Despite recognition that building design can contribute to human health by facilitating increased incidental physical activity, knowledge of how building design can enable this is underdeveloped. Further, there is evidence that design features introduced to support routine physical activity and improve occupant satisfaction may not necessarily lead to increases in actual physical activity. Evaluative frameworks encompassing a range of individual, organisational and built environment factors that contribute to shaping occupant behaviour may provide insight into how buildings can support greater levels of routine physical activity. This paper argues that capability theory can inform our understandings of the dynamic interrelationship between building design and building use. In this paper we describe our approach to developing a framework for capabilities-based evaluation of buildings and building occupant physical activity. Based on a capability perspective we consider the intersection of building ‘domains’ and ‘functionings’ that influence occupant physical activity; and question how such evaluations could account for a range of occupants. The research is of relevance to those engaged in the production of architectural environments and evaluation tools that support physical activity—inclusive of building designers, procurers, managers and occupants.


building evaluation, mobility, audits, capability approach