Walkable buildings?

I’ve heard a lot about walkable neighbourhoods and am a huge proponent myself of living in and embracing such areas…but I’d never thought about walkable buildings until I read an article about the necessity for being able to move around a building using one’s own energy.

The premises:

  • buildings, if residential, should be a height that is only so high that people can actually access all of the apartments by foot, without the need for elevators.
  • stairwells should be more prominent and elevators/escalators less-so, while maintaining efficient options for mobility-impaired people to also get around the same building.
  • stairwells should also be decorated (hanging art?) or designed with aesthetics in mind, and not just a building requirement serving as an emergency exit route.
  • stairwells are designed for ease of use (think less steep).
  • layout of floors should be designed to almost evoke a desire to walk around.

There are a variety of reasons that support walkable buildings. One thought is that high rises will become obsolete in the near future with the rising cost of energy. Another is that a general increase in weight of a population must be countered by encouraging motion and movement; buildings have often been designed to allow folks to move around using the least amount of person energy required while consuming a lot of external energy (electricity, gas, water). Another is that it would improve the look and feel of the spaces that we choose to occupy.

How concerned should we be when we’re considering sustainability of buildings over decades? Density is important to prevent further sprawl (taking over green spaces) and to create more livable neighbourhoods…but is there a limit and a fine balance?



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