Tuesday, February 7, 2012

More on Stairs

I want to follow up on one of my previous posts about how city codes can have unintended side effects. The post in question regarded stairs and how architects design them to meet codes, which consequently make stair climbing uninviting and less likely to be used outside of an emergency.

My point was that if architects were allowed to design stairs to be more than blank walls and utility conduits, people would take them more, increasing the health benefits to everyone. The Los Angeles Times reports on a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine that concluded signs encouraging people to take the stairs increased their use. "The signs featured a pictogram of a man walking up stairs with text that read, 'Burn calories, not electricity. Take the stars.' The submessage read, 'Walking up the stairs just 2 minutes a day helps prevent weight gain. It also helps the environment.'"

They were placed on every floor of three different buildings and the increased use of stairs were observed in all three. While I still contend that use would increase with better design, as has been observed in places that considered that in the design phase, it might be interesting to note that overt reminders might overcome some of the tendency for humans to do what is easiest. However, it still won't overcome bad design, the kind illustrated in my wife's office building where the stairwell is only an exit on the first floor. If people have to take the elevator to the second floor, then the stairs to their final destination, well, I don't think it is hard to imagine the tendency to stay in the elevator.

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