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J Public Health Policy. 2009;30 Suppl 1:S111-23. doi: 10.1057/jphp.2008.55.

Effect of innovative building design on physical activity.

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  • 1Department of Architecture, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX 78257, USA.


Stair climbing can be a low-cost and relatively accessible way to add everyday physical activity, but many building stairwells are inaccessible or unpleasant and elevators are far more convenient. This study explores the use of and attitude toward stairs in an innovative office building where the main elevators for able-bodied users stop only at every third floor ("skip-stop" elevators). These users are expected to walk up or down nearby stairs that have been made open and appealing ("skip-stop" stairs). The study takes advantage of a natural experiment. Some workers' offices were clustered around the skip-stop elevator and the stairs, whereas others had access to a traditional elevator core, that is, an elevator that stopped at each floor with nearby fire exit stairs. Stair use on the open skip-stop stairs and enclosed fire stairs was measured using infrared monitors and card-reader activity logs. An online survey of employees (N=299, a 17.4% response rate) gathered information on stair use and attitudes and behaviors toward physical activity; interviews with key personnel identified major implementation issues. The skip-stop stair was used 33 times more than the enclosed stair of the traditional elevator core, with 72% of survey participants reporting daily stair use. Although implementation issues related to organizational objectives, costs, security, barrier-free accessibility, and building codes exist, the skip-stop feature offers a successful strategy for increasing stair use in workplaces.

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