Walkability, density, connectivity – any conversation about the built environment today will almost certainly involve these buzzwords. Sometimes we hear and use these words so frequently that they can start to lose their impact. So when we learned about a recent study by Texas A&M associate professor of architecture Xuemei Zhu that measured the results of community design in terms of increased physical activity, quality social interactions, and better overall health – we were all ears.
Zhu surveyed 449 residents of Mueller Austin, a community which was designed to promote quality of life through walkable, tree-lined streets, an abundance of well-spaced parks, an extensive trail system, and a mix of densities and income levels. The study found evidence that these design choices yielded a big payoff for residents, who reported a 40% average increase in walking or biking activities when compared with their previous residences. Forty eight percent of the residents also reported improvements in their overall health. Other findings included improved social interactions with neighbors and as stronger sense of neighborhood cohesion. You can read more about the study on the Texas A&M College of Architecture website.