There are many ways to assess the built environment. Below are examples of different scan and audit tools that evaluate the physical design of a community’s environment by collecting information such as land use, sidewalk availability, road volume, and access to parks. They can help identify specific issues or barriers to a safe and healthy community. Additionally, audits inform stakeholders on potential solutions to encourage safer access to street networks, improve access to green space and encourage a sense of community.
Environmental Scan Tool (EST)
The Harris County Public Health Built Environment Unit (HCPH BE) Unit developed an Environmental Scan Tool (EST) which was adapted from the Pedestrian Environmental Data Scan (PEDS)1. EST collects data at the street segment level on pedestrian, bicycle, and drainage infrastructure, as well as Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates for certain street elements and traffic control devices (e.g., bus stops, stop signs, ADA ramps, pedestrian crossing signals). The EST field data can then be linked to a geospatial streets dataset and layered with socioeconomic data to form baseline maps of the walking environment. For additional training protocol and materials, please email BuiltEnvironment@phs.hctx.net
PhotoVoice is a resource that allows individuals to capture visual representations of their everyday lives so that researchers working with them may be able to gain understanding of opportunities and problems the community may face that previously might have been invisible (PhotoVoice). See HCPH guide for utilizing PhotoVoice.
The BE Unit has access to drones that assist in rapid and comprehensive data gathering through the observation of hard-to-reach areas and examination of existing conditions from a new vantage point. Drone2mapTM will allow the BE Unit to transform raw drone-captured imagery into professional-quality 2D and 3D imagery products in ArcGIS®. (ESRI®)
Walk Score has developed a scoring system that rates the walkability of any address from 0-100. It measures access to mixed land use, as calculated based on the variety and distance to five categories of commercial and frequently visited points of interest: educational, retail, food, entertainment, and recreational parks and gyms.
Walk Score can be used at a high level to help compare built environments. It should be noted that, while walk score considers the number of destinations in an area, it does not take into account the quality of destinations, the aesthetics, or safety of the walking environment.
ParkScoreTM & ParkServeTM
ParkScore and ParkServe work to create and improve neighborhood parks within a 10-minute walk from resident’s home. Their resources provide a comprehensive built environment data for people and their communities. ParkScore awards cities points based on four categories: acreage, investment, amenities and access. ParkServe is a tool used to determine location of future parks based on the greatest need.
1. Clifton, Kelly J., Livi Smith, Andrea D., & Rodriguez, Daniel. “The Development and Testing of an Audit for the Pedestrian Environment,” Journal of Landscape & Urban Planning, 80(1-2), 2007. pp. 95-110.
Retrieved from http://planningandactivity.unc.edu/RP1.htm