Designing the day to keep the doctor away

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Margaret Montgomery, sustainability leader for NBBJ -- a global architecture, planning and design firm, talks about designing within the confines of an older building. (Meena Ganesan/The Washington Post)
Margaret Montgomery at The Washington Post’s Health Beyond Health Care forum June 18. (Photos by Evelyn Hockstein/The Washington Post)

“We’re looking at how you locate services within buildings so that people will walk to get a little more activity. Designing stairs so that they’re the preferred option — you would rather take the stairs because they’re beautiful and they’re wonderful and you’re going to run into somebody along the way rather than going and finding the elevator that’s hidden around the corner that you have to wait a long time for.

“We do need access to natural light, and if possible real air or a variety of sensory experiences. Those are all the things that we just need as human beings. It’s challenging when you’re given a box of this particular era. Some of the early buildings that pre-date air conditioning and electric lights are certainly much more effective for this because you may have a box that goes out into the street. But you’ve also probably got a courtyard in the middle of it. And windows and cross ventilation and all those things. There are ways of getting more light into the space or perhaps perforating the interior of the building if possible, finding ways to bring people closer to the perimeter, closer to the daylight,  [and] locating things that don’t need nature in the middle of the building.”

-Margaret Montgomery, architect and sustainability leader, NBBJ

As cities become more walkable and livable, more and more affluent individuals and families are migrating back, says David Dixon, head of Stantec's new Urban Group. (Meena Ganesan/The Washington Post)
David Dixon at The Washington Post’s Health Beyond Health Care forum June 18.

“We all know that walkability, along with exercise and healthy food, correlates directly with health. In order to get people to walk places, they have to be nearby. So we need the kinds of densities that support that variety of activities, a place to buy great food, a place to get exercise and streets that you want to walk along right nearby.

“One- or two-person households represent the majority of households in virtually every region in this country. It is much more natural to their lifestyle to live in an urban environment. But that is also because the fear today is boredom, isolation, lack of community — and that’s what people find in cities. They have the kinds of densities, the kind of variety to create what I call five-minute environments where people can find the fun, the interest, the jobs, that make urban living really attractive — and something that basically suburban living can’t offer at this point.

“We live for the first time in a society where more poor people live in suburbs than cities.  All the wonderful environments I’m talking about are expensive.  They also attract people with money who price the people out who are living there.  In a way we’re solving one problem, I think, actually rather brilliantly. But we’re creating another problem, unfortunately, just as brilliantly.”

-David Dixon, urban design group leader, Stantec

IDEO associate partner Colin Raney says schools should school lunchtime should be approached from how kids perceive the world. (Meena Ganesan/The Washington Post)
IDEO associate partner Colin Raney says school lunchtime should be approached from how kids perceive the world.

“I think you have to approach it from how kids perceive the world. School cafeteria lunches are fairly institutional. We have an idea that we will feed everyone, very democratically. We want to have nutrition work wholly across the board.

“At different points in children’s education, they respond differently to different things.

“Yes, the food should be nutritious. They’re not eating it because it’s nutritious or not nutritious. They’re eating it because they’re choosing among all sorts of other things to do with their time, to do with their attention.

“A lot of high schools have an open campus so you can leave to go do other things. So that cafeteria actually competes with any of the other foods that exist, within walking distance or a short drive from the school. Can you create lounge-like spaces [where] students can hang out and socialize with each other? Can you create grab-and-go-style foods that mimic the other choices that they have, and help them navigate some of that? It’s a little bit about understanding we all have infinitely more options than we had 10 years ago, and 10 years before that, and helping people navigate to the best choices.”

-Colin Raney, associate partner of the Boston design studio IDEO

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Washington Post Forums · June 24, 2014

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