CELEBRATING URBAN GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE

Urban green infrastructure? What is that all about? Well, it’s a slightly technical term to refer to the whole set of green features in cities that together form the infrastructure via which plants and animals move around and survive. Think of city parks, gardens, road verges, green walls and roofs, and water courses. It’s the green analogue of grey infrastructure, the complex of roads, buildings and other structures in asphalt, concrete and stone  via which people in which people live and move around.

There’s much going on regarding green infrastructure, and the way in which it provides services to support human well-being. Not only in terms of bringing nature closer to people, but also in terms of offering nearby space to play and relax, cleaning the air, storing water, cooling down the city, and much more.

The two-day European Urban Green Infrastructure Conference (EUGIC) took stock of developments in this field and looked into future developments. Some 250 representatives from business, public authorities, science, and practice met in Budapest, Hungary, to share their experiences and learn from each other. And it was splendid!

The many examples from businesses that develop products to support greening of roofs and façades showed that much is going in this field. The green infrastructure market is booming and predicted to grow more in the years to come. And this is necessary, as threats from climate change to people living and working in cities, such as flash floods or heat waves, are increasing. Green infrastructure offers sustainable, nature-based solutions to such threats.

An example: intensive green roofs (with a well-developed diverse vegetation) reduce the surface temperature of a flat roof on a warm summer day by up to 50 (!) degrees. At the same time, such roofs store rainwater and slowly release it to the vegetation, limiting the water that runs off into the sewer system. And the vegetation attracts local wildlife and is pretty to look at!

There is growing evidence that urban green infrastructure supports natural capital as well as social and economic capital. It’s a social glue in which the local community participates, and often its maintenance is much cheaper than the ‘grey’ alternatives, while offering more services to society.

We saw examples from major companies implementing green infrastructure on their premises, such as LEGO and IKEA, and major cities all over the world embracing building with nature. And what was very promising to realize, is that this is not about green-washing but about pride and innovation. And many of the examples showed that the solutions are very beneficial for local biodiversity indeed.

This EUGIC was the second of its kind, with the third one coming up in two years’ time, as part of the ‘journey of inspiration towards more green cities’, as Dusty Gedge, President of the European Federation of Green Roof and Wall Associations, said in his keynote speech. I’m looking forward to continue this journey!