Skip to main content Skip to site navigation

An Overview of Planning Concepts for Health and the Built Environment


These commonly used planning and land-use terms and concepts relate to creating healthy neighborhoods.

Active Living Community

A community designed to provide opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

A federal law, for the purposes of planning and land use, that generally requires businesses and public facilities and conveyances be accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Complete Streets

Streets designed to accommodate all modes of travel and enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities are able to safely move along and across a complete street.

Defensible Space

Open spaces, entry points and pathways configured to provide maximum opportunities for rightful users and/or residents to defend themselves against intruders and criminal activity.

Form-Based Codes

A method of regulating development to achieve a specific urban form primarily by controlling physical form, with a lesser focus on land use. Form-based codes address the relationship between building facades and the public realm, the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another and to the scale and types of streets and blocks.

Health Impact Assessment

A combination of procedures, methods and tools by which a policy, program or project may be judged in terms of its potential effects on the health of a population and the distribution of those effects within the population.

Neo-Traditional Development

Based on the characteristics typical of pre-World War II communities, neo-traditional development emphasizes distinct urban areas, each with its own commercial core and linked to one another by some form of transit. In addition to a central downtown, the many neighborhood centers provide a secondary service area that can be reached on foot from people’s homes.

New Urbanism

A design philosophy intended to create a strong sense of community by incorporating features of traditional small towns or urban neighborhoods. Compact, walkable neighborhoods with active streets are a key hallmark of new urbanism.

Smart Growth

A planning approach to discourage suburban sprawl at the periphery of a region. Smart growth facilitates infill and redevelopment of existing urban areas and is characterized by mixed uses, a range of densities and multimodal transportation options.

Sustainable Development

1. A pattern of physical development and resource use that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment, often described as development meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
2. Physical development that simultaneously provides for economic prosperity, environmental quality and social equity.

Traffic Calming

A strategic set of physical changes to streets to reduce vehicle speeds and volumes. It refers to the use of street design techniques, such as curb extensions, widened sidewalks, traffic circles and speed humps, to slow and control the flow of automobile traffic.

Transit-Oriented Development

Moderate- to higher-density development, located within easy walk of a major transit stop, generally with a mix of residential, employment and shopping opportunities designed for pedestrians without excluding the auto.

Log in