EVALUATING THE IMPACT OF SUSTAINABLE BUILT ENVIRONMENT COMMITMENTS AND OUTCOMES ON RESPIRATORY HEALTH: A LONGITUDINAL CASE STUDY OF TWO TEXAS CITIES
MetadataShow full item record
As population continues to grow the need for creating efficient and effective built environments that balance the three pillars of sustainability, environment, economic and equity, becomes even more pertinent. This exploratory research assisted in bridging the gap between understanding sustainable policy development and resulting impact on the corresponding outcomes, including influences from political culture. Followed by an overarching view of the changes in sustainable built environment outcomes over the course of nine years and how these outcomes influenced air quality measurements and inpatient asthma discharges. The case study methodology, established by Yin (2014), was utilized to address the research questions and four research theories, which included: how do select sustainable built environment outcomes impact air quality and respiratory health, and how are these outcomes influenced. Additionally, the four theories analyzed were: 1. The political culture of a city influences sustainable built environment commitments. 2. Cities with greater commitments to sustainable built environment strategies result in larger corresponding outcomes. 3. Cities with more sustainable built environment outcomes have better air quality. 4. Cities with better air quality have lower cases of asthma. Individual city case studies were conducted followed by a cross case analysis for Fort Worth and Austin. These two cities were selected because of their similarities in size, but significant difference in sustainable reputations and level of conservatism. A review of all city-planning documents for 2005 to 2013 was conducted and scored in order to identify relevant sustainable built environment policies and level of commitment. Additional variables, identified in the literature to gauge the political culture of a city, were collected in order to address any possible rival explanations. Interviews were also conducted with city representatives from planning and sustainability in order to gain a better understanding of the past, present and future state of sustainability planning in each city. The City of Austin’s more progressive political culture, determined by the data and interviews, resulted in a larger number of sustainable built environment policies, than Fort Worth. The claims from the literature that more progressive cities engaged in sustainability planning more often than less progressive cities were corroborated in both city case reports and the cross case report. Sustainable built environment data, identified to influence air quality, was collected and reviewed to compare to the number of sustainable policies in order to better gauge the level of implementation. In the individual case reports, the yearly fluctuations in policies did not result in corresponding values in the built environment outcomes. However, the cross case analysis did partially support the theory, which was represented by the greater number of policies and the majority of the outcomes existing in the City of Austin over the City of Fort Worth. Air quality and asthma variables, along with the supportive geographic, climatic, and meteorological elements, were collected for the time series. The inclusion of available regional and national statistics provided a comparative baseline for measuring and interpreting the data within a city. The case study theory that the presence of more select sustainable built environment outcomes resulted in better air quality was not conclusive, given that in the individual case analysis the majority of the sustainable built environment outcomes increased each year despite minor fluctuations in the air quality measurements. The collected annual climatological and geographical variables did not relate to the air quality measurements either in the individual city reports or in the cross case analysis. The data in this research confirmed the importance of the geographical and climatological conditions on dispersion and dilution processes affecting air pollution (Cho & Choi, 2014). Additionally, the individual case studies did not confirm a relationship between air quality and asthma, given the lack of correlation to the annual changes in measurements not coinciding. However, the cross case analysis did support the theory because the better air quality in Austin resulted in lower cases of asthma. This exploratory case study identified targeted areas for future research. Field studies and targeted experiments would assist in better understanding how the built environment and transportation patterns influence the delicate play between air pollution and weather to result in more effective developments of cities.