Fit City Addresses Global Energy Deficiency

Event: Fit-City 2: Promoting Physical Activity Through Design
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.12.07
Keynote: Dr. Craig Zimring — environmental psychologist & professor of architecture and psychology, Georgia Tech
Speakers: Deputy Commissioner Mary Bassett, MD, MPH; Assistant Commissioner Lynn Silver, MD, MPH, FAAP; and Karen Lee, MD, MHSc — NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOH); David Burney, AIA — Commissioner, NYC Department of Design and Construction; Joan Blumenfeld, FAIA, IIDA, LEED AP — AIANY President; Laurie Kerr, RA — Office of the Mayor; Joyce Lee, AIA — NYC Office of Management and Budget; Ellen Martin, RA — 1100 Architect; William Stein, AIA — Dattner Architects; Russell Unger — U.S. Green Building Council; Dan Wood, AIA — WORK ac
Organizer: AIANY; NYC DOH
Sponsor: NYC DOH; Esque provided by IZZE Beverage Company

Active Mobility

The Fit City 2 panel urges cities to encourage Active Mobility.

Kristen Richards

We have a global and personal “Energy Problem” in America, posits Laurie Kerr, RA, of the NYC Office of the Mayor and Karen Lee, MD, MHSc, of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. At a personal level, part of the problem is too much “unusable” energy in (zero-value food products or simple over-eating), and not enough energy out (exercise or even basic movement). As a result, there is an increase in national obesity, which is fast becoming a chronic disease epidemic in the U.S. Remote control air conditioning, automatic doors, and eight hours at the office sitting in front of a computer screen comprise a few examples of activities straining our energy resources while decreasing personal movement. This conference brought together architects, designers, and public health professionals to address how building design and policy decisions can increase physical activity to improve health and conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

One of the biggest culprits is television, which is threatening to replace the refrigerator as the number one energy consumer in American households. There are two ways to look at it: flat-screen TVs are using massive amounts of energy, or people are sitting inertly in front of TVs most hours of the day. Offices and homes present key opportunities for designing increased movement integrated into the daily habits of occupants. On average, Americans gain one pound per year in their overall weight. This could be eliminated if each person took 4 flights of stairs daily. However, walking is not an option for everyone, and opportunities for exercise exist for people in wheelchairs and the aging population.

A successful architectural example, given by AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, is Millennium Park in Chicago, masterplanned by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Ramping meanders through outdoor park space facilitating wheelchair and bicycle movement in the city. In review of Fit City 2 recommendations, Bell acknowledged that congestion pricing can reduce car use in the city, resulting in reduction of fossil fuel exhaust, healthier air quality, and an increase of available space to build safe bike paths.

Government entities have the power to encourage physical activity. Panelists believe LEED points should be offered for designing increased physical activity in building design. Russell Unger, of the U.S. Green Building Council, hinted that buildings could get innovation points for such design efforts. Further, the NYC Department of Design + Construction (DDC) Commissioner David Burney, AIA, shared the pioneering history of the DDC as setting NYC guidelines for Sustainable Design, Universal Design, and Design Consultants. He suggested DDC would be ready to launch a new guideline for Active Living Design beginning with the information provided at all Fit City conferences.

Following the conference, the breakout session included the panelists and public in a focused discussion on Active Mobility. Hopefully, through task force groups, some of the ideas and suggestions will be incorporated into the Mayor’s PlaNYC.