Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v04n25)
Green Broad Ripple - Green Health - by Cortellini
posted: Dec. 14, 2007
In an earlier article, I stated that in the world of sustainable development advocacy, there existed a triad; new urbanism, green building, and smart growth, all who shared many common convictions about elements that lead to improved quality of life. All three originated in the building and planning industry. There is a fourth faction as well and it arises from a totally different endeavor - the health care industry.
The Alliance for Health Promotion (AHP) is a health advocacy association that, in their own words, ". . . collaborates with organizations in the public and private sectors to implement best practice approaches to promote healthy lifestyles and reduce behavior-based diseases in Indiana." Alarmed at the epidemic proportion of obesity and diabetes, especially in the young, this, and many other health organizations, began to investigate the causes for this ill health. What they found, again in their own words, is that, "Since World War II, physical activity has been engineered out of many parts of American life. From elevators and drive-thru restaurants to cul-de-sac suburbs and strip malls, we have become increasingly sedentary. Currently, more than one in four Americans get no activity at all in an average day. Not surprisingly, rates of obesity and related health problems have skyrocketed during the same time period." Subsequently, the AHP has formed the Health by Design coalition to ". . . Find creative approaches for integrating physical activity into Hoosiers' lives. Rather than solely addressing obesity as an individual health problem, the coalition's work focuses on how the built environment - including neighborhoods, transportation systems, buildings, parks and open space - can promote more active lives."
So it turns out that the way we currently build our cities and our neighborhoods is not only unhealthy for the planet in an abstract long term sense but unhealthy for us and our children in a very real and immediate sense. Whatever economic benefits are touted for the way we currently produce the built environment will be dwarfed by the expense of caring for the fully 25 percent of our population, including children, who are made ill by their lifestyle. Does this make any sense?
On September 10, 2007, I attended the first Health by Design conference where five speakers made compelling presentations that, while geared to a focus of health, looked very similar to those delivered by Smart Growth advocates and New Urbanists. The two reoccurring themes, moving away from our auto based culture and encouraging urban density with increased accommodation of pedestrian and bicycle traffic, were restated and strongly reaffirmed as desirable, if not essential, strategies for stemming the current health crisis.
The images were borrowed from a slide presentation, "The Consequences of Inactivity" by Richard E. Killingsworth, executive director of the Harvest Foundation that delivered at the conference.
This scene depicts what Dom Nozzi would describe as Happy Car Space. A space where cars are very happy - long straight, wide roads that accommodate high speeds, spacious and abundant parking, large and easily legible signs and an absence of encumbrances such as slow bicycles and pedestrians. This is space scaled to the benefit of the automobile.
image courtesy of Richard E. Killingsworth
This is the same scene transformed into what Dom Nozzi would call a Happy People Space. A space where people are very happy - planned as mixed use where living and working are in walking proximity, intimate and articulated offering opportunity for interaction and serendipitous encounters, providing many charming places to congregate and accommodating multimodal transportation and calm vehicular traffic for efficiency and safety. This is space scaled to the benefit of the human being.
image courtesy of Richard E. Killingsworth
This is a photo I took of our own College Avenue. While not as austere as the first image, College Avenue is still very much a Happy Car Space as anyone crossing this street during rush hour as a pedestrian will attest. Those of us Broad Ripple citizens who are still afflicted with the NIMBY disease ("Not In My Back Yard" - see last article) don't see any problem with this situation. In fact, we view College Avenue as an important line of demarcation between the living and working areas of our community which we feel must be kept separate. We hold contempt for the concepts of density and mixed use. We see no reason to bring about change. Those of us Broad Ripple citizens who, on the other hand, see Broad Ripple for the urban community that it has become cannot help feel that transforming College Avenue to a Happy People Space is not only the desirable Green thing to do toward restoring the health of Mother Earth, but also would provide a major boost to our local economy. Most importantly, we would be taking a first essential step toward restoring our own health and the health of our children.
image courtesy of Cortellini
Cortellini is a licensed architect in the states of Indiana and Arizona. He holds a BFA from Indiana University Herron School of Art. He has taught architectural technology at the college level at several universities and has pursued independent artistic endeavors. His architectural practice has focused on residential and small commercial projects. He has recently committed his practice to designing Green buildings, is a member of the US Green Building Council and is a LEED Accredited Professional. Send questions/comments to cortellini@BroadRippleGazette.com