The Built Environment


What is the built environment?

  • All building, spaces, and products that are created or modified by people
  • Our homes, schools, workplaces, parks, business areas
  • Roads, trails, sidewalks, paths
  • The built environment extends overhead in the form of electric transmission lines and underground in the form of waste disposal sites and subway lines and across the county in the form of highways


Features of the built environment are numerous and include:

  • Land use (presence or type of building placed on land, density, designated use)
    • Green space (playgrounds, gardens)
    • Public spaces (meeting places, gathering spots)
    • Amenities (street furniture, outdoor dining areas, public restrooms)
    • Landscaping (trees, lighting)
    • Buildings (height, number, appearance)
    • Safety (lighting, sight lines)
  • Transportation
    • Streets, roads, and highways (design, pattern, traffic calming measures)
    • Sidewalks (location, width, connectivity)
    • Bicycle and walking paths (Active Transportation)


Built Environment Diagram


Bike Lane

As the above diagram shows, the built environment is linked to many health topics.  For more information on how the built environment influences health, check out these resources:



How can you influence the built environment in your community?

Changes to the built environment are made through land use planning.  Municipalities in Ontario are required to plan for development and how the land in the community will be used in the future.  The municipal council and staff, with input from residents, develop an Official Plan that provides a road map for how the space in your community can be used.


The Official Plan deals with issues such as:

  • Where new housing, schools, industry, offices and shops will be located
  • What services like roads, water-mains, sewers, and parks will be located
  • When, and in what order, parts of your community will grow
  • Community improvement initiatives


To learn more about land use planning and official plans, review the Citizen’s Guides produced by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.


In Grey Bruce, both counties are the upper tier municipality that is ultimately responsible for land-use planning.  Grey County and Bruce County each has their own Official Plan. Most lower tier municipalities also have their own official plan.  These plans must comply with the appropriate County Official Plan.


Take some time to review your local official plan.  Think about how the policies impact you, your family, and others in the community. 


Small Town

Developing policies for a healthier built environment

As the link between health and the built environment has become clear, many organizations are calling for changes to land use planning policies that will lead to better health outcomes. Here are some examples:



Further Resources and Links



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