World Forum on Urban Forests raises global Call to Action

Urban Forests

 

Held in December 2018 in Mantova, Italy, the inaugural World Forum on Urban Forests has moved forward by launching an eight-point Call to Action. The Call to Action aims to maximise the benefits of global urban greenery, create healthier and happier cities, and mitigate the impacts of climate change on the world’s cities.

The Call for Action promotes a vision where urban and peri-urban forests, trees and other green infrastructure will be acknowledged as critical infrastructure and used as a tool for achieving sustainable development goals.

The Forum put forward the following set of eight forest solutions to make cities greener, cooler, healthier and safer.

  1. Expanding canopy cover in cities and “using the right tree in the right place”;
  2. Promoting community gardens, urban agriculture and urban flood forests;
  3. Increasing the number of green buildings and vertical forests and encouraging installation of green roofs
  4. Converting neglected areas, courtyards and brownfields into green spaces;
  5. Developing political agendas that promote green spaces and urban forests;
  6. Using existing technical guidelines to plan, design and manage urban forests and trees;
  7. Creating and promoting green jobs and economic opportunities; and
  8. Monitoring the ‘heat island effect’ in cities to support strategic planning or urban forests.

The World Forum on Urban Forests was attended by government representatives, urban planners, arborists, landscape designers, architects, academics and other forestry experts. It discussed global greening strategies, long-term collaboration opportunities, and identified sustainable solutions for a greener future.

Over 600 participants from around the world, including over 150 speakers, shared positive examples of urban forest design, planning and management, illustrating the role of forests and green spaces in creating more resilient and sustainable cities.

For more information on the World Forum for Urban Forests, visit www.wfuf2018.com.

The positive impact of trees – from economics to health

Positive impact of trees

Considering Australia’s excess carbon emissions, trees are useful to have around. Through the miracle of photosynthesis, trees breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out vital oxygen. However, trees do far more for Australia than help with our greenhouse problem.

For a start, trees make us happy. Studies from Australian universities analysed 2.2 million tweets on Twitter and found that tweets made from parks were more positive in nature than tweets from built-up areas. So why are people in parks so happy?

In a world that’s becoming increasingly urbanised, parks provide a welcome respite from the stress of living in cities. With nine out of 10 Australians living in urban areas – and two thirds of us living in capital cities – more people are flocking to parks to exercise, meet friends and attend events. We’re also getting back to nature to combat the health risks – both physical and mental – of high-density urban living.

Decades of research shows that experiences of nature are associated with a wide range of positive health outcomes, including improved physical health (such as reduced blood pressure and allergies), improved mental health (such as reduced stress), greater social wellbeing and uptake of positive health behaviours. Whether it’s walking the dog, strolling in the park or playing games outdoors, being connected with nature provides proven relief from stress and anxiety.

Then, of course, there are the environmental and economic benefits that urban trees undoubtedly bring. According to environmental planners at Griffith University, Australian cities are getting hotter, noisier and more crowded – and climate change is causing more heatwaves. Rather than increasing air-conditioning, which in turn increases carbon emissions, the better solution is green infrastructure – street trees, green roofs and walls, and vegetated surfaces.

Compared to hard surfaces like concrete, asphalt and stone, which increase urban temperature, green roofs and walls can naturally cool buildings, significantly lowering the need for air conditioning. Plus, according Griffith’s environmental planners, shading from strategically placed street trees can lower surrounding temperatures by up to 6 degrees – or up to 20 degrees over roads.

Considering the wide-reaching positive outcomes to environment, happiness and health, if there’s one thing Australia’s economy needs more of, it’s trees.

Milan’s plan to plant three million new trees by 2030

3 Mil trees

Milan in Italy is often plagued by muggy, almost tropical weather. However, an ambitious plan to plant three million new trees by 2030 could offer relief from the stifling weather. As well as helping to lower temperatures, the trees will play a major role in mitigating pollution and combating global warming.

Officials estimate that boosting the number of trees by 30% in the broader metropolitan area will absorb an additional five million tons of carbon dioxide each year (four-fifths of the total produced by Milan), plus reduce harmful PM10 small particulates by 3,000 tons over a decade. They also predict the new trees will reduce city temperatures by a significant 2C.

Renowned architect Stefano Boeri said the current green canopy of the Lombard region’s capital accounts for only 7% of the urban area – well below other European cities, like Frankfurt at 21.5% or Amsterdam at nearly 21%.

The plan is to increase this green canopy to between 17% and 20% by 2030 and, ultimately, lower

temperatures in a city where the evening mercury can be 6C (10.8F) higher than in the surrounding area.

According to city statistics, Milan endures around 35 tropical nights a year. Because of its location close to the Alps, there is very little wind to clear pollutants that become blocked in by temperature inversions, where a layer of cool air is covered by a layer of warmer air.

Plus, as Damiano Di Simine, the scientific coordinator in Lombardy for the environmental group Legambiente, describes, this also contributes to urban heating.

“It means the discomfort from thermic inversions is terrible, because the climate is very stationary. Planting trees will help this”, Mr Di Simine said.

Some ad-hoc projects have already contributed to environmental improvements, such as Mr Boeri’s Vertical Forest residential towers, completed in 2014. However, if Milan’s plan is any indication, the Vertical Forest is just the beginning.

Six international cities with outstanding green infrastructure

Top Green cities

Six international cities with outstanding green infrastructure

Green infrastructure and urban sustainability are becoming increasingly high priorities for cities all around the world, however some are already streets ahead. Here are six of the top cities who are leading the pack.

 

  1. Singapore

Now known as one of Asia’s greenest cities, Singapore’s water supplies were once so scarce that they had to import water from Malaysia. However, Singapore has since turned things around, making two-thirds of the city’s hard surfaces rainwater catchments, which deposit water to 18 reservoirs.

Other sustainability systems include advanced water purification and recycling processes, a driverless metro and environmentally-friendly meeting venues.

 

  1. Stockholm

Stockholm in Sweden became the first European Green Capital in 2010, thanks to an administrative system that makes sustainability a priority. In Stockholm, eco-taxis get preferred placement at the front of taxi ranks, while more than 700 kilometers of bike lanes and a community bicycle rental program encourage people to cycle rather than drive.

Stockholm even has an official ‘eco-district’, located in Hammarby Sjöstad. Its goal is to halve the carbon footprint of a typical city, by providing residents with gas and electricity from renewable sources, as well as houses made from raw materials.

 

  1. Virginia Beach, VA

Virginia Beach is ranked second on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of mid-sized cities with the most buildings that also received the ENERGY STAR rating for energy efficiency.

The city has a strong focus on school-related sustainability, with the Virginia Beach public school system being the only K-12 division to receive a Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence, which recognises continual efforts made toward conservation.

 

  1. Portland, OR

When Portland residents voted in the 2018 midterm elections, they favoured a ballot initiative that imposed a one percent tax for large corporations. The revenue generated by this initiative will go toward supporting change minimisation strategies in the city.

Earlier in 2018, Portland also made single-family home owners responsible for disclosing their home’s energy efficiency rating (measured by a professional assessment) before putting their home on the market. This allows potential buyers to make more informed purchasing decisions, while also encouraging sellers to make their homes more sustainable.

 

  1. Boston, MA

Boston’s goal is to be carbon-neutral by 2050, and the city is also working towards a zero-waste goal. The climate change plan involves planting trees to help absorb floodwaters that could result from worsening storms, plus looking at ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by giving residents sustainable transportation options.

In Boston, there are nearly 200 bicycle rental stations. The city is also considering how to accommodate more electric vehicles by installing more convenient charging points.

 

  1. Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver is the third most sustainable North American city, according to data published in 2017. Notable green initiatives include the Tap Map app, which helps people find places to refill their reusable water bottles. In 2015, Vancouver also banned organic materials from landfills, encouraging people to recycle their food scraps.

In terms of urban buildings, Vancouver has a particularly eco-friendly landscape and scores a higher-than-average rating for walkability. That means fewer vehicles, less pollution and a smaller carbon footprint.

Source: https://blueandgreentomorrow.com/features/6-top-notch-cities-that-got-green-infrastructure-right/

World Forum on Urban Forests: Call for trees to shape city planning

Designs for new urban park – Melbourne

World Forum on Urban Forests: Call for trees to shape city planning

The first World Forum on Urban Forests will be held in Mantua, Italy from 28 November to 1 December 2018. This inaugural event will bring together experts from around the world – including urban foresters, arborists, planners, scientists, landscape architects and many other stakeholders – to discuss how to make cities greener, healthier and happier.

As well as launching long-term collaborations around the development of sustainable cities, the Forum will provide a perfect setting to showcase the best nature-based solutions that can be applied to urban environments. It will also be catalyst for calls to action, which have already begun in the lead up to the Forum.

Stefano Boeri, the architect behind Vertical Forests, is urging planners around the world to consider urban forestry as a core element of all city planning projects. Boeri, whose Milan-based architecture studio is making an impact in the sustainable building space, is best known for the incredible Vertical Forest project in Milan – a pair of award-winning twin towers covered in scrubs and floral plants. This project has become a model for ecological residential building, and Boeri now wants to engage all architects, designers and planners to integrate green spaces into their projects.

Boeri’s vision is for more than just sustainable architecture. It includes incorporating trees, gardens and woods as essential components for all projects. As well as providing visual beauty, urban trees bring many benefits that improve quality of life. These benefits include reducing CO2 emissions, improving air quality and protecting biodiversity.

Recent research shows that forests and trees absorb one fifth of carbon emissions produced by cities worldwide. Similarly, leaves and roots help reduce pollutants which contribute to respiratory diseases that kill 7 million people a year globally, according to the World Health Organisation. With around two thirds of the world’s population expected to live in cities by 2030, now is the time to start imagining new, greener urban landscapes. Particularly since urban areas currently account for more than 70% of global greenhouse emissions, despite covering only 2% of the world’s landmass.

“If a single tree can bring great benefits to the city and its inhabitants, an urban forest can be an extraordinary help to improve the quality of health and life in a city”, Boeri says.

Boeri will be one of many experts speaking at the World Forum for Urban Forestry. For more information on the Forum, visit the official website.

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.

Is Green plus Blue viable yet? Absolutely!

urban environmental cycle

First of all, what do we mean by ‘Green’ and ‘Blue’? In this context, we’re talking about best practice for growing healthy trees (Green), and best practice for treating and managing stormwater (Blue).

For decades it has puzzled me that there is a major disconnect between the fields of urban forestry and stormwater engineering. Think about it – we plant trees into paved areas (car parks, malls, plazas, streetscapes) and partly paved areas (narrow road verges, centre medians, planter beds etc), and now we’re also paying attention to soil specifications, soil volumes for life needs of the trees, and so on. But one of the really key requirements for plant growth (H2O) is very efficiently sent away from our trees as soon as it falls on the large expanses of surrounding pavement! This doesn’t make sense whichever way you look at it.

A number of forward-thinking people around the globe have done some pioneering work in this – primarily to divert and capture water for tree health. However, how can the costs and benefits be quantified from all aspects? We need to carry the confidence of all stakeholders in the green building space, besides the developers and investors.

So, a few of us have been working with design engineers to try and clarify this issue, and bring some visibility to the discussion. Let’s break this up a little:

storm water management

  1. Passive Watering: this relates to the basic interception of rainwater, to enhance or replace manual or automatic watering of trees. Whilst there’s not a huge amount of science available publicly, there is definitely a growing interest. Based on regional climatic data, catchment areas per tree, soil type, and tree species, it is possible to optimise this and address each of these needs.
  2. Stormwater Management: this relates to flows, and is a really crucial component of many development approval mechanisms globally. We are trying to restore pre-development flows for the health of waterways and improve safety of the broader populace in presence of flooding events induced by changes in land uses and climatic events. The volume of soil within our treepits can definitely be used as part of a stormwater management plan, and incorporated into numbers of different modelling programs. Note: we also have to balance the other factors (tree health, soil volumes etc) along with the stormwater flows, using a Water Balance tool.
  3. Stormwater Treatment: this relates to pollutant removal from stormwater, and is absolutely integral to the suite of benefits that are brought to the table by combining treepits with stormwater treatment and management. The statutory targets for a given region can be achieved, and in many cases surpassed, when properly sized and specified treepits are used as part of a Green plus Blue initiative.

 

To wrap up: ideally, none of the above should be viewed in isolation, or else one or more of the design components will be compromised. For success, and all that this means (massive benefits to society, developers, the environment, and so on) a cross-functional approach is needed – one that combines the latest science for stormwater management and treatment with current best practice in treepit designs. When this is accomplished, there are significant savings to be achieved – and this makes sense to me. Because, after all, we are just re-connecting an environmental cycle that has been broken in our cities and urban spaces.

treating and managing stormwater

For more information on the latest in water harvesting technology, please visit this page.

Thanks for reading, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at ben.gooden@citygreen.com/.

CEFC to boost energy efficient community housing in Australia

energy efficient community housing in Australia

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has announced a $250 million Community Housing program, in partnership with the federal government. The scheme, designed to ramp the construction of cutting-edge, energy efficient community housing, will help build up to 1,000 new dwellings across Australia. In addition to new builds, finance to retrofit existing buildings will also be provided to improve energy efficiency and reduce bills for tenants.

Along with the announcement, the CEFC released a market report, which states, “Evidence indicates that low-income households tend to live in buildings with poorer energy efficiency, leading to higher energy costs. Poor building energy efficiency and high energy costs can have significant financial and health effects on households in community housing.

“There are many energy efficiency improvements with payback periods of five years or less that can be incorporated into the building fabric during construction. New-build community housing should be designed to ambitious energy efficiency standards and the existing stock should be refurbished to improve energy efficiency.

“While energy efficiency improvements involve upfront costs, more energy efficient community housing would lower energy bills and increase thermal comfort, improving households’ financial, health and carbon emissions.”

CEFC Community Housing Sector Lead, Victoria Adams, said, “Over the next year, our goal is to help finance the construction of 1,000 new dwellings, built to an average seven-star rating under the Nationwide Housing Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS). With this standard, energy use can be reduced by an estimated 25 per cent.”

image credit . Kaz Pierce

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