Healthy Built Environments

Last updated on August 2, 2017

The built environment includes our homes, communities, schools, workplaces, parks/recreation areas, business areas, roads and green spaces, and varies in size from large-scale urban areas to smaller rural developments.  How communities are planned and built, and the services and resources provided within them, directly impacts our physical, mental, and social health. These impacts are reflected in levels of social connectedness, mental and physical fitness, chronic disease, obesity, and injury.

Community planners in British Columbia have paid increasing attention to the relationship between the built environment and the well-being of citizens. People are supported to be more physically active, socially connected and healthier when they live in communities that have:

  • mixed land use and compactness (e.g. stores within walking distance of homes)
  • higher residential density
  • well-connected streets and trail networks (e.g. linking neighborhoods, commercial areas and parks)
  • opportunities for active transport (e.g. walking, cycling and use of public transit)
  • acceptable air and water quality, and
  • visually pleasing features. (e.g. natural areas, gardens, public gathering places, heritage buildings)


We partner with many provincial and national organizations to inform and enable local governments, community planners and design professionals to create and maintain healthier built environments.

Healthy Built Environment Linkages Toolkit

The Healthy Built Environment Linkages Toolkit is a project of the Provincial Health Services Authority under the guidance of the Healthy Built Environment Alliance, a voluntary network that provides leadership and action for healthier, more livable communities. The toolkit provides consistent evidence-based and expert-informed messages for use in communications and discussion around health and the built environment. It features best practices in planning, policies and practices related to the five physical features of the built environment: neighbourhood design; housing; transportation networks; natural environments; and food systems.

Onsite Sewage Systems

The Ministry of Health provides policy support for land use management, which includes both onsite sewage disposal and subdivision activities. The fundamental goal is to minimize, mitigate and/or prevent potential risks to human health. This is achieved through legislative requirements, supporting policies and guidelines.

Water Quality

Clean, healthy water is vital for life to survive and thrive. Both human and natural disturbance can impact water quality, putting at risk the plants, animals, and humans that rely on that water. The Province regularly monitors the water quality of many water bodies across B.C. to ensure they are safe and clean.

Learn More

By supporting land use planning, transportation and development decisions that promote these attributes, communities can be healthier, more livable, inclusive, safe and sustainable. Here are some healthy links:

Healthy Canada by Design (Coalition Linking Action and Science for Prevention)

This partnership of national health, planning and transportation organizations, region and local health authorities, non-governmental organizations and university researchers collaborates to bring health considerations into land use and transportation planning processes with the goal of creating healthy communities that support active transportation and physical activity.

Smart Growth BC

A non-governmental organization devoted to fiscally, socially and environmentally responsible land use and development works throughout the province with community groups, businesses, developers, planners, municipalities and the public to create more livable communities in British Columbia.