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Forget the beach –go somewhere green for ultimate relaxation

Cora Lynn Falls next to a man fern (aka soft tree fern, Dicksonia antarctica) in the Great Otway National Park, Victoria, Australia.

In the land Down Under, we’re currently in the thick of a long, hot summer. Most of us spend our spare time during this season at the beach. But, what if there was another destination that offered even greater relaxation? Somewhere less busy, searing, and sandy? Somewhere green, of course. Australia, we’re lucky to have more than 500 national parks –wild, rejuvenating, and free for all.

Lord knows we need a little relaxation. According to an Australian Bureau of Statistics survey completed in 2007, one in five Australians experiences a mental disorder each year. Most common are anxiety disorders, like obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, or panic disorder.

Thankfully, there is a relatively simple salve with more than 40 years of research showing that exposure to nature increases calm, decreases agitation, and improves concentration and creative thought. Writer and I Quit Sugardynamo, Sarah Wilson, is renowned for her solo hikes–jumping on a train to a national park somewhere out of town and disappearing into the wild for days at a time. She says she returns settled, sated, and full of creative ideas.

Of course, when we’re not on holidays, it’s not always possible to plant ourselves in a national park. In this sense, urban greenery is more important than ever before.

Zoe Myers, an Urban Design Specialist at the University of Western Australia, says research shows those city dwellers have a 20% higher chance of suffering anxiety and an almost 40% higher chance of developing depression. Fortunately, research also shows that people in urban areas who live closest to the greatest green space are much less likely to suffer poor mental health.

Otway National Park, Victoria

The benefits of urban greening are endless –cooler cities in summer, warmer cities in winter, slower stormwater runoff, filtering of air pollution, habitat for animals, happier people, and more prosperous local economies. If you can, take a trip to a national park and soak in the natural goodness. But, when you’re back at work, don’t forget to take lunch in the park–toes in the grass, breeze in your hair, eyes on the branches above.


World’s first vertical forest for low-income housing coming to the Netherlands

Stefano Boeri is famous for his vertical forests around the globe, but his latest project will be the first forest tower funded by a social housing project to provide low-income housing. The Trudo Vertical Forest, located in Eindhoven, will showcase how good architecture can tackle both climate change and urban housing issues.

The tower will consist of 19 stories with 125 units –all covered in a luscious vertical forest featuring 125 trees and 5200 plants. The 246-foot tower will be covered in a rich, biodiverse environment to help control urban pollution and provide homes for a variety of animals and insects.

Boeri said, “The high-rise building of Eindhoven confirms that it is possible to combine the great challenges of climate change with those of housing shortages. Urban forestry is not only necessary to improve the environment of the world’s cities but also an opportunity to improve the living conditions of less fortunate city dwellers.”

Francesca Cesa Bianchi, Project Director of Stefano Boeri Architetti, said, “The Trudo Vertical Forest sets new living standards. Each apartment will have a surface area of under 50 square meters and the exclusive benefit of 1 tree, 20 shrubs and over 4 square meters of terrace. Thanks to the use of prefabrication, the rationalization of technical solutions for the facade, and the consequent optimization of resources, this will be the first Vertical Forest prototype destined for social housing.”


Study finds London’s trees may absorb as much carbon as tropical rainforests


Mysterious sunrise in deep tropical rainforest in Thailand mountains.

In dense urban cities like London, city parks are beloved for the green space and respite they provide. They also help to keep the heat island effect in check by absorbing carbon dioxide. In fact, a study published in Carbon Balance and Management found that urban forests in London may be storing as much carbon as tropical rainforests.

One of the researchers of the study, Mathias Disney, said, “Urban trees are particularly effective at absorbing [carbon dioxide]because they are located so close to sources such as fossil fuel-burning transport and industrial activity.”To determine just how good the trees in Camden are at absorbing carbon dioxide, Disney and his fellow researchers at University College London (UCL) set out to measure the trees in the London borough of Camden. Using airborne LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) scans of trees combined with LIDAR scans conducted on the ground, the researchers not only estimated the biomass of the 85,000 trees in Camden but also created a formula to predict the differences in size-to-mass ratios between urban and non-urban trees.

In areas such as Hampstead Heath, researchers found trees store up to 178 tonnes of carbon per hectare (t/ha) in comparison to the median value for tropical rainforests of 190 tonnes t/ha. Camden is also a particularly carbon-heavy borough.

So, there’s a lot of carbon to soak up and trees are just the organisms to do it–making them hugely valuable. According to a UCL press statement about the study, Treenomics estimates that the environmental value of Greater London’s trees is around £133 million a year ($176 million), with their carbon storage capacity worth around £4.8 million a year.

Disney said, “This may equate to less than £20 a year per tree, but the real value may be much higher, given how hard it is to quantify the wider benefits of trees and how long they live. The cost of replacing a large, mature tree is many tens of thousands of pounds, and replacing it with one or more small saplings means you won’t see the equivalent net benefit for many decades after.”All the more reason to give urban trees the best possible start with enough uncompacted soil and room to grow, ensuring their longevity for years to come.


General view of a local Park in London



The city of Cockburn aims to increase streetscape shade with Urban Forest Plan

The City of Cockburn, located in dry, hot Perth, Western Australia, is prioritising urban forestry by aiming to plant 15,000 street trees in its suburbs within the next 10years. Recent statistics showed that Cockburn’s existing green cover is just 26%, with almost 90% of that located in environmental reserves, parks and ovals. That makes for some very bare streetscapes!

Increasing the street tree canopy is an opportunity to reduce the heat island effect across the City

Increasing the street tree canopy is an opportunity to reduce the heat island effect across the City

Urban forest coverage in the City of Cockburn

As part of the City’s Urban Forest Plan 2018-2028, residents can request a free street tree to increase the shade canopy in their street. Cockburn Parks and Environment Manager, Anton Lees, said the City had budgeted $300,000 for the program to increase their street tree tally to more than 53,000.

Lees said, “During the past decade the City of Cockburn has experienced rapid clearing of vegetation due to urban development. In a recent national survey on the state of vegetation cover in metropolitan Australia, Cockburn has ranked in the lowest quartile of the 140 local authorities studied for the degree to which they had lost shade canopy.

Increasing the street tree canopy is an opportunity to reduce the heat island effect across the City

 Urban heat surface temperature on 42-degree day

“The city must improve its shade canopy and the Urban Forest Plan will help balance urban expansion with a comprehensive program to maintain and protect the existing tree canopy, while expanding it in the future. A thriving urban forest has a multitude of benefits including lowering maximum summer temperatures in urban areas, reducing household energy costs and according to University of WA research, increasing property values by up to $17,000.”

We look forward to seeing a green transformation in Cockburn in the coming years!

Image credit: City of Cockburn, Street tree master plan

8 Reasons Why We Need Trees In Our Cities

Top view of an urban city park

Many cities and urban communities around the world are beginning to make improving their “green infrastructure” a priority because they understand how vital trees are.

Trees provide benefits that improve the quality of city life, making urban environments more liveable and sustainable for everyone. Trees also help mitigate the negative outcomes that come with the modernisation of facilities, businesses and services in our communities, such as pollution, heat and density.

But most importantly (and often overlooked) is that trees can actually produce positive returns for the economy, especially when they are well taken care of.

To provide some insights about the true value of urban trees, we’ve prepared a list explaining their importance, why cities need trees and the different solutions you can utilise to help them thrive for a long time.

City park and modern financial buildings in Shanghai

Acting as the “lungs” of growing cities across the world, here are the reasons why trees in the urban landscape are highly essential:

  1. Trees make cities more visually appealing.

Urban trees provide an aesthetic touch to our streetscape. By adding colour to grey spaces and separating various urban fabric elements (meaning pedestrians, motorists, buildings, parking lots, etc.) from one another, they transform busy cities into more harmonious and pleasing environments.

  1. Trees improve air quality in cities.

With growing populations and advancing industrialisation, air pollution is an unavoidable problem in developing cities. Fortunately, trees can minimise the toxic levels of air by drawing out carbon dioxide.

A mature tree alone can absorb up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide, while trees within street proximity absorb 9 times more pollutants than those planted far from each other. Research also shows that ozone is improved by 3% to 7% every time urban tree canopy increases by 10%.

  1. Trees create a cooling effect.

Concrete streets, parking lots and asphalt buildings can increase urban temperature by around 3-7 degrees. By transpiring water and providing shade, trees are known to reduce this heat and create a cooling effect on local temperatures. With proper urban street tree planting, an average household in the city can also save around 15% to 35% off their energy bills.

  1. Trees provide health benefits to citizens.

With their capacity to protect people from pollution and harsh weather, trees are helpful to those who are suffering from asthma, skin cancer, hypertension and other stress-related sicknesses.

Trees can also address noise pollution issues that bother most people living in cities. Each mature tree can reduce unwanted noise by up to 6 decibels, while a vertical wall of trees serves as a buffer to loud street sounds.

  1. Trees improve the mental health of citizens

Aside from the physical health advantages, they also improve the overall mental health of people too.

Being surrounded by trees lowers the level of stress hormones (cortisol) in our brains. Through their calming influence and therapeutic effect, they reduce the risk of stress and anxiety in a population.

  1. Trees allow cities to save costs.

A research performed in the U.K. by Natural England reported that every £1 spent on tree planting yielded £7 savings – which equated over £2.1 billion, if taken nationally.

This is because, throughout their lifetimes, trees provide tangible benefits twice the amount invested into planting and caring for them. Such benefits can range from climate change mitigation, ecosystems conservation, disaster prevention, livelihood improvement and sustainable infrastructures.

  1. Trees drive the values of properties up.

By providing a more pleasant and safer environment, surrounding trees increase property values by an average of 5% to 20%. According to professional realtors, street trees also add more value to adjacent houses and businesses than non-street trees.

  1. Trees enable cities to manage their stormwater better.

A massive portion of our cities’ ground surface is composed of impermeable materials that don’t effectively absorb water and mitigate flooding.

Each mature and healthy tree, however, is capable of absorbing up to 450 litres of water through its roots. In addition, trees effectively prevent stormwater (which might contain harmful chemicals) from reaching water courses.

Central Park with Manhattan skyscrapers over Turtle Pond, New York

How to ensure the healthy growth of city trees

These 8 benefits provide a very compelling reason to plant more trees in urban environments.

Urban trees provide multiple benefits that can make cities greener, more sustainable and healthier. But to take full advantage, these trees must be capable of surviving and thriving in the urban landscape where room for growth is usually limited. Unfortunately, many urban trees fail to reach maturity because they are deprived of essential soil support, proper irrigation and space for their roots to flourish.

Using technology-based products like soil vault systems, tree pit irrigation, tree guards and other root management solutions can go a long way in making sure these city trees will mature healthily in the urban landscape so the local area can benefit.

Citygreen has a wide range of innovative infrastructure products that can assist you transform grey spaces into green ones.

above view of urban Timiryazevskiy park and apartment houses in Moscow city in autumn

What is a 250-year-old Oak tree actually worth?

Old trees hold so much history – they’ve witnessed so many seasons, survived changes in the world and adapted to shifting urban landscapes.

They’re synonymous with humankind.

In certain cultures, old trees contain symbolic or religious meaning that can be traced back hundreds of generations. Since the dawn of time, they’ve been providing ecological benefits that protect people and animals alike.

Despite all of this, it’s unfortunate that these wonderous old trees aren’t often prioritised when designing conservation policies and management guidelines for towns and cities in today’s world.

So, to understand how valuable old trees are, here is a fascinating look into a 250-year-old Oak near Toronto, Canada.

Toronto’s 250-year-old red Oak

A 250-year-old red Oak stands tall in the Humbermede community, northwest of Toronto. It is recognised as a heritage tree under Forests Ontario’s Heritage Tree Program.

The city intends to purchase the private property where it is located and convert the site into a parkette centred around the mighty living wonder, with the intention of safeguarding this ancient tree and preserving it for another 200 years

A fundraising campaign was organised to collect the $430,000 needed to make the sale official on December 12, 2020, which was based on the conditional deal between the current owner and the city.

As of November 3, 2020, $245,815 has been pledged to the campaign and more is expected over the next few weeks.

You might be wondering why the local community has put together such a large campaign to conserve this magnificent old tree.

Well, the 250-year-old red Oak was deemed worthy for the following reasons:

  • The tree is part of their history they want to pass on to the next generation. The people of Humbermede believe that the tree is a living representation of their cultural and social values. So, they want their children to experience its wonders and care for it as much as they did.
  • It offers sustainable benefits to the local environment. In 2020, it was calculated by the Association for Canadian Education Resources that this 250-year-old red Oak stores two and a half tons of carbon dioxide per year. Just imagine how much of an impact that has in improving the city’s air quality by mitigating pollution!
  • The tree serves a reminder to take care of our urban forest. With a trunk circumference of over 5 metres and branches spanning at phenomenal 24 metres, the 250-year-old red Oak is now at full maturity. It serves as a living reminder that trees can thrive for a long time and offer significant benefits, so long as people strive to nurture and support their growth.

What can we learn from this 250-year-old Oaktree?

At this age, it has a lot of wise stories to share.

According to a study from The University of Hamburg, trees store more carbon as they get older. The research also reported that 70% of all the carbon stored in trees is accumulated in the last half of their lives.

It just proves that mature trees are more capable of making cities greener, healthier and more sustainable. If we allow them to flourish over time, our urban communities will be able to gain more ecological, social and economic benefits that even future generations will be able to enjoy.

How do we give trees found in our cities the best opportunity to thrive?

Using products like soil vault systems, tree pit irrigation, tree guards and other root management solutions can go a long way in making sure these city trees will mature healthily within an urban landscape. Do you know of any historic trees that are struggling to survive within a hostile growing environment?

Retrofitting a soil vault system could be the answer! Read our blog article on how to retrofit soil cells to an old and established tree here.

Photo credit: ,

How to Determine Urban Canopy Cover

By: Richard J. Magill, Magill & Associates, Inc.


About Smart Precincts: the future of city planning

Our world is constantly evolving with the advancement of technology, the growing needs of global populations and depleting natural resources.

To adapt to these changes and secure the future for the next generation, we must embrace innovation in the way we live, work and play. This is where “Smart Precincts” enter the picture.

Rising as an emerging trend to cope with social, environmental and technological shifts, smart precincts are development projects that transform urban districts into thriving sustainable spaces through the use of forefront technology. It’s the future for cities across the globe.

Simply put, smart precincts serve as building blocks to creating smart cities which fully facilitate forward-focused technology to solve physical problems, improve the efficiency of city services and enhance the quality of life for all.

Here’s what you need to know.

What are Smart Precincts?

Most cities around the world strive to undergo progressive changes in order to become “smart” and reach their full potential. Although this is an ideal outcome, the process of rebuilding an entire city this way can be quite complex, expensive and time-consuming.

That old adage of “how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” applies here.

By serving as manageable test sites for real urban innovation and modern trends, smart precincts are great alternatives. Even though they are not at a whole city scale, smart precincts are large enough to encompass multiple smart city domains and are a helpful point of reference to study future citywide investments.

These smart precincts are digitally enabled, mixed-use urban districts that combine the latest physical technologies and smart services with an overarching sustainability strategy. Fairness, diversity and privacy are also incorporated in their planning to complement the city’s goal of achieving better living conditions for every citizen.

As more smart precincts are created, people will start to appreciate them and their popularity will grow, along with their numbers until they start to transform an entire city.

Bulcock Street Revitalisation Project Concepts

How do you create a Smart Precinct?

To get the best outcome from smart precincts, development practices in urban places must employ intelligent data, the latest technologies and innovative project designs.

A good representation of this is The Bulcock Street Revitalisation Project in Queensland, Australia. Through the implementation of a holistic place-making framework and cutting-edge soil vault technology, they were able to create a streetscape that is vibrant, liveable and corresponds to the community’s goal of having healthier, greener spaces.

By implementing the latest smart city technologies, this project was Australia’s first smart precinct streetscape demonstration and testing site.

Smart bus stop in Singapore, built around Stratavault treepit

Smart Precinct case study: The Bulcock Street Revitalisation Project

Bulcock Street has been the main street of sunny Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast since 1917. Over a hundred years later, the street experienced a decline against the competing urban centres, big-box malls and online retail due to its deteriorating appearance.

In an effort to restore the road’s beauty, vibrancy and bustling community, the Sunshine Coast Council (SCC) worked on a $12 million four-stage street revitalisation project.

The project’s main objective was to create a people-oriented flexible street that would serve as a public space intended for events, businesses and other outdoor activities, all of which benefitted residents and visitors alike. This began with the much-loved shady fig trees dominating the 20-metre-wide street, which played a huge part in enticing people to Bulcock Street. However, the current tree population was at risk of being root-bound. Knowing this, the SCC planned on recreating the cooling shade by planting new trees.

Bulcock Street Revitalisation Project

Scott Howarth, Landscape Architect at SCC stated: “To ensure the project’s success, we instigated investment in underground tree health using Citygreen’s StrataVault system, specialist soil mixes and tree grow-on contracts.”

With this, 35 Elaeocarpus Obovatus trees were installed using the StrataVault system between 2016 and 2018. Over the following years, a further 105 extra trees were planted in the street. However, the Council observed that trees planted using StrataVault outperformed those which were not planted using this technology.

Bulcock Street Revitalisation Project

So, what was the final result of this project?

Sian Crawford, another Landscape Architect at SCC, said: “Eclectic in character, fun and colourful, the street has evolved into an alternative retail experience that appeals to all ages and is uniquely Caloundra. Retail outcomes support this, with Caloundra experiencing an increase in the total spending during the 2017/18 financial year of 8% above the 2016/17 results (equating to $39.3 million in extra trade). An overwhelming success, the project was nominated for the 2020 Queensland AILA Landscape Architecture Awards.”

How does Citygreen’s Stratavault contribute to Smart Precincts?

Climate change is one of the major elements that drive the establishment of smart precincts. These urban districts aim to utilise technology to reduce carbon emissions, eliminate activities that are harmful to the environment and protect natural resources such as rainwater.

Citygreen’s Stratavault technology contributes to this goal by facilitating the healthy growth of urban trees. By providing the right architecture of soil, it allows tree roots to propagate without causing any structural pavement damage. Moreover, it allows landscape architects, engineers and arborists to take advantage of a quality soil-volume product that has lower installation costs, minimal transport expense and durable material.

Through this, smart precincts can optimise the power of technology to achieve sustainability and better living conditions for the community.

Jurong Smart Bus Station – Singapore

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