We Need Greener Cities NOW 🎥
As the world’s population continues to grow at an unsustainable rate, accompanying problems are compounded by an overall trend towards urbanisation. That is, a higher proportion of people live in the city, or within a close radius, in order to take advantage of economic opportunities. Space is at a premium.
Yet, we know that humans do not fare particularly well in a “concrete jungle”. Detrimental effects have been found on both physical and mental health.
So when it comes to “cities”, what word comes to mind? For me it is busy, loud and polluted. And when you think of “forests”? Most likely it will be peaceful.
What if cities would be something different to how we know them?
Trees are of invaluable importance to our environment and to human well being; they contribute to the environment by providing oxygen, better air quality, improving our climate, conserving and storing water and preserving soil. During the process of photosynthesis, trees take in carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen we breathe. Not only are trees essential for life, but as long living species on earth, they give us a link between the past, present and future. It is critical that woodlands, rainforests and trees in urban settings, such as parks, are preserved and sustainably managed across the world.
With the rapid expansion of the world’s urban population, architects and planners are mapping out ways to make cities more sustainable. Cities produce a vast amount of emissions and waste, putting a strain on both human and ecological health. But our buildings themselves may hold a solution. High-density urban areas, especially those built using green methods in design and construction are likely to be more energy efficient with far less pollution.
Green buildings (‘Green building’ refers to both a structure and the application of processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle: from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition. Wikipedia) are also part of making our cities more sustainable and increase the wellbeing to the residents.
Green buildings preserve precious natural resources and improve our quality of life with social benefits to the whole of our society. According to a growing body of research, the most important social benefits of green buildings are the enhanced health and wellbeing of those living and working in them. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, health and well being are supported by the indoor air quality characteristic in green buildings. In traditional building often poor indoor air is the result of insufficient air circulation, poor lighting, mold, temperature variances, carpeting, furniture materials, pesticides, toxic adhesives, paints, and other pollutants contribute to respiratory problems, allergies, nausea, headaches, and skin rashes and increase the risk of mental problems.
The goals of green building are:
Life cycle assessment
Siting and structure design efficiency
Indoor environmental quality enhancement
Operations and maintenance optimization
Siemens, one of the leading companies in the United Kingdom has built “The Crystal”, an urban sustainable landmark that draws thousands of visitors each year. In addition to its striking structural design, it is one of the greenest buildings ever built by mankind. This building takes advantage of the natural daylight entirely and also uses smart lighting technology, wherein electricity is mainly powered by photovoltaic solar panels; the building is illuminated by an integration of LED and fluorescent lights which are switched on and off depending on the available daylight. Another interesting feature is the so-called ‘Rainwater Harvesting and Black Water Recycling’ meaning that rainwater is collected via the roof while the sewage is treated, the then recycled water is purified and converted as drinking water.
Green buildings will not only reduce or eliminate negative impacts on our environment by using less energy, water and natural resources, but potentially have a positive impact on the environment - at building or city scales - by generating their own energy.
The other aspect of a “Green city” with parklands, trees and plants outside the buildings also improves the environment, ensures rich biodiversity, reduces air pollution, ensures water storage, dampens noise and helps cooling down in warm periods to tackle climate change.
I quote part of an article in the “The Conversation” :
"Why is greening on the agenda?
Urban greening is now recognised as a public health issue. New research has found its benefits include:
lower rates of antidepressant prescriptions in neighbourhoods close to woodlands in the UK;
happier people living in areas with more birdlife; and
better health outcomes with increased neighbourhood tree coverage in the US.
Ecological research also shows that urban green spaces can support many kinds of birds, bats, bees and plants. Urban greening has even been found to lead to safer neighbourhoods.
Australian urban planning and policy need to embrace these findings. Multiple government portfolios must work together to better plan for green cities that achieve maximum impact for economic, environmental and public health outcomes." (end of quote; link for more information in reference)
WATCH: 🎥 (9:24) All Things Human, 2018 - Coolest Most Environmentally Friendly Buildings in The World
The future of our planet depends on how urban development is managed. In addition to being the biggest contributors to climate change, cities are also among the most at risk, and consequently have the most to gain from going “green”.
So hopefully urban planners find more creative ways to weave nature into the cities, particularly with space at a premium. At the same time, governments need to introduce new regulations and offer bigger incentives to get projects off the ground, and to encourage more innovation among businesses. Wouldn’t it be nice if future generations were proud of us?
The Conversation, 2017 (viewed 29.06.2020)
The Green Market Oracle, 2010 (viewed 29.06.2020)
When on Earth (viewed 29.06.2020)