Decades of research show the significant benefits of Green Urban Planning – neurologically, cognitively, emotionally and physiologically.
It is understood that urban dwellers have a 20% higher chance of developing anxiety, however other studies show that urban dwellers who live closest to large green spaces are much less likely to suffer from poor mental health. This is why green urban planning plays such an important role in enriching the lives of urban communities, among other benefits.
Green Urban Planning
Green urban planning is becoming more and more recognised as essential in the design and build of sustainable, future-focused cities and towns, whereby the environment, economy and community are all equally satisfied.
It is all about creating a symbiotic relationship between natural systems, the built environment, transportation and social elements to ensure robust, healthy and attractive communities.
Below we outline some of the core aspects involved with green urban planning:
Incorporation of Green Spaces
Incorporating green spaces into the built environment, including parks, gardens and natural areas, serves to improve a city’s overall aesthetic as well as providing environmental benefits including improved air and water quality.
Green roofs and rooftop gardens are seen as becoming increasingly instrumental in green urban planning. These act as a means to reducing stormwater run-off during heavy rainfall, but also create indirect physical and mental health benefits.
A case in point of this is Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, who have taken a proactive approach to green spaces and introduced a requirement for roof areas greater than 300 square metres to have to install a green roof.
Green spaces also facilitate greater public health, through greater opportunities for exercise and for social interactions.
Reducing vehicular traffic and the emissions that they bring about is another key aspect of green urban planning. It also makes it easier for urban dwellers and visitors to access services and amenities.
This is achieved through the promotion of sustainable transportation options including biking and walking, as well as public transport such as buses, trains and rail, all supported by the necessary infrastructure including pedestrian-friendly zones, bicycle lanes, transit-oriented developments and more.
This makes urban spaces more convenient and accessible to their users, while reducing traffic congestion and air pollution.
The Government is working towards its National Sustainable Mobility Policy, aiming for additional 500,000 daily active travel and public transport journeys by 2030, as well as reducing by 10% the kilometres driven by fossil-fueled vehicles.
Green Building Practices
This concerns itself with using energy-efficient and water-saving technologies in the design, build and retrofitting of buildings, as well as the use of sustainable materials and construction methods.
One way to incorporate green building at the design stage is ensuring the maximisation of natural light to reduce energy consumption and improve the overall health and well-being of residents.
Another way of incorporating green methods includes the use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power to reduce a building’s environmental footprint.
The benefits of green building practices is twofold in that it protects the environment while saving money, reducing maintenance costs and improving the health of building occupants.
Green urban planning has a profound effect on the community that lives within the urban space – therefore active engagement with this community throughout planning and development is essential.
Ensuring that the community’s values and vision aligns with planning is important both in building public support and in making sure that it meets their needs as residents.
Community engagement is best achieved through the running of public meetings, workshops and other such outreach efforts. This offers an opportunity for additional insights and concerns or questions to be addressed.
Why is Green Urban Planning So Important?
It is estimated that urban populations worldwide will double by 2050, creating a lot of pressure for cities that have not been sustainably planned. This pressure will be exacerbated by a worsening climate crisis.
Sustainable and livable cities and towns can be created through effective green urban planning – including green spaces, sustainable transportation, green building practices and community engagement.
Green urban planning futureproofs an urban space for present residents as well as generations to come, addressing challenges posed by climate change, biodiversity loss and social inequality.
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Fewer Harrington & Partners is an Irish Architects Practice with offices in Waterford, Dublin and across the world.
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