Follow us

'Active Design'
making a difference

Our team and some of our clients were lucky enough to receive a visit from our UK counterpart Keith Brown last week.

Keith is extremely passionate about urban design and master planning interventions that promote greater levels of activity. Keith was part of the team who prepared the 'Active Design Guidelines' for Sport England, this publication was supported by Public Health England. 

Since the 1960s people have become less active in their daily lives, inactivity is a global issue and according to "today's 10 year olds are the first generation expected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents."

The Active Design concept brings together experience from master planning and urban design for new communities and regeneration in existing cities and regions. The guidelines lay out ten principles of Active Design that inspire and inform the design layout of cities, towns, villages, neighbourhoods, buildings, streets and open spaces to promote and ensure that design and planning responses encourage active and healthy communities. These principles draw from existing urban design practice and promote environments that offer individuals and communities the greatest potential to lead active and healthy lifestyles.

The ten principles are as follows:

  1. Activity for all
    Neighbourhoods, facilities and open spaces should be accessible to all users and should support sport and physical activity across all ages.
    Enabling those who want to be active, whilst encouraging those who are inactive to become active.
  2. Walkable communities
    Homes, schools, shops, community facilities, workplaces, open spaces and sports facilities should be within easy reach of each other.
    Creating the conditions for active travel between all locations.
  3. Connected walking and cycling routes
    All destinations should be connected by a direct, legible and integrated network of walking and cycling routes. Routes must be safe, well lit, overlooked, welcoming, well-maintained, durable and clearly signposted. Active travel (walking and cycling) should be prioritised over other modes of transport.
    Prioritising active travel through safe, integrated walking and cycling routes.
  4. Co-location of community facilities
    The co-location and concentration of retail, community and associated uses to support linked trips should be promoted. A mix of land uses and activities should be promoted that avoid the uniform zoning of large areas to single uses.
    Creating multiple reasons to visit a destination, minimising the number and length of trips and increasing the awareness and convenience of opportunities to participate in sport and physical activity.
  5. Network of multifunctional open space
    A network of multifunctional open space should be created across all communities to support a range of activities including sport, recreation and play plus other landscape uses including Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS), woodland, wildlife habitat and productive landscapes (allotments, orchards). Facilities for sport, recreation and play should be of an appropriate scale and positioned in prominent locations.
    Providing multifunctional spaces opens up opportunities for sport and physical activity and has numerous wider benefits.
  6. High quality streets and spaces
    Flexible and durable high quality streets and public spaces should be promoted, employing high quality durable materials, street furniture and signage.
    Well designed streets and spaces support and sustain a broader variety of users and community activities.
  7. Appropriate infrastructure
    Supporting infrastructure to enable sport and physical activity to take place should be provided across all contexts including workplaces, sports facilities and public space, to facilitate all forms of activity.
    Providing and facilitating access to facilities and other infrastructure to enable all members of society to take part in sport and physical activity.
  8. Active buildings
    The internal and external layout, design and use of buildings should promote opportunities for physical activity.
    Providing opportunities for activity inside and around buildings.
  9. Management, maintenance, monitoring and evaluation
    The management, long-term maintenance and viability of sports facilities and public spaces should be considered in their design. Monitoring and evaluation should be used to assess the success of Active Design initiatives and to inform future directions to maximise activity outcomes from design interventions.
    A high standard of management, maintenance, monitoring and evaluation is essential to ensure the long-term desired functionality of all spaces.
  10. Activity promotion and local champions
    Promoting the importance of participation in sport and physical activity as a means of improving health and wellbeing should be supported. Health promotion measures and local champions should be supported to inspire participation in sport and physical activity across neighbourhoods, workplaces and facilities.
    Physical measures need to be matched by community and stakeholder ambition, leadership and engagement.

Keith presented the concept to our Sydney audience, with a focus on the Community Housing sector. This sector has the opportunity to incorporate the principles when planning and designing to ensure that outcomes achieved create a better social housing experience that allows those living in social housing the opportunity to lead active and healthy lifestyles.

The guidelines have received recognition and are a finalist in the RTPI Awards for Excellence 2016 for excellence in Planning for the Community and Well-Being. We wish our UK counterparts the best of luck.

If you would like to access a copy of the guidelines, click here.

If you require further information on how David Lock Associates can assist you with Active Design, contact Kirsty Smith, +61 2 9699 2021 or

active design

Sign up