Blog

Green screens and Ecosystem services

The newest blog comes from Neil Jackson, a student at the University of Glasgow in the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences. Neil’s research is focused on vertical greening systems and the ecosystem services they can provide in urban environments.

Overview

This green screen trial forms the first experimental section of this CASE-funded PhD project and is part of a wider University of Glasgow initiative called the 'Smart Campus'. Air pollution and flooding are major global urban challenges. This trial, which is the first of its kind in Scotland, is designed to evaluate how well green screens compare to traditional construction hoarding to trap air pollutants and slow down rainfall runoff. It is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council with support from Arup, Mobilane and Multiplex.

Why do this? Why Glasgow?

A report by the Royal College of Physicians in 2017 found that 44 out of 51 UK cities were above WHO guidelines for particulate matter (PM). Glasgow registered as the highest in the UK for fine particulates (PM2.5). Recent studies have suggested that these particles not only do damage to the respiratory system, but every organ in the human body.

Meanwhile, changing weather patterns brought about by climate change and an increase in impervious surfaces caused by rapid urbanisation has increased the risk of both fluvial and surface water flooding. Surface flood risk maps produced by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) show that surface water flood risk is prevalent across the extent of Glasgow.

What are Green Screens?

Green screens are comprised of a planter and a mesh upon which climber vegetation grows, thus forming a screen which can be freestanding, attached to buildings or used in the place of traditional fencing or construction hoarding. The structure of green screens makes them easier to install and maintain than other urban green infrastructure solutions such as living walls and street trees, meaning they are relatively inexpensive in comparison. Along with policy, local-scale interventions such as this could be an effective tool in managing air quality and pluvial flood risk associated with climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Preliminary Results

Preliminary results have shown that PM counts are lower in front of green screens compared to the control screens (plywood construction hoardings). Whilst this effect varies, the largest reductions have been measured during monitoring periods with the highest particle counts and thus their effectiveness as buffers during high pollution events.

Similar results can be seen for rainfall runoff, with the highest reductions are posted during the highest rainfall events.

Further Trials

A further trial site has recently (July 2019) been set up at the Atlantic Square development site in Glasgow city centre. This trial, which is supported by Bam Construction, Arup and Mobilane, will use Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) in conjunction with real-time particle count data to assess the particle capture performance of green screens, each comprised of a different species of vegetation with different microcharacteristics: Helix hedera (Common Ivy), Euonymus fortunei (Dart’s Blanket) and Carpinus betulus (hornbeam). The characteristics of each species that contribute the most to particle capture will be assessed and a matrix of suitability built in order to aid in the selection of species for future projects.

 

Ninewells Community Garden, Dundee

This months blog is written by another SGIF member, Dr Rebecca Wade. Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science at Abertay University. Rebecca is celebrating the work at Ninewells hospital in Dundee to create a fantastic commnity garden, for use by patients and the public alike:

Adjacent to Ninewells Hospital and Maggie’s Centre in Dundee you can find a beautiful, productive and peaceful Community Garden. It lies within the arboretum of Ninewells Hospital and is connected to local communities via woodland paths. The garden is run by volunteers and can be used by public, patients, staff, community groups, and garden volunteers for picnics, walks and play as well as gardening and a range of other activities all year round.

  

Images: Ninewells Hospital Community Garden, Dundee. The Hospital garden can be accessed by patients and staff at the hospital, but also by community groups, including those involved in Dundee’s green prescription initiative. (Image credits: R.Wade 2019).

 

The garden plays an important role as part of a wider agenda in Dundee (and across Scotland) to promote physical activity and healthy living through community gardening. The aim is for horticulture to support wellbeing, therapy and rehabilitation. 

At the heart of the garden is the Leaf Room. Designed by Jonathan Reeve of Voigt Partnership, the award-winning structure includes a spacious indoor room, large glass doors that open fully onto a decking area and a wood burning stove to keep volunteers warm in the winter. The building was officially opened by Shona Robison on 11th November 2016 and was awarded The Scottish Civic Trust ‘My Place’ award in 2018. The building has been designed to be environmentally conscious, constructed primarily in Natural Scottish Timber, is off grid, has a wood burning stove and includes rainwater harvesting from the roof to help water the garden. In addition to all that it provides a beautifully designed and comfortable space, providing shelter for visitors and volunteers. The garden can be accessed by patients and staff at the hospital, all of whom can use it to benefit their wellbeing and improve their health, but also by community groups, including those involved in Dundee’s green prescription initiative.

 

Refs:

Ninewells Community Garden. http://www.ninewellsgarden.org.uk/index.html

Voigt Architects http://www.voigtarchitects.ltd/project-gallery/leisure/ninewells-garden-room-dundee/

Green Health in Scotland

This months blog comes from Dr Rebecca Wade. Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science at Abertay University. Rebecca talks about a new initiative around a Natural Health Service in Scotland:

The environment we live and work in has a fundamental impact on our health and wellbeing.  Natural environments within our landscapes, including those that are managed, farmed and urban are important components of ‘healthy places’ with a role in promoting, maintaining and restoring good health, and preventing poor health.

Image 1. Get outdoors. It’s good for you! Greater use of the outdoors can contribute to improving public health, tackling health inequalities and improving wellbeing. Local Green Health Partnerships in Dundee, Lanarkshire, North Ayrshire and Highland are developing green health services which support people to engage with the natural environment and be more active more often outdoors. (Image Credit: R. Wade 2019)

In Scotland we recognise that the natural environment and associated green infrastructure is an important and undervalued asset for improving societal wellbeing and public health. Improvements in public health can be gained by increasing physical activity through green exercise - outdoor recreation, volunteering, play and learning, gardening and active travel.  Wellbeing benefits can be gained through enhanced contact with good quality natural and green/blue spaces even without physical activity.

Our Natural Health Service (ONHS) action programme is a national initiative led by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), in partnership with a range of organisations from health, sport, transport, education and environment sectors. This programme is investigating how greater use of the outdoors can contribute to improving public health and tackling health inequalities. The project concept has been brewing for a while, it dates back to 2007 when SNH, Forestry Commission Scotland and NHS Health Scotland formed a Green Exercise Partnership to promote better health and quality of life for Scotland’s people by encouraging more physical activity outdoors and more contact with nature.

In 2018, four Local Green Health Partnerships were established in Dundee, Lanarkshire, North Ayrshire and Highland. These are the centre piece of the ONHS Action Programme. Each Partnership is co-ordinating cross-sectoral local action to promote nature as a resource for health and wellbeing. They are developing green health services which support people to engage with the natural environment and be more active more often outdoors in their communities. In Dundee the partnership is working with NHS Tayside to pilot ‘green prescriptions’. These are now offered by three GP surgeries in Dundee. This trial, launched in 2019, has been achieved by working across sectors, disciplines, and organisations. This ‘joined-up’ approach is essential if we want to gain multiple benefits for people and nature. By working together we can achieve benefits in relation to water management, biodiversity, pollution control, health, well-being, education and much more.

Ref: SNH. 2018. Our Natural Health Service in Scotland. http://www.naturalhealthservice.scot/

 

Planning (Scotland) Bill - and Green Infrastructure

The Scottish Government is taking forward a series of reforms to strengthen planning's contribution to inclusive growth, housing and infrastructure delivery and empowering communities. We are committed to a strong, high-performing system that enables housing and infrastructure delivery (including GI) and supports quality of life and place of all our communities.

On 20 June 2019 the Scottish Parliament passed the  Planning Bill. This was the culmination of an extensive process as shown in the timeline below.

The Bill as passed is available on the Scottish Parliament website. It contains a number of aspects of interest to the green infrastructure community, including:

  • changes to development planning, (NPF, regional spatial strategies, removal of statutory Supplementary Guidance)
  • new statutory requirements for evidence around GI including:
    • open space strategies
    • play sufficiency assessments
    • forestry and woodland strategies, and
  • an infrastructure levy that would cover green and blue infrastructure.

These are covered in a bit more detail below.

The Bill includes new arrangements for preparing and amending the National Planning Framework, including high level outcomes, a list of issues, strategies and policies to be considered, consultation and participation requirements.  The Framework will  now have to be approved by the Scottish Parliament and will for the first time become part of the statutory development plan, gaining that important status in terms of planning decision making.

Modernising strategic planning is a critically important part of our reforms, so that it can unlock the potential of planning and guide long-term development in a way that can better respond to evolving relationships on a regional scale. The Bill removes the bureaucracy  and requirement to prepare strategic development plans, and instead brings in requirements for planning authorities to prepare regional spatial strategies, working with other authorities as they consider appropriate.  Regional spatial strategies are intended to be more agile,  better able to reflect and align with wider regional partnerships, and allow a greater focus on delivery.

The Bill also removes statutory supplementary guidance. At present, many supplementary guidance documents are used to repeat national planning policy, but that duplication will no longer be necessary with the National Planning Framework, incorporating Scottish Planning Policy, now to form part of the development plan. Planning authorities will still be able to bring forward non-statutory guidance on matters relating to the planning system as they see fit, which may be a material consideration.

Together the removal of the bureaucracy of strategic development plans and the duplication of supplementary guidance is designed to produce time and cost savings for planning authorities that can be used more productively.

The Bill also introduces a new requirement for local authorities within the CSGN area to consult the Central Scotland Green Network on their proposed local development plan.

Open Space Strategies

Open space strategies are already in place , or being updated, in the vast majority of planning authorities, these will now be statutorily required.  The Bill states these are to set out a strategic framework of the planning authority’s policies and proposals as to the development, maintenance and use of green infrastructure in their district, including open spaces and green networks.

An open space strategy must contain:  an audit of existing open space provision ; an assessment of current and future requirements;  and  any other matter which the planning authority consider appropriate.

This section of the Bill defines “green infrastructure” and “green networks”.  These definitions are  different to those currently in Scottish Planning Policy.  Kevin Stewart, Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning set out at Stage 3 of the Bill’s consideration, that he had not sought to align the definitions, given that we will shortly embark on a wider policy review that will offer lots of opportunity for engagement. That will be a means in which stakeholders can raise comments on the definitions or highlight new drivers that should be reflected. In recognition of that the Bill provides that the definitions  can be amended, by regulations that have to be approved by the Scottish Parliament. The Bill  also provides that Scottish Ministers can make regulations  to make provision about how planning authorities are to discharge their functions under this section – this will be subject to further engagement.

Play Sufficiency Assessment (PSA)

A new requirement has been introduced that planning authorities must also assess the sufficiency of play opportunities in their area for children, in preparing an evidence report for their local development plan.  A similar requirement exists in Wales.  We will bring forward further requirements on preparing PSAs in secondary legislation, including about—the form and content of the assessment, who is to be consulted and around publishing it.

Forestry and woodland strategies

The Bill also brings in a requirement for planning authorities to prepare forestry and woodland strategies. These strategies are to identify woodlands of high nature conservation value in the planning authority’s area and set out the authority’s policies and proposals as to the development of forestry and woodlands;  the protection and enhancement of woodlands;  the resilience to climate change of woodlands;  the expansion of a range of types of woodlands to provide multiple benefits to the physical, cultural, economic, social and environmental characteristics of the area;  and any other matter which they consider appropriate. Authorities can work together to prepare a forestry and woodland strategy. The Bill sets out procedural details around consultation on the strategy and publication requirements.            

Disused railway lines

The Bill also introduced new requirements on Ministers (in preparing the National Planning Framework) and planning authorities (in preparing their LDP) to have regard to the desirability of preserving disused railway infrastructure for the purpose of ensuring its availability for possible future public transport requirements. This could also prove to be a means to consider whether old railway lines can be used as green network (including for active travel and wildlife corridors).

Infrastructure levy – includes green and blue

Part 5 of the Bill introduces a power for Scottish Ministers to make regulations establishing an infrastructure levy. This would be paid to a local authority in relation to development in its area, to fund infrastructure projects.  Schedule 1 provides more detail about what those regulations could cover. The definition of infrastructure, in relation to the levy includes ‘green and blue infrastructure’, defined as meaning ‘features of the natural and built environments (including water) that provide a range of ecosystem and social benefits’.  As with open space strategies, this definition could be amended by regulations.

The Next Stages

The Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent within 4 to 6 weeks, (summer 2019) at which point it will become an Act (and sections will be renumbered).

The Scottish Government is now beginning a programme of work to develop and consult on the necessary regulations, guidance and policies to implement the new legislation, continuing our wider planning reforms based on the recommendations of the Independent Panel.  The provisions of the new Act will not come into force until they are “commenced” by Orders laid before the Scottish Parliament. Each section of the Act will be brought into force when the relevant supporting material is ready. 

Further information on timing will be provided on the Planning Reform web page

 

Energy conservation benefits of green roofs

May's blog come from Marili Sotiriou, a Masters student at the University of Edinburgh, who recently began a 4-month research project on the energy conservation benefits of green roofs:

As part of my MSc dissertation and with the help of my supervisors, Dr Jennifer Carfrae (SRUC) and Dr Lynette Robertson (MEARU, Glasgow School of Art; Nature Harmonics Research and Consultancy), I recently began a 4-month research project on the energy conservation benefits of green roofs, focusing on one of Edinburgh’s most prominent extensive green roofs at the Scottish Parliament. The overall objective is an assessment of the impact of the existing green roof on energy balance and building energy efficiency , and to assess potential gains of integrating solar panels.

Green roofs can provide us with many advantages over conventional ‘non-living’ roofs, including storm water retention, wildlife habitat, and energy conservation, however research in the Scottish context, which can be used to inform decision making and design, is sorely lacking. Further, an benefit which has only developed more recently is energy production through incorporating solar panels in combined ‘biosolar’ green roof systems. As photovoltaic (PV) panels shut down when temperatures get too high, the lower temperatures of green roofs compared to conventional roofs offer a preferable environment for solar energy production.  In addition, PV panels create microclimate conditions on the green roof (e.g. shade) which that can enhance biodiversity.

Aims and Objectives

Energy performance of the green roof will be determined from: (i) primary data collection (temperature and moisture content, insulation properties of the roof) using thermal camera, thermocouples, portable weather station, and (ii) secondary energy data provided by the Scottish Parliament (reducing the data to that particular part of the building that is under study).

A statistical analysis (multivariate) will be undertaken prior to determining the energy performance of the green roof, and finally, a simulation model will be set up, using EnergyPlus, a building energy simulation software that can calculate the energy consumption of a building (Hui and Chan, 2011).  A comparison of the energy performance of four different roof types can be established. The types of roofs under study using this model will be:

1)    Bare Roof

2)    Green Roof

3)    Roof with PV

4)    Integrated system