunities to create natural environments that change with the seasons.
Seasonal awareness must be present across the neighbourhood through the inclusion of adaptive landscape and natural elements. Planting suitable species can also be a way to control/aid micro-climates, for example using perennial trees where summer sunlight should be attenuated, allowing sun in the winter or with trees and bushes that produce flowers/aroma in the spring or fruit in the summer. The presence of water throughout the scheme can also bring seasonal and environmental awareness, water attenuation/control methods are ideal to create natural habitats and engage residents with seasonal natural changes.


EMPOWERMENT: Design for activity and community action.
All places in neighbourhoods must be designed to host and trigger a range of neighbouring and community activities within walking distance of all homes. An integral landscape/urban design approach, with places full of purpose and meaning, enriches the life of people and other species cohabiting in the neighbourhood. When places become part of people’s lives, we are keener to protect them and take community action to ensure their maintenance and endurance. Communities organising themselves often leads to the development of strong local networks with clear leadership, which in turn results in civic empowerment and participation.

SUPPORT: Design to trigger the development of social support networks.
Dwellings must be distributed, grouped or aligned on street patterns that optimise opportunities for neighbouring contact. Having frequent casual conversations or sharing small assets with neighbours is usually the first step towards developing closer social ties which, in time, results in the creation of wider social support systems. Having a good, strong, trustworthy group of people around us is an essential part of human life and it can also help increasing cross-generational contact, fight loneliness, anxiety, depression and isolation. 

BELONGING: Design for people to develop a sense of belonging.
Every street and public place should carry a strong identity, and allow engagement through local activity networks, also allowing residents to easily identify and relate to their closest environments and develop a sense of belonging over time. An important factor on people’s individual and social identities relates to their closest environments and, therefore, a crucial factor is understanding and managing the scale of the character areas and the strength of the character factors. Residents who feel they belong to a place are more likely to develop more positive attitudes toward their environments and towards their neighbours.


OWNERSHIP: Design for communal ownership with invested interests.
All neighbours should have communal land or other assets (e.g. shared energy supplies, management schemes) within a five-minute walk from their homes, giving everyone the opportunity to engage actively in stewardship activities which form a basis to close-knit communities. Communal ownership and invested interest in place creates a greater sense of environmental responsibility and allows consolidation of community groups and support networks.

IDENTITY: Design for people to develop a sense of place identity.
Streets, roads, parks and all other neighbourhood places must be designed with a strong identity. Places should be named in relation to their character and without complexity, to allow everyone to identify them. Landscape and the use of biophilic elements are powerful tools to assign place character and identity. For example, for a narrow shared street where most houses have cherry trees in their front gardens, the name Cherry Lane would be associated with the place and therefore easily remembered.

VALUE: Design to allow communities adding social value of places.
Place identity and character must be designed to encourage residents establishing communal activities that are unique to the close proximity of their homes and that happen frequently or seasonally. Places should also allow residents to conduct activity repetitions and routines that create personal and collective memories associated with life in the neighbourhood. This allows residents to add social meaning and value to their local places through time, creating local history through their own communal life experiences.
For more information about how grounded research supports this design guide, to discuss how the tool works, to see results of a pilot study and for any other information in relation to healthy: happy: places, please contact us.