This is an international approach that places green space at the centre of development and regeneration, on a par with red, blue, and grey on the masterplan and in the design process. It uses evidence-based arguments to highlight the importance of green to city form and function.
The Green City principles position ‘living green’ as a fundamental solution to many of the challenges of contemporary life – from stress, burn-out, or obesity to climate-change preparedness. It argues that investment in green infrastructure is repaid many times over in terms of the benefits it brings.
Quality green infrastructure increases house and office values (either rental or freehold). It provides a more attractive environment for inward investment and draws additional visitors to a city.
Residents and workers are happier and healthier when they live and work in green surroundings. There are psychological benefits – it is innate in our character to be more at ease in natural environments rather than artificial spaces – and there are physical benefits, such as shade, air quality, and the increased likelihood that we will take healthy outdoor exercise when we have access to green space nearby. Improved health results in lower costs for the health-care sector, benefits the economy, and leads to enhanced human well-being.
Green and nature-filled environments encourage people to spend more time in outdoor spaces which in turn increases the rates of social interaction and mixing. Valuable in all situations, this is especially important in multi-cultural communities where barriers of ignorance and distrust can lead to real conflict. Green space and what can be done in it (from growing food to fishing to flying kites) is also an enabler of inter-generational social relationships. Building stronger communities in this way improves social cohesion and helps to bring down the social costs of crime.
Bringing green into the city introduces and encourages diverse plant and animal communities. Green roofs and walls, allotment gardens, parks, private gardens, street trees can all provide habitat for thriving ecological communities and help to boost biodiversity in the city. Linked to this is urban agriculture which has a part to play in feeding the cities of tomorrow and making them more resilient to external forces such as transport costs, crop failure in distant regions, and political instability.
Water management and climate change resilience are very closely linked and relate directly to the management of the urban systems. A range of ‘Sustainable Urban Drainage System’ (SUDS) responses are increasingly implemented by water companies and communities who are seeking to respond to the challenges of increased incidence of extreme rainfall events. SUDS solutions offer considerable cost advantages over engineered solutions, as well as providing amenity areas for wildlife, recreation and even food production.
‘Living green’ introductions into cities, such as street trees, green roofs and walls, parks and gardens all contribute to moderating the impacts of the urban heat island effect which is recognised as a significant cause of premature death in cities. The shade and air-cleaning benefits of urban greenery have an enormous cash-value for a city in improved health of residents.