Active Buildings: modelling physical activity and movement in office buildings
Active Buildings is a 2-year research project collaboration between the Epidemiology and Public Health (EPH) Department (Population Health Sciences Faculty) and UCL IEDE.
3 February 2017
- Funding Body/Client: School for Public Health Research (SPHR) funded by National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)
- Project Partners: UCL Epidemiology and Public Health
- Total Project Value: £471,005
- UCL/IEDE Project Value Share: £234,781
- Duration: 2012-2015
- Status : Active/Complete
The project has been funded by the then newly created NIHR School for Public Health Research. Launched in April 2012, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Public Health Research (SPHR) is a collaboration between eight leading academic centres with excellence in applied public health research in England.
The overall project aim is to understand how physical activity (PA) accumulates within office environments and to model the relationship between workplace layout and PA. These data will be used as a basis for estimating the potential for PA change through layout modification in future interventions or the design of new buildings. Agent based modelling and indoor tracking (active RFID) are part of the project's innovative approaches to this complex research question.
The Active Buildings research project aims to evaluate how office buildings’ layout impacts on employees’ activity (sitting/standing/stepping) during working hours. It is a unique collaboration between public health and built environment experts from UCL, led by the late Prof Jane Wardle, and by Prof Alexi Marmot, with Dr Abi Fisher and Dr Marcella Ucci acting as Co-Investigators. Researchers on the project were: Dr Lee Smith, Dr Alexia Sawyer, Dr Richard Spinney and Ms Marina Konstantatou.
The project took place between Nov 2012 and March 2015 (2 years and 5 months). It has been funded by the then newly created NIHR School for Public Health Research. Launched in April 2012, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Public Health Research (SPHR) is a collaboration between eight leading academic centres with excellence in applied public health research in England.
The project was exploratory in nature, and involved an observational study of 10 UK-based office ‘buildings’, where:
- ‘Spatial metrics’ were calculated, based on floorplans analysis and a building audit;
- Questionnaire on self-reported activity and other factors, including perception of the environment, were distributed to all employees of specific floors;
- On a sub-sample of participants, walking, sitting and standing was monitored via accelerometers (activPAL), and BMI and blood pressure measurements were taken (171 participants who provided activPAL data, 131 had ≥3 consecutive days of workday data).
- On a smaller sample, indoor proximity tracking of participant location was carried out using active RFID technology.
The project resulted in several publications, such as those addressing:
- A description of the study protocol
- The innovative combination of RIFD indoor tracking with data from accelerometers
- A systematic review on occupational physical activity and sedentary behaviour correlates
- The role of workers’ perception of the social environment
- The role of habits on occupational physical activity
- The main findings on the associations between spatial metrics and workplace step-count and sitting.
- An analysis of weekday and weekend patterns of sitting, walking and standing for office-based workers
Prof Alexi Marmot and Dr Marcella Ucci were also Guest Editors of the Special Issue on Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and the Indoor Built Environment, in the Building Research Information Journal.
Moreover, a software tool called 'Spatial Metric Calculator' has been created for the precise measurement of the internal office environment that is essential for research of similar nature to AB. See information on the Spatial Metrics here and a video tutorial here.
PIs: Jane Wardle and Alexi Marmot
Co-Is: Marcella Ucci, Abi Fisher, Mark Hamer and Gareth Ambler
Rs: Marina Konstantatou, Richard Spinney, Alexia Sawyer and Lee Smith
Alexi Marmot and Marcella Ucci are Guest Editors of the Special Issue on Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and the Indoor Built Environment in the Building Research Information Journal (publication expected spring 2015).
This project is currently underway. To date, the following outputs have been produced/are planned:
- An academic journal paper based on the work has been published: Active buildings: modelling physical activity and movement in office buildings. An observational study protocol, BMJ Open, 2013. In addition, a systematic review paper is under review and 4 other papers are in preparation.
- As part of the work undertaken a computer-based tool to help assess the physical activity and sedentary behaviour potential associated with office buildings’ layout is also under development.
- Marcella Ucci has written an opinion piece for the Active by Design website (April 2014), outlining the ideas behind the project.
To date, a number of meetings have been set up with relevant national and international policy makers who have expressed an interest in the project and its future results. These include:
- Public Health England: in relation to their national physical activity framework and the Workplace Wellbeing Charter;
- Built Environment and Healthy Housing , New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
In addition, the project team has engaged with relevant organisations who have expressed particular interest in the project and its future outcomes. These organisations include:
- Center for Active Design, (New York): The CAD have contributed to relevant sections of the Active Design Guidelines and have hosted a key project event.
- Active by Design: An initiative of the Design Council.
- Greater London Authority: The GLA has been engaged through their public health specialist on planning.
Project Link: http://www.activebuildings.co.uk/
For further information please contact: Marcella Ucci