Connecting People and Nature for Sustainable Cities: GREEN SURGE conference in Malmö, Sweden, 20-21st September 2017
Late September saw the gathering in Malmö, Sweden, of some 300 researchers, decision-makers, planners, and practitioners from 35 nationalities for the concluding two-day conference of the GREEN SURGE project on urban green infrastructure. As a collaborative project between 24 partners in 11 countries (funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme, FP7) GREEN SURGE has produced a wealth of useful evidence, tools, approaches and case studies for nature-based solutions to link green spaces, biodiversity, people and the green economy.
Stormwater runoff rain garden in the Augustenborg district of Malmö (Scot Mathieson)
A varied and inventive conference programme combined plenary presentations and focused workshops introducing the outputs of the project with technical visits to a range of sites around Malmö, widely cited as one of the world’s most sustainable, liveable cities. The visits showcased many examples of the city’s investment in sustainable urban regeneration. Examples included integrated green infrastructure, world-leading green roof research and extensive areas of liveable, walkable, resilient communities which were developed in areas of former industrial dereliction following the collapse of Malmö’s shipbuilding industry in the 1980s/90s.
A sizeable contingent of Scottish green infrastructure advocates, many from SGIF-supporting bodies (e.g. SEPA, SNH, ELGT, Forest Research, GCVGNP, Glasgow City Council) , travelled to the conference and, since our return, we have been considering how best to pool our various experiences and photos from the conference visits.
The extensive range of products from the GREEN SURGE project can be accessed here.
Principal Conservation Policy Officer, SEPA
Rooftop garden to help new school’s pupils blossom!
An exciting new secondary school in Grangemouth has been built with a biodiverse roof garden that can be used by pupils and teachers for outdoor learning. This green roof is over 300m2 in size and will provide many benefits for wildlife and for people in the school and the surrounding area.
Carrongrange High School has been purpose built for the almost 170 pupils that have a range of support requirements. An important feature of the roof garden is that it has been designed so that pupils and teachers will be able to easily access different natural features.
The roof has a wide paved footpath that allows access for pupils in wheelchairs, and unique, hand-carved benches that allow pupils to sit at either end of the garden. There are a range of plants including the garden plants like Chives, Thrift and Heathers, and also a wildflower mat with a wide range of native species that are already providing important food for bumblebees!
This is the second green roof to be installed in Grangemouth, both through the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative ‘Glorious Green Roof’ project, which has been managed by Buglife, and is funded by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the EU LIFE programme. The first green roof was installed at a building owned by CalaChem in May 2016.
Not only will both green roofs act as stepping stones for wildlife, allowing the movement and mixing of individuals and species across Grangemouth, they will also improve cooling of the buildings in the summer and insulation in the winter, and increase the lifespan of the roof thus saving energy.
We take trees for granted in our modern urban societies.
For decades, town and city planners have recognised the importance of nature and green spaces in urban areas. Many have planted trees in city centres, along motorways and residential streets. But in more recent times, local authorities have been forced into taking drastic measures to maintain essential public services and the environment and trees are suffering as a result.
Trees in urban areas are being neglected and removed to save money for other services. But whilst it can take hundreds of years for a tree to grow to maturity, when it does the benefits it provides are staggering and far outweigh maintenance costs.
We need to protect the trees we have and plan for the future
With funding from supporters of the People's Postcode Lottery, we're launching the Street Trees Project and working with communities, partners and local authorities in Leeds, Wrexham and Glasgow to promote good practice, good communication and appreciation for street trees.
There are, of course, some genuine conflicts between people and trees in the urban environment and we must absolutely address these sensibly but as far as our city trees are concerned, once they’re gone, they’re gone - along with all the benefits they provide.
Planting more trees is a big part of improving our urban spaces but it could be hundreds of years before we see the benefits and it doesn't help the street trees that may be threatened now.
The Street Trees Celebration Starter Kit
If you're in one of our pilot areas of Leeds, Wrexham or Glasgow, you can be the first to take part as we've created a Street Trees Celebration Starter Kit to help you build community relations, ensure that your trees are valued by everyone and celebrate these precious members of society.
The kit includes lots of great resources, advice and plenty of creative and impactful ways to get your urban community as well as local authorities thinking differently about street trees.
Five new green active travel case studies are available to download from the Central Scotland Green Network (CSGN) website.
The case studies, which cover routes in Copenhagen, Hamburg, Belfast, Edinburgh and across the UK, offer a flavour of how active travel and green infrastructure can be integrated within different worldwide contexts.
Green active travel routes represent the deliberate choice to combine natural planting, greenery or water systems together with paths for people on foot or on bike.
These routes can be created by either adding new travel routes to existing infrastructure or by adding new green infrastructure to existing travel routes – or by integrating both from the start.
The addition of green infrastructure to active travel routes provides multiple benefits. These include flood mitigation, climate change adaption, increased biodiversity, connectivity and a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.
The case studies - available on the CSGN website - include examples of both newly integrated green active travel routes and those that have been the result of long-term masterplans.
The studies provide both inspiration and key learnings for others aspiring to implement their own green active travel routes.
The first of these case studies details the Copenhagen Green Cycle Routes programme. The ‘Grönne Cykelruter’, as it is known locally, work towards Copenhagen’s aim of becoming the world’s best cycling city and stems from almost a century of large-scale urban planning.
The city’s active travel network consists of over 58km of individual cycle routes which connect green parks, lakes, the harbour and university. The green routes have focused on the integration of quieter, greener, natural habitats with traffic-free active travel routes.
The next case study, the Connswater Community Greenway, provides an example of how community engagement and partnership working can create a community asset and leave a legacy for future generations.
Opened in April 2017, the greenway has become a living landmark for east Belfast, joining Belfast Lough to the Castlereagh Hills with a 9km wildlife corridor.
The greenway aims to create a vibrant and accessible space for community events, including key public spaces such as the C.S. Lewis Square, while improving the biodiversity of the city and reducing flooding for at risk residents.
The case study of the Little France Park development in Edinburgh demonstrates how to integrate active travel and green infrastructure from the outset as part of a master-planned project.
By providing connections for communities, commuters and hospital patients, Little France Park has formed an important part of the wider regional green network.
Another master-planned project, the Hamburg Grünes Netz, provides the inspiration for a further case study, available on the CSGN website.
The Hamburg Grünes Netz – or Green Network – is a city-wide urban masterplan based around green active travel, which aims to eliminate the need for cars in Hamburg over the next 20 years. Utilising a large-scale phased approach, the Hamburg Green Network aims to provide safe, pleasant, car-free routes that are accessible for all city residents.
Looking beyond the citywide scale of the other case studies, the Greener Greenways project aims to improve the biodiversity of 38 traffic-free walking and cycling routes in Scotland, England and Wales.
The initiative – managed by Sustrans - was designed to increase biodiversity by integrating green infrastructure with existing active travel corridors. The project also aims to improve the routes for the people who use them, with volunteers providing much of the groundwork.
The full suite of Green Active Travel Routes case studies is available to download here.
Vertical urban surfaces and building facades remain a largely untapped resource for green infrastructure as they pose specific installation and maintenance challenges. These challenges are being address by Arup, whose Foresight team have developed design solutions for both permanent and temporary green facades.
Vertical Meadow (formerly known as Living Wall Lite) is an innovative and cost effective living wall system for temporary applications such as construction site scaffolding and hoardings. It has been developed by Arup in partnership with Green Fortune, a living wall provider with a track record of over 300 living walls across Europe. Plants and flowers are grown from seed in-situ on a temporary mat that is easily fixed to any scaffolding or hoarding. Within two or three weeks the first shoots start to appear, before growing into a verdant vertical meadow. The species-rich wildflower meadows that grow are a haven for biodiversity, attracting bees with a high pollen flower mix as well as other insects such as ladybirds and spiders. Wild strawberries also help to produce food for other fauna such as local birds.
Like the trees and parkland in cities, the wall’s aesthetics will change with the seasons. In the spring and summer it will be lush and verdant and in the winter it will brown-off and die back a little, only to bounce back the following spring. This seasonality creates ongoing interest - a dynamic visual impact that constantly evolves.
Rainwater can be channelled through the system, both minimising the mains water irrigation for the plants, and reducing pressure on the mains drainage system. When connected to a re-circulation system water usage can be optimised for the whole system.
There are also positive impacts on local air quality and noise. Plants capture dust and particulates, and release them via precipitation into the drains. This can help to reduce dust and pollution by up to 20%. Studies show that people with views of greenery have a lower perception of noise. Moreover, plants help to attenuate street noise by reducing reverberation, and the wall helps minimise noise breakout from the work. Initial tests show a reduction of 13dB - comparable.
The Vertical Meadow system can be applied as a hoarding or scaffolding wrap. The mat arrives to site in rolls for installation by the site team, with Green Fortune overseeing the process and installing the irrigation system. A broad and adaptable seed mix ensures that each Vertical Meadow thrives in a range of varied site conditions. Basic monitoring and maintenance is quick and simple, and the site team can be trained to carry it out themselves. The system uses materials with low embodied energy, and because plants are grown from seed in-situ, there is none of the energy usage associated with growing plants in greenhouses off-site.
The Vertical Meadow System is currently being deployed by Grosvenor over scaffolding at the St Mark’s building, a Grade I listed property in London.
Arup’s permanent green façade, Living Wall, has been designed in partnership with DesignLaw and utilises similar techniques and has all of the ecosystem benefits provided by the Vertical Meadow. The permanent installation is modular system of aluminium foam tiles, backed with a pre-seeded root mat. Water and nutrients are delivered through a hydroponic systems and the tiles can be attached via a standard façade backing cassette.
It is hoped that these innovative systems developed with Arup and partners will promote greening, increase biodiversity and enhance ecosystem services of our current and future cities.