Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to page options Skip directly to site content

The Built Environment Assessment Tool Manual

This manual explains the importance of understanding and measuring the built environment and provides a tool for doing so.

What is the Built Environment?

The built environment includes the physical makeup of where we live, learn, work, and play—our homes, schools, businesses, streets and sidewalks, open spaces, and transportation options. The built environment can influence overall community health and individual behaviors such as physical activity and healthy eating.

What are the Challenges of Measuring the Built Environment?

Community program staff and evaluators may find it hard to know which features of the built environment they should measure on the basis of the health behaviors and outcomes they are trying to affect. Although there is a wide array of proven tools for measuring features of the built environment, it is important to know which ones are best suited to accurately and feasibly assess those features.

The Built Environment Assessment Tool

The Built Environment Assessment Tool (BE Tool) measures the core features and qualities of the built environment that affect health, especially walking, biking, and other types of physical activity.

The core features assessed in the BE Tool include:

  • Built environment infrastructure—such as road types, curb cuts and ramps, intersections and crosswalks, traffic control, and public transportation.
  • Walkability—for example, access to safe, attractive sidewalks and paths with inviting features.
  • Bikeability—such as the presence of bike lane or bike path features.
  • Recreational sites and structures.
  • Food environment—such as access to grocery stores, convenience stores, and farmers markets.

Users can add questions or modules if more detail about an aspect of the built environment is desired (e.g. nutrition environment or pedestrian environment).

Download the BE Tool Manual

In addition to the tool (located in Appendix D), the manual also describes the training of data collectors, provides instructions for selecting and assessing street segments, and offers guidance on managing and analyzing data.

To begin assessing the built environment in your community, download the entire BE Tool Manual or select just the sections you need. The BE Tool is located in Appendix D.