Whist a city’s design seems to demonstrate a clever architectural feat, it’s always felt lacking when compared to nature. Over previous decades, population increases and the desirability and convenience of cities, has led to accelerated city planning and the development of large urban areas and sprawls that can even fall outside of city limits.
This accelerated urbanisation, especially within city limits, has minimised the availability of green spaces and increased air pollution. Cities are often homogonous environments that feature impressive and exciting skylines. They play a critical role in supporting social, economic and even ecological systems. Yet, when a city becomes saturated, it can lead to all kinds of harm on the natural environment and human health. The urban landscape represents an urgent need for more sustainable development and a better regard for biodiversity. This, some have said, will welcome a new era of ‘ecological urbanism’.
Over 50% of the global population live in urban dwelling. The United Nations predicts this number will climb to 70% by the middle of the century. Meanwhile, harmful and often illegal pollution levels are responsible for poor human health and this is a global problem. Between a scaling population and dangerous pollution levels, there’s never been more urgency to address issues about the climate than before.
Answering to sustainability as a mission for city planning, it’s no surprise that major destinations from New York to Delhi, and London to Melbourne, are looking to transform cities through sustainable landscaping.
The proposed ideas and theories for greener city transformations go beyond cosmetic changes. Urban sustainability describes this shared motivation – by policymakers, businesses, and residents alike – to live and work in urban spaces that carry minimal environmental footprints. This means expanding opportunities not just socially, culturally and economically, but also ecologically from within city limits. Stockholm, for example, is a city driven by sustainability goals that are shared by residents and larger institutions. From recycling household waste, to energy efficiency in buildings, sustainability is approached both practically and holistically.
In 2021, urban landscaping concepts are evolving. Whilst we might not be able to always expand the number of green parks over limited available space, we can still adapt the existing infrastructure. A growing number of green space developers, architects and commercial landscapers are engineering urban design to include plants, foliage, fauna, and trees. Buildings are capable of being living ecosystems, featuring green walls, sedum roofs and natural fence landscaping ideas that invigorate and renew life itself from within the city limits. Benefits of green spaces and the availability of nature can touch every industry and community from inner-city schools to business parks.
By utilising existing buildings, commercial spaces are transforming from just another dreary grey part of the urban landscape into greener infrastructures that can support ecological goals, including biodiversity. Sustainable city planning and design goes deeper than landscape architecture and, instead, focuses on creating greener solutions that recruits, nurtures, and supports nature.
So, what is green space? Formally defined, green space is any public or private land featuring natural elements within an urban area, including water. Types of open urban green spaces include parks, public and private gardens, riversides, allotments, and green corridors with urban trees and vegetation.
Green spaces in cities are especially vital and are often understood as the lungs of a city. These spaces are associated with nature and help to counteract many of the negative impacts that pollution and urban saturation can have on the environment and on the health of city residents. Green spaces help to minimise our carbon footprint and promote biodiversity in urban areas, whilst supporting human health.
Ecologists, researchers and economists support definitions of urban green space as public and private spaces in urban areas, ‘primarily covered in vegetation which is directly or indirectly available for users’. Yet, the benefits of sustainability in urban areas can improve human health.
We already know that plants are proven to help our cognitive function, improve air quality and soothe the mind. Even a single potted plant can make a difference to our health and wellbeing. Nature has the power to convey feelings of safety, opportunity, freedom, connection and simple pleasure from our environment. These elements profoundly affect our emotional and mental health, to conduct work productively and to form and maintain relationships.
Soft surfaces comprising of vegetation, grass and soil in London accounts for 18% of the entire city. London’s current mayor, Sadiq Khan, supported London being declared the world’s first national park city by news pundits, and has further goals to make more than 50% of the capitol green by 2050. Future sustainable urban development plans include river restoration, new habitats for wildlife and improved green spaces like community gardens. From the Greener Capital Fund, “green capital grants” will economically support many of these projects.
Leading by example, Singapore is often considered the garden city. With a population of 5.7 million, Singapore is the second most densely populated place on earth. It also cleared over 95% of its natural vegetation to make way for growing industry and capitalism. By the 1960s, air pollution levels were climbing to record highs and the often-poor human health of its residents reflected that.
In the 1990s, Singapore pledged to become what’s known as a ‘biophilic’ city. Singapore planned to reclaim green space, rewilding as many areas of the city as possible to create natural habitats and spur biodiversity. Nowadays, and in a short timeframe, Singapore has become widely recognised for its environmental achievements and represents what is possible for sustainable urbanism. The incorporation of rooftop gardens, vertical green walls and urban plants have seen air pollution levels remain consistent since the turn of the decade and this supports more ambitious targets looking ahead.
We know that a single plant can make a difference within a home, so just imagine what would happen if entire cities became greener and, therefore, more sustainable. The benefits of sustainability seem limitless, including:
Corporate offices are designed to be efficient and professional. Green spaces, including vegetation, can improve workplace productivity, as much as help buildings operated more efficiently and sustainability.
Transforming a building into a sustainable one has several benefits for employers, employees and the facility managers, such as:
Whilst cites are opportunistic for businesses and people alike, today’s urban lifestyle is somewhat unhealthy. From stimulus overload to poor air quality, the city is a place that could be changed to improve employment and lifestyles. Whether noise pollution or stress, messy and chaotic urban sites can undermine human functions like motivation, self-control, mood and memory.
A study by the Central Institute of Mental Health in Germany found that, in comparison to those living in the countryside, people who live in the city did not cope with stress as well. Another study from Holland found that anxiety disorders rose by 21% and mood disorder by 39%, while the chance of schizophrenia doubled when living in a built environment – to name a few of the impacts on human health.
When commenting on urbanisation and health, The World Health Organisation observes how “health challenges particularly evident in cities relate to water, environment, violence and injury”.
Those with access to available green urban spaces report feelings of wellbeing, are able to function better and enjoy their time at work more. The diversity of life outside of humans in the form of birds, insects and flowers brings much by way of mental breaks and connecting to inner peacefulness. People are less stressed, energised and calm.
Sustainable urban living offers a more productive, safer, sustainable alternative to chaotic urban business parks undermined by poor air quality, noise pollution and rising facility costs owed to operational inefficiency.
With planning and management, the urban landscape holds endless possibility. During planning, vegetationshould be responsibly and expertly designed to support a building’s objectives for sustainability. Yet, too often, greenery is removed.
A landscaping professional that understands how to incorporate vegetation strategically, can help a commercial premise enjoy unique advantages both by its workers and for facility managers.
Professional commercial landscapers like Grounds Care Group will help you plan and design your outdoor urban area. Our expert team of horticulturists can find all manner of ways to bring natural foliage, trees and grasses to your building, whilst reinforcing your goals. We can even maintain your premises throughout the seasons, ensuring your green space remains functional.
Get in touch today for more information on how you can transform your business grounds.