Built Environment Resources

Communities looking to invest in changes to the built environment can make more informed decisions by understanding how these changes can promote healthy living and beneficial, long- term population health outcomes. The following tools help to provide baseline information on key built environment design concepts and help to assess health outcomes associated with changes in the built environment. 

The following resources employ a variety of strategies to promote health and reduce inequalities in the built environment.


Safe Routes to School Toolkit - Coming Soon
The purpose of this toolkit is to provide users with the knowledge and understanding needed to bring SRTS to their community and find solutions that work best for them.

Healthy Development Guide - Coming Soon
Building Healthy in Harris County is designed to promote healthy urban planning and development by providing developers, planners, architects, public health, and other entities with a robust guide of key health considerations that highlight the potential health implications of development plans and projects. This non-regulatory guide is intended to prompt conversations and critical thinking with regard to health and development.

One Health Toolkit – Coming Soon

Measuring the Built Environment

Infrastructure Assessment Tool (IAT)
The Harris County Public Health Built Environment Unit (HCPH BE) Unit developed the Infrastructure Assessment Tool (IAT), formerly the Environmental Scan Tool (EST). The IAT was adapted from validated, paper-based walkability audits and developed into an online platform to collect data on pedestrian, bicycle, and road infrastructure. The IAT collects data at the street segment level on pedestrian, bicycle, and drainage infrastructure, as well as GPS coordinates for certain street elements and traffic control devices (e.g., bus stops, stop signs, ADA ramps, pedestrian crossing signals). The IAT field data can then be linked to a geospatial streets dataset and layered with socioeconomic data to form baseline maps of the walking environment. Visit the IAT web map to view existing data. For additional information or inquire about using the tool, please email [email protected]

Walk ScoreTM
Walk Score has developed a scoring system that rates the walkability of any address from 0-100. It measures access to mixed land use, as calculated based on the variety and distance to five categories of commercial and frequently visited points of interest: educational, retail, food, entertainment, and recreational parks and gyms.

Walk Score can be used at a high level to help compare built environments. It should be noted that, while walk score considers the number of destinations in an area, it does not take into account the quality of destinations, the aesthetics, or safety of the walking environment.

ParkScoreTM ParkServeTM
ParkScore and ParkServe work to create and improve neighborhood parks within a 10-minute walk from resident’s home. Their resources provide a comprehensive built environment data for people and their communities. ParkScore awards cities points based on four categories: acreage, investment, amenities and access. ParkServe is a tool used to determine location of future parks based on the greatest need.

General Built Environment Resources

Safe Routes to School (SRTS)
SRTS is a national initiative to improve the safety, accessibility, and environment surrounding schools by encouraging active transport and increased connectivity.

Tactical Urbanism
The Streets Plans Collaborative published a collection of short-term, local strategies typically used to instigate change in the urban environment.

Crash Modification Factors (CMF) Clearinghouse
CMFs are multiplicative factors used to estimate the reduction in crashes by implementing a change in the roadway.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)
Implementing CPTED involves changing the physical environment to deter criminal activity by way of increased natural surveillance, access control, and territorial reinforcement.

Healthy Food Access
Healthy Food Access supports bringing healthy foods to corner stores where fresh produce is uncommon and options are limited.

Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC) Livable Centers Program
The Livable Centers works with local communities to create a built environment where people are able to access destinations with less reliance on their cars by incorporating amenities such as pedestrian and bicycle facilities. The Livable Centers Program also promotes a sense of community and an increase in jobs leading to an outcome of improved quality of life.

Houston Complete Streets
The Complete Streets and Transportation Plan goal is to provide walkable and bike-friendly neighborhoods that are safe and accessible for people of all abilities. The Complete Streets approach is incorporated into the City of Houston’s Major Thoroughfare and Freeway Plan annual process. 

Houston Vision Zero
This plan aims to end traffic deaths and serious injuries and create safe, equitable, accessible streets for people walking, rolling, biking, driving, and connecting to transit. 

Harris County Vision Zero
Harris County Vision Zero will be an integrated part of future transportation plans and projects to reach the overarching goal of zero traffic fatalities and severe injuries in Harris County by 2030.

California Department of Public Health Integrated Transport and Health Impact Model (ITHIM)
The California Integrated Transport and Health Impact Model (ITHIM) is an advanced modeling and planning tool that quantifies the health impacts of changes in transportation.

Community Engagement Resources

Effective community engagement is key to ensuring all voices are heard, especially in socially vulnerable communities and populations. Engaging the community creates an open dialogue to provide a comprehensive perspective of health issues and their root causes. Community involvement builds trust and consensus and provides a platform for the community to engage in planning processes that affect their health and overall well-being.

The following are strategies to achieve successful and equitable engagement from communities and stakeholders.

  • Hire local ambassadors
  • Go to the people – meet them at parks, local events, schools, etc.
  • Provide incentives for time and participation
  • Ensure that participants are representative of the impacted community
  • Host engagement events in multiple languages and at an understandable reading level
  • Host events on different days and times
  • Allow for opportunities for community input and feedback at various stages of a project

PhotoVoice is a resource that allows individuals to capture visual representations of their everyday lives so that researchers working with them may be able to gain understanding of opportunities and problems the community may face that previously might have been invisible.

Groundwork USA
Tip sheet for best practices for meaningful community engagement.

National Recreation and Parks Association - Community Engagement Resource Guide

The Society of Practitioners of Health Impact Assessment (SOPHIA) outlines a number of stakeholder engagement tools and materials.

Host a Community Design Workshop
These workshops bring community stakeholders together to discuss challenges and potential solutions specific to a community or neighborhood