Feature Article

Sprawl and Health: Are Modern Land-Use Patterns Making Us Sick?

Quite often in the greenbuilding arena we come across strategies or ideas that offer multiple levels of benefit. For example, some of the best stormwater management practices improve aquifer recharge while reducing flooding and nutrient loading downstream. Or, consider straw-based particleboard, which is made from a waste agricultural material and is also free of formaldehyde-based binders. Recent reports from the medical community address another example of synergistic benefits. We are learning that strategies to avoid or mitigate sprawl offer tremendous environmental benefits (reduced pollution from automobile travel, reduced asphalt use for roadways, etc.), and they can also help protect our health and safety.

This article examines the link between human health and land-use planning. We will see that just as we need to design and build our homes and work environments so that they don’t make us sick, so must we design our communities to keep us healthy.

Published April 1, 2002