City of Melbourne’s Urban Forest Fund transforming concrete jungles into green oases

Melbourne skyline river

The Urban Heat Island Effect is real, with daily temperatures in Melbourne projected to rise 3.8C above existing records by the end of the century – even hitting a sweltering 50C on some days. As our cities get hotter, green spaces are becoming an increasingly-important approach to cooling our concrete jungles.

In one such initiative, the City of Melbourne is now offering predominantly ratepayer-funded grants for owners wanting to green private land. Kensington resident, Milla Mihailova, is a keen environmentalist, so when she saw an opportunity to make her apartment complex greener she jumped at the chance. With support from neighbours, residents have transformed their outdoor space with small vegetable gardens at the 45-unit complex. The design includes 1500 new plants, 34 planter boxes, stormwater harvesting and a large vertical garden which insulates adjoining apartments. After pitching the idea to the City of Melbourne’s Urban Forest Fund they received a $100,000 grant to be matched dollar for dollar by residents.

Milla said, “We live in a very concrete environment and living so close to the city we’re really limited in our own green spaces. To be able to get all that greenery and help the environment, it seemed like a great opportunity. I’m really excited to see it come to fruition because I think it will make such a difference to how we use our space and create more of a feeling of a neighbourly, friendly environment instead of just a passageway where people don’t really say hello.”

The City of Melbourne’s environment spokeswoman, Councillor Cathy Oke, said private property represented 73 per cent of all land in the municipality. “Encouraging greening on private property … is the next step to expanding our urban forest and increasing green space and canopy cover.”

The second round of the Urban Forest Fund will be open for applications from August 27 until October 22. Grants range from $25,000 to $500,000 which must be matched by residents. To date, the fund has received $1 million from the City of Melbourne and a $215,000 contribution from VicRoads. There are plans to grow it to a $10 million fund over the next four years through a combination of council money and contributions from organisations and individuals.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-11/urban-forest-fund-helps-green-melbourne-private-spaces/10030356

Time to take action on green roof policy in Sydney

Sydney urban area

One thing is certain as we look to the year ahead – it’s going to be HOT. In the first week of 2018, Sydney scorched with 40 degree temperatures and nearby Penrith was the hottest place on earth, hitting a searing 47.3 degrees.

As Sydney’s building boom rages on, never before has the need for green infrastructure with an emphasis on sustainable cooling been so important. With more apartment buildings and concrete streetscapes likely to increase the urban heat island effect, these same apartment buildings hold the key to a much-needed cooling innovation.

Architecture and sustainability experts say there is an unprecedented opportunity to harness the ever-expanding rooftop coverage by making green roofs and walls a standard feature on new residential and commercial buildings. Scientific research has repeatedly recognised the insulation benefits of living infrastructure in reducing energy consumption in summer and winter.

However, the lack of proactive policies mean this opportunity is quickly slipping through the fingers of government, councils, and residents alike. In the City of Sydney, the only NSW council that has a specific policy on green roofs and walls, there are just 53 green roofs, which equates to less than 1% of the total available roof space. A waste indeed.

At a policy-level, Sydney lags well behind other, denser cities such as Singapore, London, Stockholm, and Toronto when it comes to promoting the installation of green roofs and walls. Sara Wilkinson, from the UTS school of Built Environment, said about 32% of horizontal surfaces in Sydney are rooftops, but the potential has remained largely untapped. “Greening them really does make a change to heat stress and your urban environment. We are missing an opportunity to create a beautiful garden city.”

Let’s hope we can emulate places like Singapore where the uptake of green roofs has boomed by more than 800% in the past decade, with 80.5 hectares of skyrise greenery across 182 projects. Our environment, wellbeing, and wallets depend on it.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/missed-opportunity-for-green-roofs-as-sydneys-apartment-boom-continues-20180118-h0k8pu.html

Poorer Urban Areas Suffer Worse Heat

Citygreen - Poorer urban areas suffer worse heat

Poorer Urban Areas Suffer Worse Heat:

A recent study in New York community districts and United Hospital Fund neighbourhoods shows that there is a higher rate of heat-related mortality in poorer areas.

According to an article in the Harvard Gazette, there were higher heat related deaths in southern and western Bronx, central Brooklyn, northern Manhattan, and the eastern side of midtown.

The poorer residents mainly occupy these smaller heat islands. The study showed a strong correlation between excess deaths and poverty, poor housing quality, hypertension, and impervious land cover.

“It is known that there is an unequal distribution of risk from climate change around the world,” Joyce Klein Rosenthal, an assistance professor of urban design, told the Gazette. “What’s less known is that there is a significant variability of risks from climate change and extreme events within American cities, related to poverty and conditions in the built environment.”

She added that it is very important to recognise that “designers, architects, and urban planners have the capacity and agency to improve urban conditions”. Rosenthal said that by understanding vulnerability within cities, there is a better chance to implement more “effective adaptive strategies with communities”.

Several cities have already started ways to ease the heat for the most vulnerable of residents through “longstanding programs to distribute fans and air-conditioners and open cooling centres on the hottest days”.

“Studies like this provide health outcome-related evidence supporting adaptive interventions. We have health disparities in the spatial distribution of excess mortality of seniors during heat events. The types of characteristics we found to be associated [with that mortality] are within the collective ability of municipalities to intervene,” Rosenthal told the Gazette.

She said that heat, like ground-level ozone, is an environmental stressor, “unevenly distributed in places where there are less trees, less green space, and associated with poorer housing quality”.

According to the study, income levels are associated with surface temperatures. It showed that poorer neighbourhoods are hotter while wealthier neighbourhoods are cooler.

“Urban design strategies can make a difference in reducing urban micro-heat islands,” Rosenthal said.

She added that if the aging population, hotter climate, and lack of affordable housing are not addressed, it may constitute a “perfect storm for future heat wave deaths”.

Rosenthal said the study proves that greening a neighbourhood should be taken seriously. “The disciplines of the built environment – urban planning, architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design – have the knowledge and responsibility to make a difference.”

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