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World Health Day and the growing case to build with people in mind

Today is World Health Day and this year’s theme is “Halt the rise: beat diabetes”. As you may be aware, one of the best ways to prevent diabetes is through regular physical activity, like walking at least 150 minutes per week.

A recent study showed that neighbourhood design can greatly impact how much residents in those neighbourhoods are likely to walk. The study of nearly 7,000 adults from fourteen cities in 10 different countries found that people who live in dense communities, with high walkability, and access to transport and parks within 1 kilometre of their home, walk, on average, 90 minutes more per week.

This study excites us because it aligns with the goal of the World Green Building Council’s Better Places for People campaign. Just as good design of the neighbourhoods people live in can increase physical activity, and therefore reduce one of the main causes of diabetes, good building design and operation can improve wellbeing, satisfaction and productivity, and reduce illnesses in building occupants ranging from asthma and allergies, to insomnia.

As anticipated by USGBC CEO Rick Fedrizzi, 2016 is indeed the year when buildings are expected to positively contribute to the health and wellbeing of the people who live, work, learn and play inside them.  WorldGBC and our Better Places for People campaign sponsors are committed to proving that these buildings are also more attractive to tenants and more valuable to investors.

Our reports on Health, Wellbeing & Productivity in Offices (released October 2014) and Health, Wellbeing & Productivity in Retail (released February 2016) have provided overwhelming evidence that building design impacts occupant comfort and satisfaction, whether that of employees or customers, and we will be publishing a third report on health and wellbeing in multi-unit residential buildings in late 2016. The study above and the work that WorldGBC is currently doing are part of an ever-growing body of research which shows that buildings designed with their end-users in mind, are both good for people and good for business.

If you would like to contribute to the growing body of research connecting health and wellbeing with the built environment, whether by sharing a case study, innovative research or plans to measure and manage the indoor environmental quality of your building portfolio, please contact us.

Jonathan Laski is the Director of Projects & Partnerships at the World Green Building Council. He can be reached at