Neighborhood’s design encourages exercise and social interaction

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Residents of the pedestrian-oriented, activity-friendly Mueller development in Austin walked more, had improved social interactions with their neighbors and perceived more neighborhood cohesion than they did in their previous neighborhood, according to a study led by Xuemi Zhu, Texas A&M associate professor of architecture.

The study’s findings, said Zhu, show that Mueller’s design, which includes narrow, tree-lined streets with businesses and green spaces within short walking distance, has increased the physical activity and “neighborly” interactions of its residents, which was the intent of the development’s designers.

“The study also revealed significant reductions in residents’ driving, suggesting that walkable communities can also deliver important environmental benefits by reducing fuel consumption and environmental pollution,” said Zhu, who conducted the study with Chanam Lee, associate professor of landscape architecture, Zhipeng Lu, architecture lecturer and George Mann, professor of architecture. Zhu, Lee, Lu and Mann are part of the Design Research for Active Living Team in the Center for Health Systems & Design at Texas A&M’s College of Architecture.

The findings are based on data from 449 surveys of Mueller residents who answered questions about their physical activity and sense of community in Mueller and their previous residences.

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