One way to plan land use in urban environments is from the perspective of environmental health and health hazard prevention: What can be done to minimise noise and dust in residential areas? How do we ensure that everyone has access to clean drinking water? What actions can we take to protect the environment and ourselves from various environmental toxins? The pursuit of a healthier living environment has also played an integral role in the development of urban planning. The concept of modern urban planning was born out of a desire to inject light and air into the cramped and smoky living conditions of the first industrial cities.
Today’s urban planners are more and more often called to come up with new ways to make living environments contribute to residents’ well-being. ‘Well-being’ in this context refers to a combination of residents’ physical, mental and social well-being. A well-designed urban environment addresses several of these aspects of well-being simultaneously. Physical activity promotes physical health, which is why sustainable urban environments need to offer opportunities for regular exercise. Short distances, interesting routes and easy access to local services and green spaces encourage walking and cycling. Urban green spaces and different kinds of natural environments also have a calming and relaxing effect on the mind.
It is not just beautiful scenery that appeals to the eye; we are also drawn to colors, materials and details. Walking around is often the way we form our impression of a city. Memorable environments are those that feature interesting and functional architecture on a human-friendly scale. Social well-being can be promoted by designing urban spaces that lure people to linger. Lingering creates opportunities for interacting with others and building a sense of community. Attractive environments produce positive urban experiences and make people feel at home.
In a broader sense, human well-being and the well-being of our planet are inextricably intertwined, and biodiversity loss in particular is also a threat to our existence. We all have our way of living and interacting with our environment. If we work together, however, we can steer our lifestyles and our hometown towards a healthier and more sustainable direction. A clean, invigorating and energizing environment is also a source of well-being for us humans.