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Five active design triggers to kickstart the health of your building

Not all the science behind StepJockey is brand new. In fact, the basics of getting people moving by changing their environment has decades of research to back it up.

Using prompts to get people to climb the stairs is recommended by health agencies, interior designers and people-flow experts around the world. In the States, the Center For Active Design is charged with using design skills and research to create public and private spaces that are as healthy as possible for the people using them.

The Center helps get people moving around efficiently and actively using the principles of smart circulation

The focus is on designing buildings to change the mindset that stairs should only be used in an emergency. Instead, stairs in a building should be for “everyday use”. Active and universal design can have a whole range of benefits. For example, greater general use of stairs can free up elevators for individuals with physical challenges. 

To help improve the activity levels in your building, whether new or old, we've put together our top five active design tips to promote activity:

1. Promote access to stairs

The first step to getting people to use the stairs is to remove the physical barriers.

In particular electronic or physical locks between staircases and floor areas should be eliminated in all possible circumstances.

The Center also argues that stairs should be made wide enough to accommodate travel in groups and in two directions. Research indicates that wider stairs are associated with increased stair use – this may be as people can continue conversations on the stairs and be more sociable.

2. Location, location, location

If you’re already in your building it may be too late to change, but a key factor in how many people use your building’s stairs is their proximity to the entrance and natural lines of travel. In fact, research indicates that stairs located within 25 feet of an entrance and seen before the lift are more likely to be used for everyday travel.

Even just ensuring that stairs are near the elevator can help as this will help impatient lift users take the stairs instead of waiting for an elevator car.

Lines of sight also play a part and are easier to change - one study found that stair use decreased as the number of turns required to access the stairs from the entrance increased.

3. Make stairs visible

In existing buildings, you can boost stair climbing simply by ensuring they’re accessible and visible from elevator lobbies, entry areas, corridors and amenities such as cafeterias. The best designed buildings will make a “feature” of the stairs – encasing them in glass to increases visibility.

Similarly, mandatory fire doors don’t have to be opaque - incorporating fire-rated glass enclosures can enhance stair visibility.

As a simpler step, the Center For Active Design also suggests that “point-of-decision” signs that encourage people waiting for elevators to take the stairs can be a significant help.

It advises architects, designers and facilities managers to “match motivational message with building users’ sensibilities and travel motivations. For example, signs may emphasize health benefits, calorie expenditures, weight control, or convenience.”

4. Increase stair desirability

A great way to “pull” people onto the stairs is to make the environment more appealing – making it more inviting and stimulating than the elevator. Strategies to enhance the sensory appeal of the stairs include:

  • Incorporating natural daylight into stairs to invite use.

  • Selecting bright, inviting colours.

  • Strategically placing windows to highlight interesting viewpoints, such as views onto nature or indoor gathering areas.

  • Adding artwork to the stairwell walls or steps. 

5. Reduce lift desirability

Finally, the Center For Active Design suggest removing the emphasise from lifts and escalators as the default mode of transport. Naturally (and legally) elevators have to be accessible, but locating elevators out of direct view from the building’s entrance is a good start.

Modern lift systems can also be adjusted to serve a building more appropriately. For example, programming lifts to not return to the ground floor with the doors open when not in use (the most common and most convenient default). Reducing the lift car travel speed or the cab door open-and-close speeds can also help boost stair use. This may also make lifts more accessible to individuals with physical challenges – whether that be a disability or carrying heavy packages.

Want to learn more about how StepJockey's smart stair signs and gamification platform can drive up stair use in your building? Get in touch today to find out more.

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