Today the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the AIA Foundation, and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), named Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation as charter members of the AIA Design & Health Research Consortium, which will help fund basic research on how design affects public health (see the press release here and the Scientific American article here). In September we teamed up with our friends Hilary Sample, Associate Professor at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and Dr. Karen Lee, who while at NYC DOHMH helped create NYC’s Active Design Guidelines, to submit a proposal to AIA’s Call for Qualifications and we were selected to join the consortium.
As part of the Consortium we will focus our research and translation activities on physical activity and identifying the ways in which architecture and urban design create built environments that support physically active lifestyles. While physical activity prevents cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and reduces blood pressure less than 50% of Americans meet current recommendations for activity. The team will use GPS and GIS technologies to study how neighborhood built environments can support physical activity among residents of New York City and will develop methods to conduct similar research in Rio das Pedras, a favela community in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Our choice of research sites is motivated by two key UN projections: (1) by 2025, 379 million people are expected to live in megacities such as New York City and (2) by 2030, 2 billion people will live in “informal communities” such as Rio das Pedras.