What is green infrastructure?
Green infrastructure is the network of natural and semi-natural areas. This includes woodland areas, parks, gardens, and other green features. It’s incredibly important for the environment and for us, especially in urban areas.
Green roofs and walls
Green roofs and walls are becoming increasingly popular, especially in cities where buildings take up most of the space. Using the surfaces provided by these buildings is the most effective way to add greenery in built-up areas.
Permeable paving is any type of paving that allows water to penetrate through the ground, reducing run-off into street drains and minimising flooding. Gravel is one of the most common types of permeable paving, but there are other specifically designed block paving that allow rainwater to soak into the ground.
Going to the woods is a refreshing way to connect with nature when you live in an urban area. Woodland areas are important for community, well-being, and local wildlife.
Parks provide important green spaces for all age groups. They tend to have areas for both relaxation and exercise, as well as play areas for children. This, along with the plant life found in parks, makes them a great addition to a green infrastructure network.
Lining streets with trees is a classic way to incorporate residential areas into green infrastructure. Two of the most common street trees are silver birch (Betula pendula) and horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum).
Mitigating the Urban Heat Island Effect
Many types of green infrastructure provide shade and have cooling effects, helping to mitigate the urban heat island effect. This, in turn, makes heat-related illnesses less common.
Improving air quality
The more plants there are in an urban area, the more they help to filter air pollution. Cleaner air allows for a healthier environment to live in.
Most plants provide great shelter and food for different animals, birds, and insects. An extensive network of green infrastructure is the best way to support biodiversity, increasing the number of plant species in an area as well as the creatures that benefit from them.
Reduced water run-off
Green infrastructure helps to manage stormwater. More greenery tends to mean more permeable ground and exposed soils, helping to lessen run-off and reduce the risk of flooding. This, in turn, reduces the risk of pollutants in the run-off from entering bodies of water.
Ecosystems provide us with services like filtering water, regulating the climate, and preventing the spread of diseases. Green infrastructure creates ecosystems and boosts the effects of their services, benefitting both people and the planet.
Maintaining a network of green infrastructure involves a lot of people. The planning, installation, and maintenance of green spaces create loads of different jobs. Prioritising green infrastructure in towns and cities is a great way to ensure long-term employment opportunities for the people involved in these processes. This is especially true in more built-up areas, where more work needs to be done for green infrastructure to have a significant impact.
Reduced maintenance costs
As plants establish, they require less maintenance. In the long term green infrastructure doesn’t require as much attention as grey infrastructure, which can save councils money on upkeep.
Increased property value
People like plants. Being around nature is scientifically proven to be good for our well-being, so it makes sense that we enjoy urban areas that have more plant life.
Improved mental and physical health
Human beings have an innate desire to be close to nature – we call this biophilia. Access to green spaces improves the well-being of local residents. It reduces stress and offers recreational opportunities, which is particularly useful for young people who want to get more exercise.
Green social spaces
Green spaces can be excellent communal areas, especially when they have seating like benches or logs. For example, parks provide an excellent ‘third place’ for young people, aka somewhere that isn’t their home or school. People go to parks or other green spaces to spend time together, have picnics, and walk their dogs.
Green infrastructure is really important in modern urban life. Being around plants is good for people, and green spaces are good for wildlife. Click here to read more about the environment.