The American Institute of Architects and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Advanced Urbanism, in collaboration with the Clinton Global Initiative and others, are expanding into urban-health design as never before. AIA recently launched a 10-year research project aimed at developing model methods to alter the urban environment in ways that would improve physical well-being.

The goal of "Decade of Design: Health and Urbanism" is to focus attention on health through research, community planning and community engagement. The aim is to "better understand the link between health factors and city form," says Alan M. Berger, the MIT center's research director.

To date, AIA and MIT co-funded $30,000 of research into links between health and design in eight American cities: Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York City and Boston. The aim is develop an evidence-based methodology to integrate health, architecture, landscape, transportation engineering, politics, technology and real estate.

AIA also is funding $40,000 worth of university grants every two years for a decade. Texas A&M has a $20,000 grant to create a tool kit to measure health impacts of walkable communities. Through a $15,000 grant, the University of Arkansas is studying ways to create a local food infrastructure. The University of New Mexico has a $5,000 grant to develop a health-architecture curriculum.

AIA is seeking funds and more partners for the 10-year project. Besides MIT and the Clinton initiative, current partners include the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture and the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Results of the AIA-sponsored university research are due next year. Further, on Sept. 24, MIT will release its findings. "I definitely think we will see a visible difference [in cities] at the end of 10 years," says Brooks Rainwater, AIA director of public policy.