Presenter: Evrim Demir
Advisor(s): Prof. Robin Moore
Author(s): Evrim Demir
Graduate Program: Design

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

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 in the past decade. 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. It utilizes a multiple case study research where 4 suburban residential planned unit developments (PUDs) located in Triangle area of NC are selected and studied. A 2X2 matrix formed by ordinal indicators of neighborhood amenities and neighborhood site layout variables is used in case selection. Neighborhood physical environments are objectively analyzed using spatial analysis techniques such as GIS and Space Syntax through density, land-use diversity, integration, and connectivity values. Physical activity and social interaction variables are measured using a multi-method approach utilizing both objective and subjective methods: direct observation of neighborhood-wide activity; and a community survey on user perceptions, evaluations, physical/social activity patterns, favorite places/routes with reasons. 

ANCOVA and GIS are used to statistically and spatially analyze the collected data. Specifically, how site design characteristics of PUDs influence activity patterns of the residents in various ways are studied. The spatial differences and similarities across/within cases are used to explain variations in activity levels and types. The results of the study add to the small but growing knowledge base in the effects of design on public health; and increase an understanding of how community design can contribute to addressing the issue of sedentary lifestyles.