Should urban trees be funded as part of a city’s public health infrastructure?

city trees

A new report, released by conservation-focused non-profit The Nature Conservancy, says yes. Urban trees are proven to aid mental health, decrease obesity and other health risks, and generally make us happier. Therefore, they are an important public health asset and should be funded as such.

Robert McDonald, a lead scientist at The Nature Conservancy and co-author of the report, said, “Just like the public health sector has gotten used to thinking about walkable cities as something they need to care about, we’re advocating that they need to think about nature and parks as part of that quest.”

McDonald hopes that cities will start to integrate urban forestry into their other health, wellness, and environmental initiatives. Despite the benefits, there are multiple reasons why urban trees fall by the wayside. Primarily, it’s a process that often requires the coordination of multiple agencies – not just forestry, but other departments like transportation and water. McDonald said, “We’ve set up our cities so there’s one agency to manage trees and parks, and they don’t have a health mandate. Other agencies do care about health, but don’t have a mandate to plant trees.” McDonald says that bringing different agencies together and including nature in planning conversations is an important first step in forging that link.

Of course, the cost of trees can be a barrier, but there is evidence showing they have significant monetary value. Researchers at SUNY’s College of Environmental Studies and Forestry estimated that trees in megacities carry a payoff of roughly $500 million, including half a million dollars saved in cooling costs and $11 million saved through improved storm water remediation.

“We’re trying to get people to think of street trees not just as ‘nice-to-have’ things, but as a piece of infrastructure for your city that you’d be willing to invest in with a bond just as you’d be willing to with another health or infrastructure initiative.”

Source: https://www.citylab.com/environment/2017/10/how-should-we-fund-urban-forestry/541833/

Council trees now quantifiably valued, with soil vaults delivering huge ROI

stratacell treepit

All city councils have an asset register detailing the value of assets like roads, parks, street furniture, and so on. Increasingly – and rightly so – trees are being included as quantifiable assets. In the past, it has been hard to quantify the value of trees, but today there are a number of methodologies for doing so. One such method, the Burnley Method – developed by Dr Greg Moore at the Victorian College of Agriculture and Horticulture Limited, Burnley Campus – is now being widely used and accepted. Available for download here http://croydonconservation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Burnley-method-Tree-value-pdf..pdf

The City of Melbourne are pioneers in valuing their trees and looking after them accordingly. In fact, residents can even email local trees to raise concerns about their health or express their appreciation and affection for the tree. By putting a value on trees, councils are able to protect them in new and quantifiable ways. For example, if a developer is building near a valuable tree, the council may require them to pay a bond – refunded provided the tree is unharmed post construction. If a developer destroys or removes a tree without permission, the council is able to sue that developer for the value of the tree per their register. All of this is effective and much-needed motivation to keep our valuable urban trees safe.

A council’s asset register forms a key part of their balance sheet. As the assets degrade over time, there is depreciation. Spend money on their assets, and there is growth. Naturally, councils want to spend money wisely in order to generate the greatest return on investment.

Tree Planting using Stratacell

Installing the underground soil vault system beneath the parking lot.

Internationally, providing enough shade in carparks is a big issue. Not only does shade drastically improve the shopping experience, it also prolongs the life of the pavement. In the City of Belmont, Perth, Citygreen’s Stratacell system had a massive impact on the council’s bottom line. In an asphalt carpark next to an oval, five London Plane trees were planted in quite narrow islands, with adequate space and soil volume provided using the Stratacell system beneath the carpark pavement. The cost for the five trees (including the Stratacell system) was $50,000.

Four years later, as reported by Council, the trees have grown at an unprecedented rate – from a 75mm/3” trunk diameter at time of planting, to 250mm/10”. Today, according to the Burnley method, these trees are valued by Council at $17,500 each – an amazing return on investment in just four years, with so much growth (literally and financially) still to come.

As a comparison, the same council has the same species growing in a nearby carpark using the conventional method. The carpark was laid, a square cut in the pavement, some curbing placed around the edges, roadbase dug out, and a soil loaded into the hole. Planted 15 years ago (versus only four), these trees are valued at only $510 each. Of course, the initial outlay was much less ($250 per tree), but the return on investment does not compare.

tree comparison

Essentially, using the Citygreen soil vault system, this innovative Council was able to grow trees worth 34 times as much – in one quarter of the time!. As more emphasis is placed on generating ROI in relation to the value of trees, adopting innovative technology which enables trees to thrive in urban environments must be a priority. Of course, this is not just about improving councils’ bottom lines, but also improving the health and wellbeing of the communities they serve.

Forest cities: a greener future for pollution-plagued China

greener future for pollution plagued China

Stefano Boeri, the renowned Italian architect famous for his tree-clad Bosco Verticale skyscraper complex in Milan, has a new, greener vision for pollution-plagued China. His next project, in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, will consist of two neighbouring towers covered with 23 species of tree and more than 2500 cascading shrubs.

Currently under construction and set for completion next year, this is just the beginning of Boeri’s bold plans for China. His aim is to create ‘forest cities’ – a life-changing transformation for a country that is famous for smog and environmental destruction.

Boeri said, “We have been asked to design an entire city where you don’t only have one tall building but you have 100 or 200 buildings of different sizes, all with trees and plants on the facades. We are working very seriously on designing all the different buildings. I think they will start to build at the end of this year. By 2020 we could imagine having the first forest city in China.”

His Milan-based practice claimed the buildings would suck 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide from Nanjing’s air each year and produce about 60 kg of oxygen every day. “It is positive because the presence of such a large number of plants, trees and shrubs is contributing to the cleaning of the air, contributing to absorbing CO2 and producing oxygen. And what is so important is that this large presence of plants is an amazing contribution in terms of absorbing the dust produced by urban traffic.”

“Two towers in a huge urban environment [such as Nanjing] is so, so small a contribution – but it is an example. We hope that this model of green architecture can be repeated and copied and replicated.”

To find out more about the latest in vertical garden technology, click here.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/feb/17/forest-cities-radical-plan-china-air-pollution-stefano-boeri

Ballarat seeks community input on urban forest strategy

Ballarat Centenary Hotel

The City of Ballarat has released a discussion paper highlighting the key priorities and challenges of its urban forest strategy, and is now seeking community input to form part of its final action plan. Adopted in mid 2015, the strategy outlines plans to increase tree canopy coverage across the city from an estimated 17 per cent to 40 percent by 2040.

Mayor Samantha McIntosh said while the urban forest strategy presented council with “a number of issues and challenges”, there were also “some great outcomes” that could be achieved, including economical, mental, physical, and emotional benefits. “Having worked in real estate, I know that property values are absolutely increased in the streets that have those wonderful tree canopies,” Cr McIntosh said. “But it is also about health and wellness, and providing plenty of shade, where people like the elderly will benefit.”

Cr McIntosh believes the 2040 target of 40 per cent canopy coverage is achieveable, pointing out some CBD areas have already achieved 36 per cent coverage. The discussion paper is about prompting the next stage of action, encouraging public response and suggestions.

“We’re not saying we have all the answers,” she said. “Heritage and green space are very important to the people of Ballarat, we want to continue that conversation and ensure the public is involved.”

Read the paper here or discover more about innovative solutions for urban trees here.

Source: http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/4544393/call-for-urban-forest-input/

Image credit: The former Centenary Hotel at Ballarat, Australia – by Mattinbgn

Australia’s first elevated indoor forest set to star in new development, Paragon

indoor forest Australia

Renowned landscape designer, Paul Bangay, will partner with developer Beulah International to create Australia’s first elevated indoor forest at a new mixed-use development known as Paragon. Situated at the former Celtic Club site in Melbourne’s CBD, the development will feature 220 luxury apartments starting from $500,000.

The three-storey high urban forest will be a conservatory-like feature, incorporating a selection of mature trees, leafy canopies, climbing gardens, cascading water, and grassy spaces. Residents and visitors will be able to enjoy the forest from a number of outdoor seating zones featuring refined terrazzo pavers.

Paul Bangay said the urban forest was the result of wanting to create green space that wasn’t at street level, but rather up in the air. “The forest we’re creating is not your typical roof space or balcony space; it’s three storeys high which means we’re able to bring in tall trees.”

Beulah International Executive Director, Adelene The, said it was important for residents to feel as though they had a sanctuary where they could escape the hustle and bustle of the surrounding streetscape. “We want residents to feel like they’re not so much in a high-rise building, but rather out in a garden; a sanctuary protected from natural elements.”

To find out more about the latest in vertical garden technology, click here.

Source: https://www.theurbandeveloper.com/eco-chic-australias-first-elevated-indoor-forest-to-descend-on-melbourne/

Image credite: http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2017/04/20/fajarbaru-to-jointly-pioneer-australias-highrise-indoor-forest/

Adelaide City Council aims to become world’s first carbon neutral city

With the initiation of its Green City Plan, Adelaide has taken another step towards its objective of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral city. The plan consists of two main targets, to be achieved by 2020: add another 1000 trees and 100,000 metres squared of green area around the CBD.

Adelaide City Council Sustainability Advisor Paul Smith said, “The Green City Plan is more about adapting to the impacts of climate change in the city, rather than reducing emissions. We are already seeing climate impacts such as increases in average temperature and extreme heat. If we want to attract more people to live and work here, then we need to have a climate resilient city.”

Council has also established a Green City Grant program, with cash incentives of up to $10,000 for business owners and private homeowners to implement initiatives like living walls, green facades, and vertical and verge gardens. Each project needs to be visible from the street or public place, and enhance the surrounding area.

One of the successful first-round applicants was Jack Greens on James Place, a healthy fast food restaurant. Co-Founder Wade Galea said the grant program would help them build a green wall outside their new store. “Our brand is very much about doing good things for our local communities and keeping things green – all our packaging is biodegradable and we source all our produce from local suppliers. James Place is very much a concrete jungle and we wanted to increase the look of the place with custom designed plants and a pillar outside. The wall would have been too expensive for us by ourselves and we probably wouldn’t have been able to do this if the council wasn’t involved.”

Stay tuned for more urban greening projects as the plan unfolds.

http://indaily.com.au/news/sponsored-content/2017/03/23/green-city-plan-to-speed-carbon-neutrality/

Singapore beats 16 cities with largest green urban area

Singapore green urban area

Known as ‘The City in a Garden’, Singapore has beaten 16 cities around the world in a study by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Almost 30% of the Republic’s urban areas are covered by greenery, putting it ahead of Sydney and Vancouver – which tied for second place with 25.9%, followed by California with 23.6%. Of the 17 cities, Paris has the smallest percentage of urban green space at 8.8%.

Researchers use data from Google Street View to measure green canopy and vegetation around the world using computer vision techniques. The data is then processed to obtain the Green View Index (GVI) which is then presented on a scale of 0 to 100.

Professor Carlo Ratti, Director of the MIT Senseable City Lab and head of the project, said, “We present here an index by which to compare cities against one another, encouraging local authorities and communities to take action to protect and promote the green canopy cover.”

This result demonstrates the success of Singapore’s long-term urban forest planning. Mr Oh Cheow Sheng, Group Director, Streetscape, National Parks Board, said, “Our roadside greenery forms the backbone of our City in a Garden. NParks manages about 2 million trees along our streets, in parks and statelands. Trees are selected based on their suitability for various habitats, growth habit, place of origin, tree form and function, aesthetics / landscape value, ease of maintenance, and hardiness, such as drought tolerance. Our roadside trees are an integral part of the pervasive greenery that makes Singapore distinctive and together with our parks, gardens and nature reserves, provide diverse opportunities to appreciate nature up close. This is key to our vision of a City in a Garden which is biophilic as it creates an environment that improves the overall physiological and psychological well-being of all Singaporeans.”

New study shows urban trees save $7.8 billion in reduced energy costs per year

urban trees

Urban trees – is there nothing they can’t do? As well as cleaning the air and guarding against soil erosion, they also help cities reduce costs and emissions by providing shade and blocking strong winds against buildings.

A new study from a group of USDA Forest Service scientists published in ‘Urban Forestry and Urban Greenery’ estimates the US supply of urban trees saves close to $7.8 billion in reduced energy costs (electricity and heating) each year. They also result in a cut to emissions valued at $3.9 billion annually.

The researchers wrote, “There is much literature on tree effects on building energy use, but limited estimates at the national scale. There have been national estimates of energy savings from proposed plantings of millions of trees … but none could be found estimating the effects of the current urban forest.”

The big takeaway is not just to plant more urban trees, but to plant them strategically.

According to the study, “Tree size, species (evergreen vs. deciduous), and tree distance and direction from the building all affect building energy use. While results vary by climate zone, in general, large trees to the west side of the building provide the greatest average reduction in cooling energy savings and large trees to the south side tend to lead to the greatest increase in winter energy use.”

Discover more about innovative urban tree solutions here.

Source: https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/new-study-urban-trees-save-energy

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