PlaceChangers has won an innovation grant from InnovateUK, the UK’s innovation agency, to tackle the disconnect between built environment outcomes and public health. The project aims to support the quality of development proposals by considering local needs, especially health outcomes by shaping site layouts, one of the key design choices in any new development.
Globally, the COVID-19 crisis highlighted the importance of walkable access to green spaces and communal facilities for promoting public health and individual wellbeing. Especially access to green space is an important equalizer in the health difference between poorer and more affluent households. The King's Fund estimates that every pound spent on features that promote walking and cycling generates a long-term return of £50 and £168 respectively from benefits unlocked through greater quality of life of residents.
Over the coming months, PlaceChangers will bring together architects, planners, developers and local government to develop an online appraisal tool for architects that makes it easier to consider health outcomes at an early design stage. Drawing on site context data and input from residents, the deliverable will be an online product that provides crucial feedback on health outcomes and that will help to support designs that respond to local contexts.
Sebastian Weise, Founder at PlaceChangers, said:
“PlaceChangers, at the core, is about collaborative solutions that improve the built environment for all. This funding comes at a significant time during the COVID-19 crisis and will enable the company to tackle the important global issue of health inequalities that are often exacerbated and structured by the fabric of the built environment, while building an exciting new product. We are looking forward to working with a wide range of stakeholders.”
Alex Moon, incoming CTO at PlaceChangers, said:
“I'm proud to be joining Sebastian Weise, an authority on engagement in the built environment in the UK, on PlaceChangers to build a product that can create real change for good for us all. COVID19 has brought to the foreground, for many people, the limitations public spaces impose on their ability to live well. We're looking at the chance now, not just to rebuild, but to build something better.”
Michael Chang is an advisor to the project. Trained as a town planner, Michael Chang is a subject matter expert on public health and the built environment. He works for Public Health England and is co-founder of the Health and Wellbeing in Planning Network. Previously he led the Town and Country Planning Association’s efforts to connect health with planning. Michael Chang added:
“Evidence shows that it pays off to invest in healthy places. I hope the project can progress the state of the practice in integrating health outcomes into the planning and development process.”
The grant comes from a £211 million government support package to drive forward cutting-edge business-led innovation and is part of a wider investment package of £1.25 billion for innovative UK businesses, announced by the Chancellor on 20 April 2020.
PlaceChangers is a startup focused on digital solutions for collaboration and engagement in development and regeneration projects. The PlaceChangers platform helps architects, urban planners, and developers to understand the context of new development proposals through collaboration and intelligent handling of data.
InnovateUK is the UK government’s innovation agency. Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. We connect businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially successful products and services and business growth. We fund business and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment into R&D.