Posts Tagged ‘Climate change’

Ecobuild 2012 – External Works notes


As the dust settles after the 2012 Ecobuild event, here are few observations, in brief, from the External Works corner. (more…)


Costing the benefits of green infrastructure

King’s Cross Canal - law_keven on Flickr

King’s Cross Canal - law_keven on Flickr

Mark Smulian on Planning Resource argues that ‘a lack of political commitment and a shortage of green skills are pushing urban landscaping down the pecking order despite the potential benefits it offers for improving local quality of life.’

He links into CABE’s Grey to Green campaign which wants to see skills and funding shift from grey infrastructure – think roads – to green infrastructure – think parks, gardens, allotments and green roofs.

He also notes the PricewaterhouseCoopers survey which found that councils spend, on average, 4.3% of their budgets on green infrastructure. Increasing this a little could have a noticeable impact on other areas of concern / expenditure, including local air quality, climate change and health.

The hardy amongst you might like to look-up a recent Dutch research report – Morbidity is related to a green living environment.

The researchers looked at the morbidity data of 195 general practitioners in 96 Dutch practices, serving a population of 345,143 people, and the percentage of green space within a 1km radius of each household.

The results were quite clear. After stripping out demographic and socio-economic factors, the ‘annual prevalence rate of 15 of the 24 disease clusters was lower in living environments with more green space in a 1 km radius.’

The study stresses the importance of green space close to home for children and lower socio-economic groups.

For more on green infrastructure try Brice Maryman’s and Nate Cormier’s Green Infrastructure Wiki.

I sourced the Oakland County (Michigan, USA) Green Infrastructure Program from there. It’s particularly strong on the economic benefits of the programme, and what they term the ‘visioning process’.

Oakland County’s Green Infrastructure Program focuses on identifying an interconnected network of green space that conserves natural ecosystem values and functions, guides sustainable development, and provides associated economic and quality-of-life benefits to our communities.

Sustainable Cities – ‘Preparing towns and cities for a changing climate’ – is also a good place to look for the UK perspective.

It’s strong on the benefits – quality of life, healthier residents, stronger local economy, protection from climate change.

And it also provides examples of best practice. There’s Manchester’s Green Streets project that is planting street trees in areas of socio-economic deprivation where there is currently little green cover. Whilst Sutcliffe Park in London is an example of a new floodplain, engineered to protect Lewisham from flooding and introduce more green space into the area.

Rising sea levels and the future of British coastal cities

The Attack scenario in Hull - a new relationship with water

The Attack scenario in Hull - developing a new relationship with the sea

A new report from Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) looks at the effect of a 1.9m sea level rise – a worst case scenario predicted by scientists if nothing is done to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and global ice sheets begin to break up – on Hull and Portsmouth.

The report entitled Facing up to Rising Sea Levels: Retreat, Defend, Attack? outlines three scenarios:

Accept that parts of the cities will be under water and moving critical infrastructure and housing.
Are we prepared to do this? Large tracts of the south and east coasts of Britain are threatened. Where will everyone go? What will the loss of arable land do to our food security?

Build extensive flood defences to protect the city.
Are we prepared to spend the money? Our current annual flood defence spending is £500m. It is estimated that it needs to increase to £750m just to maintain design-specification levels of protection.

Living on the water by building stilted and floating structure.
Waterworld. The report envisions a new relationship with water with infrastructure being moved onto decommissioned oil platforms and retro-fitted naval vessels. This scenario is similar to another visualisation noted on our sister blog – Water, water, everywhere – the impact of rising sea levels on coastal cities.

Download the report here.

Maybe it’s time to become serious about reducing carbon dioxide emissions. How about a global summit?

Other resources:
– Useful explanation of the different types of flooding

– The Environment Agency is responsible for England and Wales’ flood defences. Here is a brief outline of what they choose to defence and why, whilst here is more detail from DEFRA, including an assessment of funding requirements for the next 25 years.

– A piece on the Netherlands’ experience, which suggests interestingly that the Dutch are psychologically more open to an Attack response.

Plant a tree for Christmas


The National Forest is encouraging online shoppers to go for an alternative, environmentally friendly gift in the run-up to Christmas.

Its ‘Plant a Tree’ scheme lets people pledge support by contributing to the planting of a tree or a group of trees. In return, they get an invitation to a tree planting event, a choice of tree to plant, and a personalised certificate.

The National Forest is a new wooded landscape that covers 200 square miles of the English Midlands across parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire. More than 7 million trees have been planted since it was established. It won the inaugural Sustainable Development UK award in 2008.

Each tree costs £25, which reflects the cost of creating and developing the new woodland, including further care and maintenance of the site.

LDT backs SUDS standards

Cloburn Quarry Company drainage aggregates for SUDS schemes

Sustainable drainage systems

The Landscape Design Trust has announced plans to give training on forthcoming national SUDS standards.

Defra and the Welsh Government Assembly are preparing the standards to encourage the use of sustainable drainage systems in new-build and redevelopment projects.

Saying that uptake so far has been ‘disappointingly slow’, the LDT – working with the Landscape Institute and the Environment Agency – now intends to offer direct help to local authorities and designers that want to use SUDS technologies and principles.

ESI references:

Defra on Saving our Soils


British Sugar TOPSOIL

A Defra study has highlighted the dangers posed by general degradation of soil quality in England.

It explores the potential impact on agriculture and food growth, and on flood alleviation.

Its proposals would affect the construction industry by regulating handling and removal of soil from land under development for housing and infrastructure. At the same time, the agricultural industrial will be required to change its approach to fertiliser use.

ESI references:

Boris backs LED traffic lights


Transport for London is to install 3500 LED traffic lights at 300 junctions in London.

– reduction in energy consumption by up to 60%
– reduction in 600 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year
– save £200,000 a year in energy costs
– last 10 times longer than standard bulbs

This programme follows on from a successful trial in Croydon from January 2007 to August 2008.

ESI references:

The ecology of urban design


Two detailed video presentations looking at green infrastructure are available on Sustainable Cities, CABE’s climate change and urban design website.

The talks were given at the March 2009 ParkCity conference.

William McDonough, the American architect, speaks on the ecology of urban design.

Edward McMahon, the planner and environmental lawyer, speaks on green infrastructure.

ESI references:

Climate change and landscape architecture

Picture: from ASLA

Picture: from ASLA

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has pulled together a survey of online resources as part of its Professional Practice facility: “There are a range of landscape architecture-related mitigation strategies that, if employed at mass scale, can help reduce GHG emissions”.

The list covers:

  • Site planning
  • Open spaces
  • Plant selection
  • Stormwater management
  • Green roofs
  • Smart growth communities
  • Complete streets

ESI references:

Cycling in London (at a price)


Transport for London will be launching a chargeable bike-hire scheme in 2010 reports that:

‘Transport for London also announced that more than a quarter of the intended 400 cycle docking station sites have already received planning permission. The scheme should see 6,000 hire bikes spread over London’s zone one travel area.’

ESI references: