Councils in Auckland and Sydney tackle urban tree decline

Councils tackle urban tree decline

Councils in Auckland and Sydney tackle urban tree decline

Sydney’s Northern Beaches Council and the Waitemata District Council in New Zealand might be oceans apart, but they do share a common concern – the decline of their urban tree canopy due to growing populations and overdevelopment.

Research conducted by Greater Sydney Commission in 2017 showed that some of Sydney’s leafiest areas including Warringah, Hornsby and Willoughby have seen the highest percentage of loss in their urban tree canopy.

Similarly, Waitemata, just north of Auckland in New Zealand, has lost almost 13,000 trees between 2006 and 2016, due to increased private land ownership and high development rates. To combat the decline of their urban forests, local governments are exploring new ways to revive urban greenery in cities.


Auckland greening initiatives

Auckland City Council has launched a new program called ‘urban ngahere,’ meaning ‘network of trees’, which aims to increase city greenery by up to 30 per cent. The program coordinates planting initiatives with members of the local community – like schools, farmers, developers and social groups – to plant and maintain trees across Auckland. These efforts are complimented by a three-pronged strategy that includes interpreting data around tree loss, growing canopy and protecting trees from pests and diseases.

John Mauro, the council’s chief sustainability officer, said that Auckland is one of many large cities under pressure to protect trees against overdevelopment, population growth and other factors like climate change.

“A healthy urban forest enriches our communities, our local economies and our natural environment. Auckland cannot become a world-class city without a great urban forest,” he said.

“Some of the key challenges to our urban forest that we are monitoring include; population growth and urbanisation, ongoing issues with weed and pest control, diseases such as kauri dieback and myrtle rust and factors caused by climate change,” Mr Mauro said.

Another exciting initiative in New Zealand is the Million Trees project, which aims to plant one million native trees and scrubs across Auckland in three years. This partnership between Mayor Phil Goff and the New Zealand Department of Corrections has already facilitated the planting of 750,000 trees to date, with inmates managing tree planting and maintenance.


Sydney greening initiatives

Across the sea, the Sydney Northern Beaches’ Council has joined Auckland City Council in exploring innovative ways to counteract development and increase urban tree canopy.

Compelled by a recent population boom, the council has launched a draft Urban Tree Canopy Plan to protect tree cover in the Sydney Metropolitan area. The plan aims to ease the impacts of Sydney’s growing population by planting 5,000 new trees each year, plus introducing an offset program that will plant two new trees for every one that is removed.

Michael Regan, Northern Beaches Mayor, said the plan will be supported monitoring the tree population, and encouraging support from the Sydney community.

“The immediate focus will be on collating accurate baseline data to allow us to monitor the actions of the plan and ultimately measure how successful we are in protecting and maintaining a healthy and diverse canopy cover,” he said.

“Engaging our community in protecting and enhancing our urban trees will also be a critical factor in achieving the objectives of the Urban Tree Canopy Plan.”


Did you know Melbourne has an entire map dedicated to urban trees?

Melbourne urban trees

Did you know Melbourne has an entire map dedicated to urban trees?

Contrary to many major cities, Melbourne is home to a vast array of street trees. The urban jungle that is the Melbourne CBD is lined with an actual jungle of sorts, with leafy trees and green parks populating the inner city. If you’ve ever been enchanted by Melbourne’s street trees and wondered where you can learn more about them, prepare to be captivated by an online map that’s dedicated to the city’s trees.

The Urban Forest Visual is an interactive, online map that marks every single tree in Melbourne’s key urban areas. As well as naming the genus each tree belongs to, the map also lists details about each tree’s overall health and life expectancy. For example, the map shows many healthy London plane trees located near the State Library of Victoria. However, a few blocks down at the ‘Paris end’ of Collins Street, the London plane trees aren’t fairing as well.

You can use the map to look up tree data for the whole of the Melbourne CBD, as well as surrounding suburbs including Carlton, Docklands, Kensington, Parkville, Flemington and South Yarra. You can filter the map depending on whether you want to see street trees or park trees – and you can even email individual trees if you need to report something.

If you’re keen to see what the future holds for street trees in Melbourne, you can access a detailed tree planting schedule via the website. Each Urban Forest Precinct Plan includes a map showing when urban forest planting will occur in each street over the next 10 years. The tree planting roadmap shows when each street will be planted and what the scope of planting will be. In some streets, tree planting might be limited, while other streets may include intensive planting as part of a redevelopment project. Detail about the factors considered to develop the planting schedule is included in each local Precinct Plan.

Check out the tree planting schedule and find out everything you’ve always wanted to know about your favourite Melbourne street trees by visiting the Urban Forest Visual website.



Amazing eco-tech innovations from Singapore Green Building Week

Eco-tech Innovations | Singapore

Amazing eco-tech innovations from Singapore Green Building Week

During Singapore Green Building Week 2018, more than 12,000 policy makers and professionals from 31 countries gathered for the Build Eco Xpo. The purpose of the event was to showcase solutions to help the built environment withstand rising challenges – like congestion, air pollution, rising temperatures, flooding and insecurity.

With Asia’s annual urban growth rate of 2.7% per year being nearly 27% greater than the global average, technology was a key focus of the event. Innovators showcased groundbreaking technologies that will help Asia’s built environment to thrive in a future shaped by climate change. Here are two of the best technologies that caught the eye of urban experts.


GraviPlant horizontal trees

Sideways-growing trees that appear to cheat gravity were a talking point at the Build Eco Xpo. Biologist Dr Alina Schick, managing director of Visioverdis, the German firm behind GraviPlant, explained how the trees are planted in pots clamped to the sides of buildings. The pots rotate, ‘tricking’ the trees into growing sideways.

Because they are continuously revolving, Visioverdis’ trees are exposed to more sunlight than ordinary trees. As a result, they are much bushier, with double the biomass of regular trees. That means they can filter more pollutants from the air, fix more carbon and produce more oxygen. They also have a cooling effect. In fact, according to Schick, a building adorned with greenery is about twice as cool as a concrete surface.

In terms of energy expenditure, you might think these trees would be expensive. However, Schick explains how the benefits offset the costs. “A single unit uses 30 watts of power from a computer that automates rotation, irrigation and lighting. But that’s offset by the cooling effect of the trees”, Schick says.


The PHI 1080 – A solar-powered sustainable canopy

The PHI 1080 is a multi-purpose sustainable canopy developed by Indian entrepreneurs Priya Vakil Choksi and Samit Choksi. The canopy not only provides shade and solar-powered lighting, it also harvests rainwater and even charges your phone while you sit under it.

The canopy’s mast contains USB ports for charging, but its main function is as a filter for cleaning rainwater that funnels down. The mast is linked to an underground plumbing network, which can draw on the rainwater when needed. It features intelligent controls that automatically adjust the lighting levels, depending on the time of the day, plus a window that allows passers-by to view the rainwater harvesting process.

Yap Su Chii, director of food-saving non-government group ZeroWaste Food, said “The PHI 1080 canopy looks deceivingly simple. But it incorporates sustainable design elements such as harnessing solar and rainwater. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, it is functional and can be easily installed anywhere and everywhere.”

Singapore’s futuristic horticulture park will be the first place outside of India that will feature the PHI 1080.

PHI 1080 canopy

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.

Designs for new urban park – Melbourne’s first since 1980

Designs for new urban park – Melbourne

Landscape Architects, Oculus, have designed a new urban park for Melbourne’s CBD. The proposed park, which would be Melbourne’s first new public space since the City Square in 1980, spans 1,900 square meters. It is designed to occupy the western side of Market Street in Melbourne, including 1,300 meters of space which is currently used for car parking.

The park comes as part of an agreement between the City of Melbourne and the developer of the adjoining Collins Arch – a 164 metre twin tower, colloquially named “Pantscraper”. The proposal for Pantscraper was initially rejected by the state planning minister in 2014 because it breeched rules about overshading Melbourne’s famous Yarra River. However, it was later approved when the height was reduced – and the addition of this new park was negotiated.

The City of Melbourne is currently seeking public feedback on the park, which will feature a series of large, open lawn spaces on both the Market and Collins Street sides. It will include a modern terrace with water play elements and a paved plaza on Market Street, which could be used for public events. It will also include improved pedestrian access to the tram stop on Collins Street, plus a dedicated bike lane of the eastern side of Market Street.

Claire Martin, associate director of Oculus, said the park would be an “important addition” to the Melbourne CBD. “The introduction of an open green space will help extend the urban forest for public enjoyment,” she said.

“The park design is distinctly Melbourne, drawing on the materiality and history of the surrounding CBD streets and heritage buildings, incorporating elements of bluestone and sandstone”.

“The park will feature a number of environmental and biophilic elements, including an extensive tree canopy of varying heights woven throughout the space which will help to mitigate heat, the evaporative cooling benefits of the adjacent water wall, and use of local materials and place-based references”, Claire added.

“Perennial borders been incorporated to increase biodiversity in the city, utilizing where possible locally indigenous plants that were in the area prior to settlement.”

The council’s Future Melbourne Committee unanimously endorsed the plans at a meeting on 18 September. Community consultation closes on 10 October. If approved, the park will be developed by Cbus Property and handed back to the City of Melbourne for public use once complete.


Green rooftop gardens encouraged by Brisbane City Council

green rooftop garden

Under proposed changes to Brisbane’s City Plan, developers will be encouraged to include green rooftop gardens and communal spaces on new residential buildings. The amended plan, which was announced by Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, cements council support for more green spaces and communal areas, particularly in apartment projects.

“These changes will allow new developments to include a rooftop communal area, without listing it as an additional storey”, Lord Mayor Quirk said.

“Council will also have the ability to ask developers to incorporate and maintain green spaces on the rooftops and walls of new apartment buildings, to support our vision of a clean, green and sustainable city”, he added.

The policy change has been supported by developers, who will no longer need to cut through red tape to include gardens in apartment projects.

Simon White, design manager of Aria Property Group, said the move “will make it easier for developers to deliver higher quality and more comfortable and useable spaces”. He added that “the roofscape of high-density buildings is a huge opportunity to deliver world-class amenity for residents”.

Under the city’s current rules, any roofed structure on an apartment complex is classified as a “storey” by council. “This means that a 10-storey apartment building with a fixed shade structure over a BBQ area or pool has been defined as 11-storeys under the City Plan”, explained Mia Hickey, principal at planning consultancy Hickey Oatley.

“If the acceptance outcome for the site’s building height is 10 storeys, this has meant that the proposal is non-compliant”, Hickey added. “To avoid this, developers have had to provide rooftops without appropriate shading to protect its residents and visitors from Brisbane’s hot climate.”

green rooftop garden - Brisbane

Brisbane rooftop development including Aria’s Melbourne residences and the Emporium hotel Southbank.

Creating green space was one of the key priorities of the “Plan Your Brisbane” campaign – a ratepayer-funded initiative by council – and Lord Mayor Quirk reinforced its importance when announcing the proposed changes.

“Brisbane is Australia’s most biodiverse capital city, with more species of native plants and wildlife than any other in Australia and new developments that incorporate greenery contribute to our vision of creating a city of urban gardens”, he said.


Tree-clad vertical tower proposed for Toronto, Canada

vertical forest - Toronto Canada
A rendering for the proposed 27-storey Designers Walk building in Toronto.
It’s part of an international movement in creating vertical urban forests.

Toronto architects Brisbin Brook Beynon have designed plans for a ground-breaking tower featuring more than 450 urban trees. The difference between this building and others is that none of the trees will be potted. Instead, they will form a vertical forest, fusing the natural outdoors with indoor spaces.

According to architect Brian Brisbin, “A vertical forest is really like a hillside. It’s not potted plants on a decorated building. The building is really a host, like a hillside”, he said.

The proposed building will have over 450 trees, with irrigation, fertilizing and monitoring systems all built into the structure. Each tree will have its own computerised ID and will be monitored by an offsite control system. Sensors reading irrigation and nutrient levels will also be fitted, as its anticipated that each tree will have different needs, depending on where it’s situated.

The building will be the first of its kind in Canada and is being planned for a plot next to Designers Walk – an area of offices for architects and designers at the intersection of the Annex and Yorkville Neighbourhoods.

The development application is currently with the City of Toronto, and the innovative design has everyone talking. It draws on what people want to see (more trees than glass and steel) and what cities want to achieve (buildings that benefit the urban climate, rather than contribute to the heat-island effect). It also breaks down traditional barriers between nature and the built environment.

“Twenty-five years ago, awareness of the heat-island effect, storm-water management and green roofs wasn’t that profound, because the consequences hadn’t quite been as clear,” Mr. Brisbin said. A traditional glass and steel condo does “absolutely zero for the heat-island effect of our cities. It’s doing nothing for the green canopy, oxygen, carbon dioxide. So our approach is literally nature and its relationship to an urban environment, and how it’s going to survive the heat-island effect and carbon footprint,” he added.

The design also solves the complex problem of creating more tree canopies while contending with space and budget challenges. “You simply can’t increase the city’s canopy by 30 to 40 per cent [by planting trees] on the sidewalk. So, we have to look at a solution that’s vertical,” Mr. Brisbin said.

While the proposed building has clear aesthetic and environmental benefits for the City of Toronto, Mr Brisbin sees potential for something bigger – a new micro-industry of tree-clad technology that could be applied to other buildings.

“We’re trying to set a standard with a team here,” he said, indicating that it could become a new arm of consulting, to create a fully sustainable micro-climate exterior, “not a decorated building with potted plants.”

The developers for the proposed tower are Cityzen Development Group, who are best known for the head-turning “Marilyn Monroe” condo towers in Mississauga. This is going to be one to watch.


Australia’s first urban forestry school is coming to Melbourne

Melbourne's urban forest

The City of Melbourne has joined forces with the prestigious University of Melbourne to create a new study program on urban forestry. The inaugural Australian School of Forestry will be held from 11–16 November 2018. It is the first course of its kind in Australia – and one of few study programs in the world dedicated to understanding and preserving urban forests.

The program offers an interactive learning experience delivered by some of Australia’s leading urban forest practitioners and researchers. It will explore environmental and social issues impacting urban forests, and how cities can continue to enjoy healthy street trees in the face of increasing challenges.

In terms of delivery and structure, the program will include a combination of skills-based workshops, case studies and field visits, during which participants will be introduced to real-world challenges facing urban forestry. It is suitable for all professionals in the urban greenspace industry, community advocacy, environmental health, and policy management with a desire to develop their skills and knowledge in the multi-disciplinary field of urban forestry.

The program was introduced by Melbourne Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood, who spoke about the development of program and the importance of street trees to Melbourne culture.

“Our tree-lined streets contribute enormously to Melbourne’s liveability, from providing much needed shade in summer to mitigate the urban heat island effect to helping reduce stormwater run-off and pollution. After a decade of drought and extreme heat many of our trees are in accelerated decline and we face the challenge of climate future proofing our urban canopy”, he said.

“Our dedicated Urban Forest and Ecology teams have become world leading in research, mapping and recording every tree in our municipality, developing biodiverse planting programs and building a resilient urban forest that can tolerate and continue to thrive in future climatic extremes.”

“We are excited to partner with the University of Melbourne in sharing this expertise to expand the network of urban forest experts working in government, industry and the community.”

Unlike a traditional workshop or conference, the program is expected to facilitate deep engagement around issues of urban forestry, planning and management. As University of Melbourne Associate Professor Stephen Lively said, “the urban forest is a complex and dynamic system, supported by many decision-makers, stakeholders and communities that sometimes have opposing views”.

It is wonderful to see leading academics, practitioners and policy experts coming together to share knowledge for the betterment of our built environment.

For more information on the Australian School of Urban Forestry, visit the official website.


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