The Influences of Site Design on Physical Activity and Social Interaction in Residential Planned Unit Developments

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Title: The Influences of Site Design on Physical Activity and Social Interaction in Residential Planned Unit Developments
Author: Demir, Evrim
Advisors: Dr. Daniel Rodriguez, Committee Member
Dr. Roger Mitchell, Committee Member
Dr. Perver Baran, Committee Co-Chair
Prof. Robin C. Moore, Committee Chair
Abstract: Rapid increase of overweight and obesity rates and related health consequences of diabetes and heart diseases have characterized the chronic health crisis facing the US population since the past decade. The lack of opportunities for daily physical activity in the built environment has been a major environmental factor causing increased sedentary lifestyles and contributing to this health crisis. Understanding the relationship between the built environment and physical activity is essential to evaluate the efficiency of possible environmental interventions, and therefore, is fundamental for creating and sustaining health-promotive environments. This study investigates the influences of residential neighborhood site design on daily routine physical and social interaction activities of individuals. The study utilizes a multiple case study design where four suburban residential planned unit developments (PUDs), located in Triangle area of North Carolina, are selected and studied. A 2X2 matrix, formed by ordinal indicators of neighborhood amenities and neighborhood site layout variables, is used as the determinant for case selection. Neighborhood physical environments are objectively analyzed using spatial analysis techniques such as GIS and Space Syntax (through integration, connectivity, and intelligibility values). Physical activity and social interaction variables are measured using a multi-method approach utilizing both objective (direct-observation of neighborhood-wide outdoor activities) and subjective methods (community survey investigating user perceptions and evaluations of neighborhood physical and social environment, as well as residents' physical⁄social activity patterns and their favorite places/routes with explanations for reasons of use). Statistical analysis systems (SAS) and geographic information systems (GIS) software are used to statistically and spatially analyze collected data. Specifically, how site design characteristics of PUDs influence various activity patterns of the residents is studied. The spatial differences and similarities across⁄within cases are used to explain variations in activity levels and types. The results of the study suggest that neighborhood site design has influences on physical activity and social patterns of individuals. Syntactical properties of residential neighborhoods are better predictors of physical activity levels than individual-level variables alone. This study adds to the small but growing knowledge base on the effects of design on public health and increases understanding of how community design can contribute to addressing the issue of sedentary lifestyles.
Date: 2007-08-07
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Design

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