Introduction The rapid increase in apartment construction in Australia has raised concerns about the impacts of poorly designed and located buildings on resident health and well-being. While apartment design policies exist, their content varies across jurisdictions and evidence on their impact on health and well-being is lacking. This cross-sectional observational study (2017–2021) aims to generate empirical evidence to guide policy decisions on apartment development and help to create healthy, equitable higher-density communities. Objectives include to benchmark the implementation of health-promoting apartment design requirements and to identify associations between requirements and resident health and well-being outcomes.
Methods and analysis Eligible buildings in three Australian cities with different apartment design guidelines will be stratified by area disadvantage and randomly selected (~n=99). Building architects, developers and local governments will be approached to provide endorsed development plans from which apartment and building design features will be extracted. Additional data collection includes a resident survey (~n=1000) to assess environmental stressors and health and well-being impacts and outcomes, and geographic information systems measures of the neighbourhood. The study has 85% power to detect a difference of 0.5 SD in the primary outcome of mental well-being (Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale) at a 5% level of significance. Analyses will compare policy compliance and health-promoting design features between cities and area disadvantage groups. Regression models will test whether higher policy compliance (overall and by design theme) is associated with better health and well-being, and the relative contribution of the neighbourhood context.
Ethics and dissemination Human Research Ethics Committees of RMIT University (CHEAN B 21146-10/17) and the University of Western Australia (RA/4/1/8735) approved the study protocol. In addition to academic publications, the collaboration will develop specific health-promoting indicators to embed into the monitoring of apartment design policy implementation and impact, and co-design research dissemination materials to facilitate uptake by decision makers.
- design guidelines
- planning policy
- apartment buildings
- higher density
- public health
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Contributors SF conceived and designed the study. PH, CM, JB, AD-S, BG-C and JA had input to the study design. SF and CM drafted the manuscript. All the authors contributed to the manuscript drafts and read and approved the final manuscript.
Funding SF is supported by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) (DE160100140) and RMIT Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellowship, PH by a Healthway Research Fellowship (#32992) and the Australian Urban Design Research Centre, and BG-C by a National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Principal Research Fellowship (#1107672). The High Life Study is funded by an ARC, DECRA, DE160100140, and a UWA Fellowship Support Scheme grant, RA/1/1997/43; Perth and Sydney arms of the High Life Study are supported by funding from the Western Australian (WA) Health Promotion Foundation (Healthway; #31986).
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Ethics approval The study protocol has been approved by the RMIT University Design and Social Context College Human Ethics Advisory Network (Subcommittee of the RMIT Human Research Ethics Committee) (CHEAN B 21146-10/17) and the University of Western Australia Human Ethics Research Committee (RA/4/1/8735).
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.