Study finds green roofs improve concentration

Study finds green roofs improve concentration:

A new study from Melbourne University has found that environmentally-friendly green roofs are not only good for the environment, they also improve employee concentration.

In the study, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, 150 students were asked to press a key as a series of numbers repeatedly flashed in front of them on a computer screen, unless the number was three. Midway through the task half the group was given a 40-second break during which they looked at a flowering meadow green roof and the others looked at a bare concrete roof. The participants who looked at the green roof made fewer errors and had better concentration in the second half of the task.

Dr Kate Lee, Head Researcher, said, “We know that green roofs are great for the environment, but now we can say that they boost attention too. Imagine the impact that has for thousands of employees working in nearby offices. This study showed us that looking at an image of nature for less than a minute was all it took to help people perform better on our task.”

The study deliberately used a 40-second “micro-break” to mirror the mini breaks which happen spontaneously throughout the day. “It’s something that a lot of us do naturally when we’re stressed or mentally fatigued. There’s a reason you look out the window and seek nature, it can help you concentrate on your work and to maintain performance across the workday.

“This study has implications for workplace well-being and adds extra impetus to continue greening our cities. City planners around the world are switching on to these benefits of green roofs and we hope the future of our cities will be a very green one.”

More and more rooftop gardens are appearing in Melbourne and Sydney, including The City of Melbourne offices on Little Collins Street and the M Central apartment building in Pyrmont, Sydney.

image credit . sookie

Chicago Green Thumbs Transform Brownfields

Chicago Green Thumbs Transform Brownfields:

In any city, there are underdeveloped sects, or areas long ago places of industry now fallen to ruin. These areas are often termed as brownfields.

In keeping afoot in advancements in urban landscaping, technologies and innovative thought, Chicago is no different than the many other cities taking a proactive approach to the future.

Method Home Products has been one to invest in the Brownfields of Chicago, setting up their first manufacturing facility in the U.S. and not only reconnecting with the domestic market, but designing a facility that earned them a LEED Platinum standing. Just one of the substantial benefits of the plant’s design includes, “sustainable farming practices that will replenish groundwater to the tune of 6 million gallons annually.”

“Roughly 3.5 acres of the 22-acre site are used for industrial purposes, and the rest has been converted into a natural habitat for wildlife…[and] the facility will employ about 100 people,” says Adam Lowry, Method’s co-creator.

On September 2, Chicago will host the 16th annual Brownfields Conference, an event supported by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the ICMA: International City/County Management Association. Carrying the theme “Sustainable Communities Start Here”, the conference forum is,“calibrated to provide attendees with case study examples, program updates and useful strategies for meeting brownfield challenges head on.”

Discussion groups and speakers are confronting topics specific to engaging the community, investing wisely, and resurging manufacturing activity in these otherwise unused spaces. The latter has recently been endorsed by President Obama’s Administration in the development of, “the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP), a multi-agency initiative…”

“The Economic Redevelopment Forum will call forward site owners, investors, developers, end-users and state and local economic development officials to lay the groundwork for potential revitalization deal-making.”

Given the sheer square miles in cities nationally and internationally, and the innovative minds propelling urban development, the future is cast in green.

image credit:

University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute

University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute building sets new standard for cutting-edge, sustainable building technology


2015 Urban Forestry Efforts Grow Strong in New York State

 2015 Urban Forestry Efforts Grow Strong in New York State:

New York state wastes no time in establishing its plans to continue urban forestry planning and projects for 2015. Close to $930,000 in urban forestry grants have been recently awarded to communities across the state thus far, as announced by Commissioner Joe Martens for the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), by press release January 14th.

These funds will allow 40 communities within the state enhance their urban forestry, as well as safeguard the quality of air, water and natural resources. These local communities are given opportunities on an annual basis to apply for grants, which are then reviewed and awarded by the USDA Forest Service and the NYS DEC Urban Forestry Program.

Once awarded by the DEC, the funds are allocated to Arbor day events, community run forestry programs, and educational opportunities. Technical assistance is also offered to these communities through the local DEC urban foresters and ReLeaf volunteers.

“Urban forestry programs are vital to creating a vibrant environment that provides clean air, clean water, energy savings, robust habitats and a high quality of life for New Yorkers,” Martens said.

Especially in highly concentrated urban areas like New York, there are additional stressors like pollutants, limited root space, and improper pruning that can inhibit the flourishing of the community forests. By actively managing these factors, we protect these valuable resources and preserve the resulting benefits.

In February 2015, The NYS Urban Forestry Council will host a forestry awareness day in Albany, New York. (

The goal of this organized effort is to provide a chance to collaborate with and educate state legislators about key issues in urban and community forestry efforts, including the development of local tree inventory, management plans, and the establishment of Tree Boards across communities and neighborhoods.

The Urban Forest – Planning and Policy

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

This is the last in a series of six articles that explore the various interactions and outcomes that result from human contact with the urban forest.

This particular article will touch on the roles and responsibilities of city governments, elected and appointed officials, and other non-governmental organizations that are necessary to advance and maintain successful policies, planning and programs that promote and maintain our urban forests. A summary of the benefits of urban forests closes the six-article series.

The Role of Stakeholders

Urban Forestry is a vital component of sustainable communities given the vast and diverse benefits provided by trees and urban forests.

The advancement of cooperative and productive relationships with the following stakeholders is critical to establishing and maintaining successful urban forestry programs in our cities.

  • Elected Officials – can enact legislation with proactive policies that enable the various governmental departments to implement programs and practices that ensure the growth and overall health of the urban forest for the benefit of urban residents and visitors alike.
  • Planning Departments – can create master plans, policies and strategies that prioritize the trees and urban forests. Planning departments need to identify incentives for private sector entities to include trees, green spaces and other vegetation as necessary components of their development projects. Also, the development and implementation of conservation easements, “protection in perpetuity’ agreements, legal land trusts, and transfer of development rights programs for the creation and preservation of green space are important ways that planners can advance the proliferation of the urban forest.
  • Public Works – can advocate the utilization of natural infrastructure in storm water management, energy consumption, and in reduction of the urban heat island effect. Public works departments can also advance the use of natural infrastructure through thoughtful design in, construction and maintenance practices.
  • Transportation Departments – can advocate tree planting zones in road construction projects, and in the design and construction of urban greenway connections.

development of urban environment

  • Economic Development Departments – can identify incentives for the private sector to include trees and other elements of the urban forest in their projects. Economic development departments can also develop funding programs through which actual landscaping and/or land acquisitions are possible. The quantification of the local economic contributions of trees and urban forests can also be beneficial to further the health of the urban forest. Economic development departments should include trees and green spaces as critical components of any economic development plan.
  • Parks and Recreation Departments – can capitalize on their inherit mandate to provide quality green spaces, planting and maintaining the urban canopy, and engaging the community with regard to the benefits of trees and urban forests.
  • Community Services Departments – can create “green collar” jobs programs, and engage the community on the benefits of trees and urban forests.
  • Private Sector Organizations – can approach urban forestry on a “project by project” basis and focus on one mission at a time. Private sector organizations are also better positioned than the public sector to secure private donations.
  • Non-Profit Organizations -for advocacy of strategic partnerships; access to alternative funding sources; access to volunteer staff resources.

Resources for the Development of an Urban Forestry Program

“Talking Trees- An Urban Forestry Toolkit for Local Governments” November 2006 Ryan Bell and Jennie Wheeler, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability

Center for Urban Horticulture, University of Washington, College of Forest Resources

development of urban forest


This series of six articles has investigated the various interactions and resulting benefits of the urban forest on the human condition. A healthy urban forest can help cities and municipalities achieve environmental, social, and economic sustainability goals, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and removing carbon from the atmosphere. The urban landscape can be thought of as an urban ecosystem, with each part directly relating to and affecting the whole system. The urban forest functions in this urban ecosystem by mitigating harmful environmental issues, such as water and air pollution, and by shading and sheltering buildings with trees to reduce cooling and heating costs. In the urban environment, our health and welfare can benefit from exposure to natural settings, such as providing locations for recreation and relief from the stresses of everyday life. The benefits of trees are voluminous and immensely significant for the continued advancement of the quality of life in our rapidly-growing urban environments.

Citygreen designs and manufactures innovative structural soil cells which provide un-compacted soil to provide valuable nutrients for trees and other plants, as well as support for pavements and roads. These soil cells are a proven and effective way to promote a healthy urban forest.

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