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Universal Design in Sustainable Urban Planning

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Green Planning for Cities and Communities

Part of the book series: Research for Development ((REDE))


There is a fil rouge connecting Universal Design and sustainability which within the Brundtland Report can be recognized in the pillar of social sustainability. The demographic and epidemiological aspects that are affecting western countries, the definitions of health and healthy cities given by the World Health Organization and the international documents dealing with sustainable development oblige building designers and urban planners to reconsider their social role and become “health operators”. The strict link between human beings and the built environment underlined both by Universal Design and International Classification of Functioning is the reasons why our cities and settlements need high quality urban spaces in order to enhance everyday life social dimension. Three urban projects in Manhattan, Den Haag and Copenhagen will be presented to show how sustainable urban planning can promote social interaction and inclusion, cohesion of communities, human health and well-being, cultural expression and dialogue among a wide diversity of people and cultures.

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  1. 1.

    According to John Wilmoth “The increasing concentration of people in cities provides a way of more economically providing services We find that urban populations have better access to health care and education” (The Guardian 2018).

  2. 2.

    If we consider the trends related to New York in 1880 deaths for infectious diseases accounted for 57% and chronic diseases for 12%, in 1940, the scenario completely changed, and deaths for infectious diseases accounted for 11% and chronic diseases for 64%. This is due both to the improved hygienic conditions within the city and to the introduction of antibiotic. The trend has increased, and in 2005, the figures are 9% for infectious diseases and 75% for chronic diseases (City of New York 2010).

  3. 3.

    In this perspective, Hans George Gadamer has written: “Wanting to define medical science in the best way, it can be qualified as a science of disease” (translation by the author) (Gadamer 1994).

  4. 4.

    The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will be considered subsequently.

  5. 5.

    According to the Italian law, “Accessibility is the possibility, even for people with partial or total motor or sensory impairments, to reach the building or its parts, to get in easily and to use all the spaces and the furniture safety and in autonomy”.

  6. 6.

    Art. 9.1 says: “To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas. These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, inter alia:

    (a) Buildings, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housing, medical facilities and workplaces;

    (b) Information, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services”.

  7. 7.

    In particular consider the following targets:

    11.1 By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums;

    11.2 By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons;

    11.3 By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries.


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Arenghi, A. (2020). Universal Design in Sustainable Urban Planning. In: Dall'O', G. (eds) Green Planning for Cities and Communities. Research for Development. Springer, Cham.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-41071-1

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