Today's forward-thinking communities are focused on sustainability, and an Environmental Protection Agency report released recently provides new support for the trend. The report, Our Built and Natural Environments: A Technical Review of the Interactions among Land Use, Transportation, and Environmental Quality, zeroes in on the ties that bind community development and public health. "Certain kinds of land use and transportation strategies — where and how we build our communities — can reduce the environmental and human health impacts of development,” per an EPA press statement.
The report describes current techniques and trends and potentially negative environmental impact and health risks. According to the press release:
· At least 850,000 acres of lakes, reservoirs, and ponds and 50,000 miles of rivers and streams are thought to be impaired by stormwater runoff.
· Although technology has reduced per-car vehicle emissions, an approximate 250% increase in vehicle miles travelled since 1970 has offset potential gains.
· Transportation is responsible for 27% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions; residential and commercial buildings contribute 18% and 17%, respectively.
Strategies noted in the report as less harmful — more socially and environmentally sustainable — approaches include safeguarding sensitive areas; focusing development in built-up areas and around existing transit stations; building compact; mixed-use developments; designing streets that are safe for all users, including walkers and bikers; and using green building techniques.
The report follows on a 2001 document, and it may serve as a resource for agencies and communities planning for future growth. “Whether it’s housing, transportation, or environmental issues, this report can help communities protect public health and the environment by avoiding harmful development strategies,” said EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe.
A webinar including more information about the report is scheduled for July 24, but this isn’t the first look at the connection between building and infrastructure and health. Check out this infographic from Visually on the effect of urban sprawl.
Also, projects currently are in the works in Fayetteville, Ark., Austin, Texas, and at the University of New Mexico, to better understand connections between development and issues including exercise and food production.