The term built environment refers to the human-made surroundings that provide the setting for human activity, ranging in scale from buildings and parks or green space to neighborhoods and cities that can often include their supporting infrastructure, such as water supply, or energy networks. The built environment is a material, spatial and cultural product of human labor that combines physical elements and energy in forms for living, working and playing. It has been defined as “the human-made space in which people live, work, and recreate on a day-to-day basis”. The “built environment encompasses places and spaces created or modified by people including buildings, parks, and transportation systems”. In recent years, public health research has expanded the definition of "built environment" to include healthy food access, community gardens, “walkabilty", and “bikability”. Early concepts of built environments were introduced thousands of years ago. Hippodamus of Miletos, known as the “father of urban planning”, developed Greek cities from 498 BC to 408 BC that created order by using grid plans that mapped the city. These early city plans eventually gave way to the City Beautiful movement in the late 1800s and early 1900s, inspired by Daniel Hudson Burnham, a reformist for the Progressivism movement who actively promoted “a reform of the landscape in tandem with political change”. The effort was in partnership with others who believed that beautifying American cities would improve the moral compass of the cities and encourage the upper class to spend their money in cities. This beautification process included parks and architectural design.
Modern built environment
Currently built environments are typically used to describe the interdisciplinary field that addresses the design, construction, management, and use of these man-made surroundings as an interrelated whole as well as their relationship to human activities over time (rather than a particular element in isolation or at a single moment in time). The field is generally not regarded as a traditional profession or academic discipline in its own right, instead drawing upon areas such as economics, law, public policy, public health, management, geography, design, technology, and environmental sustainability. Within the field of public health, built environments are referred to as building or renovating areas in an effort to improve the community’s well-being through construction of “aesthetically, health improved, and environmentally improved landscapes and living structures”.
The term "urban planning" indicates that much of the environment we inhabit is man-made and that these artificial surroundings are so extensive and cohesive that with regards to the consumption of resources, waste disposal, and productive enterprise, they are similar to organisms.
In public health, built environments refer to physical environments that are designed with health and wellness as integral parts of the communities. Research has indicated that how neighborhoods are created can affect both the physical activity and mental health of the communities’ residents. Studies have shown that built environments that were expressly designed to improve physical activity are linked to higher rates of physical activity, which in turn, positively affects health. Neighborhoods with more walkability had lower rates of obesity as well as increased physical activity among its residents. They also had lower rates of depression, higher social capital, and less alcohol abuse. Walkability features in these neighborhoods include safety, sidewalk construction, as well as destinations in which to walk. In addition, the perception of a walkable neighborhood, one that is perceived to have good sidewalks and connectivity, is correlated with higher rates of physical activity. Assessments of walkability have been completed through the use of GIS programs. One such...