How to plan for healthy communities

Article By:

Intermediate Land Planner

Everybody should know that we all have the right to live in a safe, peaceful and healthy community. No one should be disadvantaged in achieving their full health potential because of where they live, who they are, or what social position they occupy. Let us not settle for less, we always deserve the best.

Those are the main reasons why urban planners, land developers, decision-makers, and community members alike, advocate and partner in ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to live a healthy life through cohesive urban planning.

Let’s outline the major factors that contribute to planning for a healthy community.


Healthy food options

For some, eating a healthy diet may be more difficult because healthy food options are not readily available, easily accessible, or affordable near their homes.

1. Access to healthy food - Access to a full-service grocery store within reasonable driving, biking, and walking distance must be considered. Imagine having wide options of your favorite fruits and vegetables, farm fresh dairy and meat. Farm-to-table can still be experienced in the comfort of your home even in urban areas.

2. Community Garden - Incorporating space for growing food onsite in community gardens, edible landscaping, or small-scale farming should be considered. This will not only help sustain our healthy food needs but can also be a chance to expose our kids to and show them how fun gardening is.

Get around the community more easily without a car

Walking, biking, and other active modes of transport are great ways to fit exercise into our busy daily routines. These will also encourage us to get outdoors and get some fresh air, interact with our neighbors, and help reduce emissions caused by traffic.

1. Neighborhood Amenities - The project should provide access to the amenities within reasonable proximity safely and effectively.

2. Parks and Open space - Access to parks and open spaces associated with increased physical activity should be provided. These areas can also be used for community events. It is ideal to consider a nature-based playground for the kids to explore and widen their imagination, with aerobic equipment, trails that are safe and suitable for quiet walks and areas for the furry friends to run around. Properly designed and located amenities help in encouraging people to have an active lifestyle.

3. Walkability - The project must enhance walkability by providing sidewalks and a highly connected street network.

  • Pedestrian and bicyclist access to streets, commercial use, or parks and recreational areas.
  • Smalland walkable blocks.
  • At least one through connection of all blocks.

4. Bicycle Connectivity - High levels of bicycle connectivity through a safe, well-marked, and complete bicycle network should be applied to the plan. The cycle paths should also provide lots of options for recreational cycling, whether for exercise or for a fun family outing.

Below are the key components of a successful bicycle network.

  • On-street bicycle facilities are present
  • Visible bicycle lane striping on the road surface
  • Safe and accessible bicycle stand/parking
  • Narrower travel lanes, slower target speeds, and signages


Safe and secured community

The state of our mental health, social interaction, and physical activity is hugely influenced by how safe we feel our surroundings are.  It is easy to participate in outdoor activities or enjoy strolling around our neighborhood when we are comfortable and worry-free.

1. Injury Prevention - Considering design features that moderate traffic speeds and enhance driver awareness of bicycle and pedestrian activity helps reduce severe injury from collisions. These features have a huge positive impact, particularly on those people with limited mobility, such as the elderly and children. The risk of injury is greater on busier streets, especially those with more than two lanes. However, there are ways to improve pedestrian safety listed below.

  • Speed humps and bulb-outs
  • Legible and visible signages
  • For all two-lane streets, on-street parking and bicycle lanes should be clearly marked.
  • Crosswalks where you can see and be seen by drivers. 

2. Pedestrian Environment - The project should contribute to a safe, complete network of sidewalks, benches, and a comfortable pedestrian environment for residents of all ages. It should ensure pedestrian safety by considering these criteria:

  • Pedestrian signals, pavement flashing lights, four-way stops, crosswalks, and/or pedestrian overpasses.
  • Barrier-free paths that facilitate all users.
  • Legible signage that minimizes confusion and communicates important way-finding information to all users.

3. Lighting - Adequate neighborhood lighting is very important to increase safety and prevent the occurrence of crime.  It also helps increase physical activity after dark. Below are the major features to consider.

  • Lightingfor higher visibility of alleys, streets, walkways, parks, playgrounds, trails, and bikeways for both pedestrians and vehicular traffic.
  • Sufficient lighting for safety while ensuring limited or no glare for pedestrians, drivers, or light trespass to neighbors.

Inclusive community

An ideal community should be a perfect place to live regardless of age, abilities, income, and ethnic group, and engage all its citizens in the decision-making process. Everyone deserves to feel that they are treated fairly and equally regarding accessing the resources needed to live healthy, stable, and fulfilling lives.

1. Accessibility - It should be a must to consider the inclusivity of individuals with mobility challenges or limitations.

  • ADA-compliant structure and walkways, bathrooms, and parking.
  • Rest/waiting areas should offer shade, seats, and shelter from the weather.

2. Common gathering spaces - Having common gathering spaces in a community gives a chance for the neighborhood to get to know each other and create bonds. The good design of public spaces is important to ensure not only their purpose but also the encouragement of socialization and activities.

  • Pavilion with seating area
  • Parks and playgrounds that promote community engagement.


Clean environment

Everyone deserves a clean place to live, work and play. It is important for a neighborhood to have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. When developing or planning for the community, the protection of the natural features of the site needs to be considered because it helps make the surroundings more resilient to pollution, disasters, and human disease.

1. Neighborhood Air Quality - Residential units should be oriented as far as possible from the roadways. Incorporating the following strategies will help reduce or eliminate poor air quality.

  • Speed reduction mechanisms like roundabouts, speed bumps, and traffic signal management.
  • Landscape buffers to increase pollution dispersion.
  • Proper open space percentage ratio

2. Noise Pollution - A quiet and peaceful environment results in a happy and contented neighborhood. Experiencing long-term exposure to excessive noise can lead to fatigue, stress, and loss of productivity. The noisy surroundings can have a detrimental effect on residents’ physical and mental health. Considering the following will help avoid noise pollution in a community.

  • Landscape buffers
  • Strategic planning on the location of living spaces and noise-compatible land uses
  • Maximizing local terrain to restrict the impact of sound.



It is very challenging to achieve an ideal and perfectly planned community considering lots of factors such as budget, space availability, and even climate change. But being aware and knowing what we deserve can make a huge difference. I hope that we can all experience living in a thriving, sustainable and most of all, healthy community by considering the criteria mentioned above.

Check out my favorite master-planned community “Ellenbrook” located in the suburb of Perth, Western Australia, and see for yourself why it was awarded as the world’s best master-planned community in 2015.


How Nadi Group Can Help

Healthier environments for living and thriving have always been our objective at  Nadi Group. We are dedicated to working in close connection with land developers to balance the built and natural environments and possess the required expertise to consistently provide innovative solutions. Some examples include:

  • Sustainable housing solutions that help reduce the environmental footprint and create cleaner and healthier living spaces – Pointe Hebert
  • Landscape Architecture and green infrastructure that encourage active living and walkability through public spaces and communities. – Bridgwater Centre
  • Resilient urban design that promotes adaptability for all ages, with strong opportunities for seamless connections in mixed-use environments – Stony Mountain Site A Secondary Plan

Nadi Group empowers developers to create a future for people that is healthy and sustainable using innovative urban and suburban planning.

Visit to find out more about the sourcebook.

3150 Livernois Road,
Unit 136
Troy, Michigan
Toll: 844-669-6234

289 Garry Street,
Unit 300
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3C 1H9
Toll: 844-669-6234

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