New research explores how design team professionals manage developers’ risks to integrate health into new urban development
For the attention of: Professionals working on new development (e.g. architects, sustainability consultants, engineers, urban designers, etc.) planners and public health teams.

The problem: The design of built spaces affects health. Research has focused primarily on healthy planning policy development rather than implementation in the process of urban development. There is a knowledge gap about the specific problems encountered by design teams when they seek to create healthy buildings and places, including the solutions that they have adopted to overcome such challenges.

What we did and why: To explore professionals’ experiences of creating healthy development projects, we interviewed 31 built environment and public health practitioners in six countries (Australia, China, England, Netherlands, Sweden and the USA). We asked participants to tell us about a project in which they had tried to integrate health and wellbeing design measures, talking us through the background, motivation, people involved, challenges they encountered and opportunities to overcome those.

What our study adds: Using the participants’ descriptions, we classified developers into two general categories about their willingness to design for health.

We found three key themes that related to integrating health into new buildings and communities. Managing risk, responsibility and economic constraints were paramount to persuade developers to adopt healthy design measures. Participants could push business-as-usual practices towards healthy urbanism by showing economic benefits or piloting new approaches. Finally, building knowledge and capacity across professionals and the public will support healthier development.

Implications for city policy and practice: There are important lessons for urban design teams, policy-makers and practitioners.

  • Design team professionals should understand and manage developers’ risks to integrate health into new urban development. To do so, they need to match developers’ needs with evidence about the health and financial benefits that are created through specific design measures.
  • Policy-makers should consider the full range of incentives for healthy development, including landownership transfer and the potential for collaborative action.
  • Practitioners may benefit from further support through knowledge sharing networks and training for inclusive design process.

Additional information and resources at

Full research article: Built environment stakeholders’ experiences of implementing healthy urban development: an exploratory study by Helen Pineo (@helenpineo) and Gemma Moore.