• EU Conference: Evidence-based planning for greener cities

    #european commission #Future green city #urban planning

    Conference in collaboration with the Maltese presidency of the EU Institute of Applied Sciences, Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology, 13 June 2017

    Background and objectives Almost three out of four EU citizens live in urban areas and this number will further grow. All these people need an inclusive, healthy, resilient, safe and sustainable living environment. This challenge is well captured by the United Nation’s sustainable development goals (SDG) that include under SDG 11 seven specific targets aiming to make cities and communities better places to live. One important target is to provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces by 2030. Understanding how urban green spaces provide essential services to citizens is important to make informed decisions on maintaining or investing in green infrastructure. The EnRoute (‘Enhancing Resilience of urban ecosystems through green infrastructure’) project provides scientific evidence to help policy makers and planners with achieving this target. EnRoute is a project of the European Commission in the framework of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020. It builds on the many positive experiences of the MAES urban pilot study1 . It aims to promote the application of urban green infrastructure at local level and will deliver guidance on the creation, management and governance of urban green infrastructure. Importantly, it will illustrate how collaboration between and across different policy levels can lead to concrete green infrastructure policy setting.

    EnRoute organises a conference with the following objectives:

    ● Evaluate how science can provide the tools to inform policy making and urban planning so that quality of life improves for every citizen;

    ● Discuss how the Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystem and their Services (MAES) evidence base can help for policy-setting with respect to urban planning;

    ● Networking for scientists, planners and policy makers working on urban green infrastructure topics. 1 http://biodiversity.europa.eu/maes Conference organisers

    ● European Commission – Joint Research Centre (Joachim Maes, Grazia Zulian)

    ● Institute of Applied Sciences, Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology2 (Mario Balzan) Data and Venue  The conference will take place in Paola (Malta) the premises of the Institute of Applied Sciences, Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST), on 13 June 2017.

    Registration: https://ec.europa.eu/eusurvey/runner/ConferenceEvidenceForGreenerCities


    ● Policy makers from Malta and the European Commission

    ● Stakeholders and researchers from 19 cities across Europe which are partners of the EnRoute project (Dublin, Glasgow, Manchester, Utrecht, The Hague, Antwerp, Helsinki, Tallinn, Oslo, Leipzig, Karlovo, Limmasol, Valletta, Rome, Verona, Padova, Trento, Poznan and Lisbon).

    ● Local stakeholders from the Maltese environment and planning authorities ● European stakeholders (planning, research, member states)

  • Greening Grey Britain Garden

    #climate change #gardening

    With more pollution and flooding in towns and cities, plants and gardens have never been needed more – this RHS garden tackles these pressing problems


    Green Grey Britain Garden at Chelsea 2017
    To illustrate the challenges of climate change and rapid urban development, the RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, sponsored by M&G Investments (23 – 27 May) is set within an urban landscape. The garden focuses on practical and creative solutions for where space is at a premium, including balconies, and areas on and around the buildings themselves.
    Designer, Professor Nigel Dunnett, says:

    “Gardens and plants are no longer an optional and decorative ‘nice-to-have’, they’re essential. With pollution levels dangerously high in cities and flash-flooding devastating areas of the country, we need to all embrace the fact that plants help mitigate against some of the biggest environmental threats facing us today.”

    Nigel uses plants that soak-up pollution, as well as those which are drought tolerant, and has incorporated water-sensitive design ideas, such as rain gardens and wetland areas to deal with flash flooding. Nigel’s typical ‘low-input, high impact’ planting style is used throughout to deliver a long-lasting, colourful display with minimal maintenance and high wildlife value. The modern garden is full of ecological ideas.
    Greening Grey Britain garden

    Large, multi-tiered structures which mirror apartment blocks also feature in the garden. These ‘creature towers’ provide a home for a wide range of wildlife such as insects and birds.

    It is full of inspirational take-home ideas which are directly relevant to home gardeners and community groups, and Nigel has used realistic and readily-available materials to make sure that this is an achievable project.

    Other notable elements include:

    • bike storage
    • recycling and composting facilities
    • edible planting (including a 2.5 metre long communal meeting table which integrates fruit trees and herbs in its structure).

    Nigel added that:

    “We know that gardens and gardening bring people together, and there’s now overwhelming evidence that they make us feel better and healthier. These ideas are central to the design.”

    The garden, which is an unjudged show feature, also contains RHS Chelsea’s first ever street-art wall.
    Key features:

    • RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden contains inspirational ideas for the future development of urban spaces
    • Adapted to climate-change, with ‘low-input, high-impact’ planting, water-sensitive design, biodiversity and habitat features, and pollution-soaking plants
    • Aims to inspire people, communities and urban developers, set in the context of a high-rise apartment block
    • Will showcase first ever street-art wall at RHS in the history of the show

    Read more about Greening Grey Britain

    Source: https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/News/2017/greening-grey-britain-garden


  • Urban heat poses greatest health threat

    Climate change and the resilience of cities is another key planning challenge that is confronting cities, claims landscape architect Professor Elizabeth Mossop, Dean of Design Architecture and Building at Sydney’s University of Technology.

    Mossop has also been involved in the post-hurricane reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and the ongoing revitalisation of Detroit in the United States.

    “Mitigating the effects of urban heat islands through increased tree canopy and vegetation, for example, is necessary to avoid heat-related public health issues and the economic implications of increased energy use,” she says.

    Urban heat islands are built-up areas that are significantly warmer than their rural surroundings due to human activities, and often experience increased temperature differences of up to 3.7 degrees celsius.

    “Contrary to popular belief our greatest public health threat is heat,” says Mossop.

    “As things heat up more and more, the issues become increasingly acute and that is what we, as planners, are faced with at the moment.”

    Mossop says planners are becoming more influential, working alongside local authorities and key decision makers to tackle the challenging issues.

    “Our creative problem-solving is needed to help with complicated questions around urban population growth, sustainabilty, resilience, and how cities influence issues of social justice. We need to be creative in how best to use new technology and advancements.”

  • Gardening is good for your mind as well as your body

    #gardening #Green and health


    More than half the planet’s population now live in cities, with limited access to the natural world. For Europe and Latin America, the figure is more than 70%. Yet contact with nature has numerous benefits for both our physical and mental health.

    Gardening is an opportunity for everyone to experience this kind of regular contact with nature, even if they live in built-up areas. For those without a garden of their own, allotments or community gardens are a highly valuable resource. Demand for allotments is increasing and in some locations waiting times have reached as much as 40 years.

    But gardens shouldn’t just be a luxury for suburban dwellers. A growing body of evidence shows that they can make a significant contribution to our health and well-being, not just as a way to get some physical exercise but also to improve our mental state. There is even some limited evidence that gardening might play a role in helping people to cope with serious health problems such as cancer. This builds a strong case for governments and housebuilders to do more to provide gardens and allotments to as many people as possible.

    Any type of gardening, whether it is in a home or allotment garden, is an opportunity for physical activity. Gardening is typically seen as moderate intensity exercise equivalent to playing doubles tennis or walking at a speed of 3.5mph, and so carries similar fitness benefits. A survey of 269 people that my colleagues and I recently conducted into allotment gardening found a correlation between gardeners and a lower body mass index. We also found a greater percentage of non-gardeners were classified as overweight.

    Gardening is also linked to better diets. Home and allotment gardens have long been important for domestic food production, but gardening can also encourage people to eat more healthily and act as an educational resource on nutritious food. In fact, children who take part in gardening and grow their own food have a greater preference for, and increased consumption of, fruit and vegetables.

    Perhaps less obvious is the positive impact gardening can have on your mental health. Research has shown that gardeners generally have greater life satisfaction, enhanced self-esteem and fewer feelings of depression and fatigue than non-gardeners.

    But more than this, the act of gardening can specifically improve people’s moods. Asking gardeners about their mood before and after a session on their allotment, participants in our survey reported gardening improved self-esteem and reduce feelings of tension, depression and anger. We saw these benefits no matter how long participants had spent on their allotment in the particular session, in the last seven days or how long they had been gardening for in total.

    Other research suggests that gardening can increase life satisfaction, and both reduce and promote recovery from stress. In fact, gardening leads to greater reductions in stress following a stress test than either reading indoors or an indoor exercise class.

    This last point suggests that the mental benefits of gardening may be more than just a side-effect of the physical exercise involved. One possible reason for this is that gardening, particularly on allotments, can involve social interaction and becoming part of a community. Gardeners often share their knowledge, skills and experiences with each other and by doing so develop relationships and support networks. People with strong social networks have an increased life expectancy, greater resilience to stressful life events and fewer visits to the doctor.

    Gardening also provides essential opportunities for contact with nature, which alone has numerous benefits for our mental health. Spending time outdoors in a natural environment helps us to feel less stressed, reduces the symptoms of depression, and enhances our concentration and attention by allowing us to recover from mental fatigue.

    All this evidence shows there’s a strong relationship between gardening and health, but we only know for sure that there is correlation, not causation. This means we can’t say that gardening alone is a direct cause of any improvements in health and well-being. We also need to directly examine the immediate effects of gardening on people who have never previously taken part or are suffering from mental and physical ill health.

    Despite these limitations, there is still enough evidence backing the benefits of gardening to make a case for encouraging more people to take part and for authorities to provide more gardening opportunities through community gardens or allotments. This could have a substantial impact on the health and well-being of the nation and reduce the health costs associated with conditions such as mental illness, obesity and loneliness.

    Source: http://theconversation.com/

  • Scientific research shows: gardening is good for you

    #Benefits of green #gardening #healing gardens #health

    Gardens and landscapes have long been designed as sanctuaries and retreats from the stresses of life – from great urban green spaces such as Central Park in New York to the humblest suburban backyard. But beyond the passive enjoyment of a garden or of being in nature more generally, researchers have also studied the role of actively caring for plants as a therapeutic and educational tool.

    “Therapeutic horticulture” and “horticultural therapy” have become recognised treatments for stress and depression, which have served as a healing aid in settings ranging from prisons and mental health treatment facilities to schools and hospitals.

    Gardening and school

    Studies of school gardening programs – which usually centre on growing food – show that students who have worked on designing, creating and maintaining gardens develop more positive attitudes about health, nutrition and the consumption of vegetables.

    They also score better on science achievement, have better attitudes about school, and improve their interpersonal skills and classroom behaviour.

    Research on students confirms that gardening leads to higher levels of self-esteem and responsibility. Research suggests that incorporating gardening into a school setting can boost group cohesiveness.

    Gardening and mental health

    Tailored gardening programs have been shown to increase quality of life for people with chronic mental illnesses, including anxiety and depression.

    Another study on the use of therapeutic horticulture for patients with clinical depression sought to understand why gardening programs were effective in lessening patient experience of depression. They found that structured gardening activities gave patients existential purpose. Put simply, it gave their lives meaning.

    In jails and corrective programs, horticultural therapy programs have been used to give inmates positive, purposeful activities that lessen aggression and hostility during and after incarceration.

    In one detailed study from a San Francisco program, involvement in therapeutic horticulture was particularly effective in improving psychosocial functioning across prison populations (although the benefits were not necessarily sustained after release.)

    Gardening has been shown to help improve the lives of military veterans and homeless people. Various therapeutic horticulture programs have been used to help people with learning difficulties, asylum seekers, refugees and victims of torture.

    source: theconversation.com


  • Thirty Minutes Of Nature A Week Reduces High Blood Pressure And Depression

    #Benefits of green #health #nature

    Odds are if you’re reading this, you reside in a city. More than half the world’s people — or just about 3.5 billion — now live in urban areas. That number is expected to swell to 5 billion by mid-century, according to the World Health Organization. A new study shows that while you can take the people away from nature, it’s a bad idea to take nature away from the people. University of Queensland researchers are among the first to advise how often and how intimately city dwellers need to engage with nature for it to make them healthier.

    Some experts regard nature as the antidote to 21st-century maladies like childhood obesity and even crime, citing the numerous previous studies over more than 40 years that attribute lower blood pressure, lower rates of heart disease and allergies, and better mental health, among other benefits, to spending time in nature. As a result, cities everywhere are upstarting and upgrading green spaces — the 100 largest cities in the United States spent $6 billion to do so in 2015 alone.

    Because current advice about how green spaces improve public health is general at best, the Australian researchers set out to pinpoint what would make these investments cost-effective. They sought to learn how frequently a person should visit nature and how long they should spend there to reap benefits like better state of mind and lower blood pressure. Since not all nature is created the same, they also measured how the quality and quantity of green space provided health benefits. The study results suggest we all may need a minimum dose of nature: 30 minutes in at least one visit a week is ideal.

    The research team surveyed 1,538 people ages 18-70 who reside in Brisbane, Australia, a city where baseline exposure to nature is likely to be high because there are about 2,000 square feet of green space per person and 36 percent tree cover. They recruited an equal mix of males and females who matched the sociodemographic makeup of the city. Information about depression, high blood pressure, social cohesion, and frequency of physical activity — four health issues known to improve with time spent in nature — was collected from the participants.

    The researchers believe these health outcomes could be tied to exposure to nature in more than one way. For example, a landscape full of plants may be linked to better physical, mental, and social well-being because it reduces stress and mental fatigue and because it makes a nice place for gathering with friends or getting exercise. Participants were asked how often they visited green spaces, how vegetated those areas were, and how long they spent during these visits.

    The study showed that participants who spent at least 30 minutes in nature per visit over the course of one week were less likely to be depressed or have high blood pressure and more likely to be physically active. Making more frequent visits to nature was linked to increased social cohesion, and participants who said they felt more connected to nature had greater levels of social cohesion and physical activity, even if they were not less likely to feel depressed or experience high blood pressure.

    Residents who failed to spend an average of 30 minutes or more within a visit to a green space during the course of their week were 7 percent more likely to show signs of depression and 9 percent more likely to have high blood pressure.

    Source: medicaldaily.com

  • This nature-filled community is a smart housing solution for Singapore’s aging population

    #Benefits of green #nature #social cohesion

    The island city-state of Singapore is one of the world’s fastest-aging countries, with predictions placing nearly a fifth of its population at ages 65 and over by 2030. To cater to its aging population and cope with the challenges of land scarcity, WOHA Architects designed Kampung Admiralty, Singapore’s first integrated public development filled with a wide range of public facilities, services, and greenery. In addition to the close proximity to a variety of amenities, elderly residents will also enjoy a close connection to nature and the community.

    Developed as a prototype for senior assisted living, Kampung Admiralty conforms to Singapore’s dense urban setting with a mixed-use scheme that layers three programmatic functions onto a 0.9-hectare site. The first stratum is the People’s Plaza, a fully public area on the ground plane open to the surrounding community with a central open-air courtyard located at the heart of the building. Protected from traffic noise, the People’s Plaza is designed for festivities and events and also connects to food and retail on the second story. Childcare facilities are integrated into the building to bring young and old together for intergenerational living.

    A Medical Center located above the People’s Plaza offers Kampung Admiralty residents immediate access to specialists. The top-most level gives way to greenery in the intimate Community Park, where residents can exercise or care for their plots in community gardens. Housing is also placed in the upper stratum and comprises 104 studio apartments for singles and couples spread out across two 11-story blocks. In addition to access to nature, the building is faced with generous amounts of glazing to allow for optimal views, natural light, and ventilation.

    Source: inhabitat.com

  • Gardens for the elderly can make a neighbourhood stronger

    #Benefits of green #gardens #health

    How can you make the world larger for the elderly in care facilities? And how do you connect such a facility to the neighbourhood? Green can be a key factor, as was demonstrated by the residential care centre Tolsteeg in Utrecht. Here a lush enclosed garden and a fruit and vegetable patch were realised with the help from volunteers living in the neighbourhood.

    For a long time there was a desire for more greenery in nursing home Tolsteeg. But as is often the case in these facilities, this was difficult to realize, especially with a view to the future. So many times such ideas run aground because they are initiated by a handful of inhabitants who get too old to carry on or even pass away. And of course there is the maintenance issue: gardening can take up a lot of time and money.

    Clear goals and continuity are important

    A non-profit organization for urban agriculture in Utrecht, called Stichting Stadslandbouw Utrecht), thought differently. Together with local housing cooperative Portaal and geriatric institution Axion Continu they investigated the commercial and social opportunities of growing vegetables and fruits in those public areas of the neighbourhood that were run down or simply could use something extra. Their aim was to improve the public space and the health of the elderly, and at the same time adding value to the care centre by making the apartments more attractive to potential tenants.

    Problems turn into opportunities
    Soon the idea arose to make use of the enclosed atrium of the Tolsteeg centre. This was a bricked-in, narrow and bare space between two walkways, with just some plastic potted plants for decoration. It had been an eyesore for the residents for a long time. Because the space was covered with a glass roof, it was a challenge to get the light and temperature right. But Stadslandbouw Utrecht was inspired by the study Green Light for the care for the elderly and asked the researchers from Knooppunt Bouwen met Groen in Utrecht, to investigate the possibility of an edible interior garden in this spot. It would be an excellent opportunity to connect the desire for more greenery with the glass roof of the existing building and, at the same time, realize the results and knowledge gathered in the study.

    Indoor garden as meeting place
    The first results weren’t hopeful. The conditions for an edible garden in the courtyard were difficult because of the differences in temperature during the year and the minimal amount of daylight entering the narrow space. However, the spot did offer the opportunity for an enclosed garden with subtropical plants, which would make it an attractive spot for residents to meet and socialize.

    Nowadays the atrium, that once was so unattractive, has been transformed into a lively green oasis. The project was partly financed by the owner of the complex and a design was drawn up. An army of enthusiastic volunteers, that continues to grow to this day, helped construct the garden during special neighbourhood gardening days.

    For a group of elderly who have difficulty getting about and can’t make it outside without help, this indoor garden has become a favourite meeting place. It has enlarged their world and stimulates them to take walks. The atrium has been turned from an eyesore into a lush interior garden that pleases the eye. It was officially opened at the beginning of 2015.

    Outdoor edible garden
    Besides the indoor garden, there was also a wish for changing a part of the grounds into a vegetable patch, where greens en herbs could be grown for the restaurant of the complex that also caters to people from the neighbourhood. Stichting Stadslandbouw Utrecht managed this project, and volunteering representatives from the neighbourhood made the garden into “De Tolsteegtuin”. With financial support by Axion Continue a gardener could be hired to take care of maintenance.

    Source: intogreen.nl

  • Exposure to nature is healthy – it can improve mental health and people’s moods

    #Benefits of green #research

    Contact with nature can improve mental health and people’s moods, studies are finding. 

    With the holiday season well underway, some people are enjoying outdoor life, especially walking and cycling.

    Current thinking is that creating links with the environment benefits children in several ways, as well as sowing the seeds of life-long appreciation of the natural world around them. I know a one-year-old who gets excited at the sight of birds flitting from tree to tree and who tries to reach out to them whenever he sees them. Researchers from the UCD School of Geography, who mapped trees across Dublin City, found huge disparities in tree cover. For instance, Ballsbridge, in leafy Dublin 4, is 20 times more likely to have a tree on the street than the north inner city.

    Which prompts the question: How can we expect children who have grown up in a nature-poor landscape to care for it in later life? Surely, every child should have the opportunity to experience nature and experts say the critical age is before 12 years.

    Alannah Ní Cheallaigh-Mhuirí, of An Taisce, recently ran a pilot outdoor education workshop for five to six-year-olds from the north inner city, at Morehampton Grove Wildlife Sanctuary, a place which proves nature can flourish in cities and towns if given a small chance.

    “For children, it [the sanctuary] is like the secret garden. These inner city children took to being ‘nature explorers’ like ducks to water, learning to differentiate between trees and exploring for creatures in the pond while being respectful and considerate about their impact,” she says. Such workshops will not be a regular occurrence in the sanctuary to avoid negative impacts for wildlife, but the pilot could be replicated in other green spaces around the country, Ms Ní Cheallaigh-Mhuirí suggests.

    A report by UK’s National Trust found several benefits of developing a healthy relationship with nature at a young age, including areas such as health, education, communities and environment.

    Health benefits include a decreased risk of childhood obesity, improved physical fitness, improved mental health and even longevity. In one study, exposure to nature resulted in a threefold improvement in children with attention deficit disorder, compared with staying indoors. There were also reductions in stress and aggressive behaviour in all.

    Furthermore, contact with nature gave them a greater sense of self-worth. Even short-term experiences of nature make a marked impact on mental health. The report found just five minutes of ‘green exercise’ can improve mood and self-esteem by a significant margin.

    Source: irishexaminer.com

  • Study shows: Green spaces cut teen violence

    #Benefits of green #green spaces #health #research

    Increasing neighborhood greenery may be an effective alternative intervention strategy for an environmental public health approach.

    Teenagers living in neighbourhoods with more greenery may have less aggressive behaviours, suggests a new study. Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) recently conducted the first longitudinal study to see whether greenery surrounding the home could reduce aggressive behaviors in a group of Southern California adolescents living in urban communities.

    The team followed 1,287 adolescents, age 9 to 18 years. They assessed the adolescents’ aggressive behaviors every two to three years, asking parents if their child physically attacked or threatened others, destroyed things, or exhibited other similar behaviors. The researchers then linked the adolescents’ residential locations to satellite data to measure the levels of greenery in their neighborhoods.

    The study found that 9-18-year-olds who lived in places with more greenery had significantly less aggressive behaviors than those living in neighborhoods with less greenery. Both short-term (one to six months) and long-term (one to three years) exposure to greenspace within 1,000 meters surrounding residences were associated with reduced aggressive behaviors. The behavioral benefit of greenspace equated to approximately two to two-and-a-half years of adolescent maturation.

    The study also found that factors such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, parents’ educational background, occupation, income level, or marital status, and whether their mother smoked while pregnant or was depressed, did not affect the findings.

    Additionally, these benefits existed for both boys and girls of all ages and races/ethnicities, and across populations with different socioeconomic backgrounds and living in communities with different neighborhood quality.

    Researcher Diana Younan said that the study provides new evidence that increasing neighborhood greenery may be an effective alternative intervention strategy for an environmental public health approach that has not been considered yet.

    Based on the study’s findings, USC investigators estimate that increasing greenery levels commonly seen in urban environments could result in a 12 percent decrease in clinical cases of aggressive behavior in California adolescents living in urban areas.

    This new knowledge may provide a strong reason for further studies to examine if improving greenery in residential neighborhoods will indeed reduce aggressive behaviors in adolescents. The study will appear in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP).

    Source: deccanchronicle.com