Green ‘city skin’ delivers many ecosystem services

Protecting the ‘skin’ of the city with all forms of greenery delivers a wide array of ecosystem services, as Nicole Pfoser shows in her research already in 2012. While the unprotected skin leads to noisy, hot and flooded cities, the ‘city skin’ composed of roofs, facades and public space surfaces delivers sound absorption, water buffering, reduction of urban heat islands – and an increase in urban biodiversity, when protected with urban flora.

Download the full (and free) report of Mrs. Pfoser at the German Fraunhofer Insitute.

Viennese public transport company contributes to biodiversity

There is also positive news from Vienna these days: Because securing biodiversity on public green spaces is important – they are not only attractive areas to be used by people and animals and help cooling down the city in the summer – the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (Boku) was asked by the metropolitan public transport company (Wiener Linien) how to preserve and maintain these spaces appropriately. A large scale investigation into insect and plant species on 20+ green spaces along the public transport network has shown surprising results.

In the only 3.7 hectares studied 378 species of plants and a third of all 460 bee species in Vienna could be found. This is remarkable, given the more than 200 km2 of green space in the entire metropole, and stresses the importance of transport infrastructure for green-blue urban networks in the city, and Quality of Life.

Read more on the still ongoing research of Bärbel Pachinger and Sophie Kratschmer at Wiener Linien or Der Standard. Final results will be published in 2021, see the university website for details. Image is (c) Boku.

Porosity for closed buildings and a park instead of parked cars: the new BUas campus in Breda contributes to quality of life in the city

The city of Breda has formulated the ambition to become the first ‘City in the Park’ and has been working consequently on improving biodiversity and nature-inclusive building. Recently the Breda Architecture Award 2020 (BLASt Prize) was awarded to the new Breda University of Applied Sciences Campus, a design by Inbo and Culd. In the heart of the project a formerly car-lined road was transferred into a new park. The courtyard of the adjacent cloister was opened up towards the new green campus. Even when the university buildings might be closed due to covid-19, the new campus space is open to the public and contributes to quality of life in the city.

Stichting BLASt
Inbo architects
Culd landscape architects

The end of the stone gardens in Baden-Würthemberg

The stone garden increases the climat problems such as heatstress and stormwater floods in the neighbourhoods. Since a few days a stone garden is forbidden in Baden-Würthemberg. Their garden-legislation (1995) prescribed that paving is only allowed where it is really needed. The recent garden trend to replace plants by small pebbles was not foreseen and not stopped. The film explains to the inhabitants why the new law is made and how to change the garden.

film in:

“A leafy neighbourhood feels 15°C cooler than areas with no trees.” TU Delft now has a test set up with 75 tree species to check what is the coolest tree.

Trees provide all kinds of ecosystem services, such as converting CO2 into carbohydrates, producing oxygen, and purifying the air by trapping particulates. They provide habitats for fungi, mosses, insects, mammals and birds and so form the basis of all ecosystems, including in urban areas. But trees also help to keep city squares, streets and buildings cooler. Their leaves absorb solar radiation, transpire water and create shade, so lowering the temperature in their immediate environment. During a heat wave, a dense foliage provides much-needed shelter and a park or public garden with lots of trees quickly feels like an oasis in the urban desert. On a hot, windless day, a leafy neighbourhood may well feel 10 to 15°C cooler than an urban area that is more exposed to the sun, which can be enough to prevent heat stress. Trees thus play a key role in the design of climate-proof and healthier cities.

To determine the cooling performance of various species of trees, in 2018 TU Delft’s Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment and the Dutch Association of Landscape Gardeners (VHG) formed the Urban Forestry joint research programme to support fundamental research into the relationship between tree architecture and the urban microclimate. Urban landscape specialist René van der Velde, who is affiliated with the Faculty’s Chair of Landscape Architecture, is leading the programme. Lotte Dijkstra joined the programme as a researcher. “Although gardeners and other ‘green’ professionals already understand a great deal about the performance of tree species in the built environment, there is very little empirical knowledge about their cooling capacity.”

In order to determine how physical properties such as the trunk and crown shape, the branch structure, and the leaf characteristics influence the local air temperature and the apparent temperature, this spring the research team designed and built special ‘climate arboreta’, experimental plots containing tree species that are common in Dutch parks and gardens.

Read more

Temporary working space in nature announces future urban development

(c) Outside Society, Polis Magazine

From earlier this week, 15th of July until 14th of August 2020 a special working space in immediate contact with nature although set amidst the urban environment of Berlin is available for small business meetings. This Outside Society Box announces the development of the 97 ha former military site in Berlin Lichterfelde with 2500 apartments which claims to protect today’s landscape character and its rich biodiversity – with partners on board like the German BUND, the national nature protection agency.

The box was built by the ‘Outside Society’, a young Berlin start up, and can be rented for workshops, strategy meetings and other work related sessions, ideally set next to an S-Bahn station. The idea of the sustainable, wifi equipped and PV operated autarchic box is based upon the notion that “the best ideas and creative solutions in business life are often found during free time and in spaces that offer freedom and recreation. The green character of Berlin offers a unique opportunity for this”. The box is naturally ventilated and opens up on all 4 sides which makes it covid-19 proof to convene with groups up to 12 persons.

More info: Groth Gruppe, Outside Society

Daylighting brings back (green-)blue networks in cities and improves Quality of Life

“Mooi…” – the daylighted Grift in Apeldoorn, (c) WEF. Still of video ‘Dayligting Urban Rivers’

More and more towns break open culverts to reveal hidden rivers in the heart of the city, such as Freiburg im Breisgau did already in the 70ies en more recently London and Zurich. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) the reasons to uncover hidden rivers are the “social, environmental and economic benefits” like “public desire to recapture lost spaces and improve quality of life in the city”. The economic advantage of having clean water flowing through the city instead of jamming sewage works is the reduction of wastewater treatment costs.

The 2005 Cheonggyecheon stream project in Seoul is an almost 11km-long artificial water corridor that diverts water from an underground river, that is a flood relief channel and touristic attraction. In addition, the WEF states that these daylighted waterways can help cool cities and reduce the Urban Heat Island effect, and bring benefits for urban wildlife. In the Dutch city of Apeldoorn the urban stream of the Grift has been daylighted successively from 2002 and the inner city segment will be finalized in 2020 as last piece.

Read more in an article of the WEF and see the detailed plans of Apeldoorn (Dutch only).

Positive spin-off of urban biodiversity seen from a health perspective

A call for more ‘Rewildering’ in our cities was just one of the aspects ecologist of Breda Municipality Rombout van Eekelen addressed in his lecture on health in cities. Next to confirming’s call for more wilderness set out in the declaration Wild Amsterdam published earlier this month, Van Eekelen called for more primary prevention of diseases by building and designing for biodiversity in order to let ecosystem services contribute to healthy cities.

Stress, hay fever, desease of Crohn and other physical and mental diseases occur less in more natural and biodiverse neighbourhoods because a biodiverse set of bacteria in the human body (skin, intestines) helps us to build op resilient health, shows research of the University of Helsinki from 2012.

Therefore in cities, the use of native green in outer layers of buildings, on circulation such as galleries or next to windows sleeping rooms are clearly recommended to bring dwellers in contact with biodiversity. An intriguing example shown was the Sottish parliament by architect Enric Miralles, which integrates large areas of planting with indigenous Scottish wildflowers, trees and shrubs. The wild grasses and trees used in the outside seating areas of the building were mainly found already in the area. The planting list can even be downloaded on the parliament’s website. This is what I call nature inclusive!

Re:cap Nature inclusive building

Within the ‘Grensverkenningen’ series Arcam, the Royal Insitute of Dutch Architects BNA and Pakhuis De Zwijger discussed the aspect of nature inclusive building on 24th of June.. was present with Maike van Stiphout. Watch the 60 mins program back online and learn more about the nextcity, biomimicry and what we can learn of nature’s R&D department, but also the importance nocturnal networks and concrete plans for the borders of the city of Amsterdam.

Watch the LiveCast here.