The VERT – June 2018

Transforming the public realm through Green-infrastructure

Incorporating more greenery into the public realm isn’t a new concept but a bold change in thinking among public bodies is needed if the UK’s towns and cities are to become genuinely healthy and sustainable.

Few would disagree that more could be done to make the public realm greener and healthier. What’s needed, however, is a shift upwards in terms of our collective expectations and ambition. The variety of ways that there are to ‘green up’ our public spaces is tremendously exciting, but that excitement means little if it’s not transmitted to local authorities and other public bodies which play a prominent role in shaping our urban environment.

Sustainable green features should no longer be viewed as ‘add-ons’ to good design. They should be an integrated part of that good design. Our shared urban infrastructure shouldn’t be given a veneer of green respectability, those green credentials should be incorporated into the way in which that infrastructure is designed, built and used. We need to stop thinking of ‘infrastructure’ on the one hand, and ‘green features’ on the other. And that’s why I believe the concept of ‘Green-infrastructure’ is critical to shaping the debate over the future appearance and long-term viability of our large towns and cities.

Public buildings and streetscapes can be transformed through living walls, green hoardings, and other innovative green-infrastructure is being more widely deployed into public and private spaces. These vertical items of greenery have an array of positive effects, from purifying the air to promoting biodiversity. They can even bring about a dramatic change in the way we think about food production in the near future.

Thinking laterally about sustainability, could often mean thinking vertically.

Through the wider use of vertical parkland, green corridors can be created that link open spaces and parks, thereby further reducing pollutants and promoting public health and wellbeing. It is no exaggeration to say, if applied broadly, the use of green-infrastructure could bring about something of a green revolution on the UK’s streets – a far-reaching transformation of our urban environment.

By embedding the term ‘green-infrastructure’ in the debate over urban design, the public realm can be put on a firm sustainable footing. Ultimately, this isn’t just for the good of public sector bodies and their environmental targets – it’s for the greater good of the local populations they serve.

 

Armando Raish is an urban greening consultant supporting City Air Technologies in their vision of creating vertical parkland throughout our cities and communities.

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