The EVA Lanxmeer development in the Netherlands provides a model for how to incorporate green infrastructure in all aspects of the planning process. Tony Matthews, Author provided
Urban planners are wary of green infrastructure, although they generally understand its benefits, as our recent Conversation article showed. But green infrastructure delivery can be achieved relatively simply through existing planning processes.
Green infrastructure refers to standalone and strategically networked environmental features designed for environmental, social and economic benefits. Examples include permeable surfaces, green walls, green roofs and street trees.
Benefits of green infrastructure include reduced urban heat, lower building energy demand and improved storm-water management. There may be drawbacks, but these can often be mitigated through good design. Issues include maintenance costs, tree roots, bushfire hazard and power-line interference.
Urban planners are increasingly asked to create and deliver urban greening strategies. So how does green infrastructure delivery fit within the capabilities and remit of planning?
Working through the planning process
Planning systems play a key role in shaping the form and function of cities. Standardised planning processes are used globally. These include plan-making, development management, urban design and pre-planning consultations.
Research by our group shows that green infrastructure can be delivered relatively easily using existing planning processes. It does not require major changes to established practice.
Plan-making is the most fundamental of all these processes. Plans can provide strategic frameworks for delivering green infrastructure. These provide an overarching vision of green infrastructure delivery and allow for phased implementation over set time scales.
A key question is: should green infrastructure priorities feature in general urban development plans or in separate, bespoke plans? Opinion varies, but we see advantage in creating customised green infrastructure plans.
Our view is that dedicated plans can establish green infrastructure as a separate priority, distinct from “business-as-usual” issues – where it might get overlooked. Overarching green infrastructure objectives can be established in dedicated plans. These can then be explicitly linked to development and design standards codified in broader urban development plans.
The expertise required to create substantive and deliverable green infrastructure priorities may extend beyond the capacity of planners. Involving other professional stakeholders can increase the potential for successful plan-making. Our research identifies engineers, transport consultants, architects and emergency services personnel as valuable collaborators.
Codifying design standards for materials, buildings and space is another important planning process. Green infrastructure delivery improves when planning systems create supportive design standards and embed them in plans. Development management and urban design processes can then direct green infrastructure delivery in new builds and redevelopments.
Pre-planning consultation also has a role to play. It can be used from an early stage to determine the technical and cost issues that green infrastructure can pose for developments. Pre-planning consultation can establish green infrastructure provision as a required development standard, with associated costs, from the outset.
Changes in design standards can encounter resistance from property owners and developers. To counter this, planning authorities can demonstrate the many benefits of green infrastructure. This can help build support for the technology and further its acceptability and ubiquity.
Where planning is rising to the challenge
Evidence of planning processes being used to facilitate green infrastructure is increasing. For example, the city of Toronto, Canada, made green roofs compulsory in 2009. Requirements for green roof coverage increase with building footprint sizes and can only be reduced with financial penalty and permission from the chief planner.
A best-practice example of planning-led green infrastructure provision can be seen in the Bo01 development in Malmö, Sweden. Here, development plans, design standards, stakeholder consultation and pre-planning consultations ensure green infrastructure is central to all development.
Since 2015, all local planning authorities in England are required to deliver sustainable urban drainage systems in developments of ten or more dwellings. These technologies, including porous surfacing and collection ponds, are designed to manage excess rainwater where it falls. This use of planning processes to deliver green infrastructure nationally is novel, though not without controversy.
And in Australia, water-sensitive urban design has become a normal part of planning practice – often using green infrastructure elements such as swales and verge gardens.
Existing planning processes, common throughout the world, can accommodate green infrastructure provision relatively easily.
Some of the many examples of successful demonstration are noted here. Many initiatives, ideas and practices are internationally transferable because of similarities in the constitution and function of planning systems.
So why aren’t we seeing more green infrastructure generally? Partly it is because planners are wary of new technologies and disruption to embedded practices. With this in mind, might the biggest challenge for planners be psychological rather than professional?
About The Author
Tony Matthews, Lecturer in Urban & Environmental Planning, Griffith University; Christopher Ambrey, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Queensland; Douglas Baker, Chair professor, Queensland University of Technology, and Jason Byrne, Associate Professor of Environmental Planning, Griffith University
Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming
by Paul Hawken and Tom Steyer
In the face of widespread fear and apathy, an international coalition of researchers, professionals, and scientists have come together to offer a set of realistic and bold solutions to climate change. One hundred techniques and practices are described here—some are well known; some you may have never heard of. They range from clean energy to educating girls in lower-income countries to land use practices that pull carbon out of the air. The solutions exist, are economically viable, and communities throughout the world are currently enacting them with skill and determination. Available On Amazon
Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy
by Hal Harvey, Robbie Orvis, Jeffrey Rissman
With the effects of climate change already upon us, the need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions is nothing less than urgent. It’s a daunting challenge, but the technologies and strategies to meet it exist today. A small set of energy policies, designed and implemented well, can put us on the path to a low carbon future. Energy systems are large and complex, so energy policy must be focused and cost-effective. One-size-fits-all approaches simply won’t get the job done. Policymakers need a clear, comprehensive resource that outlines the energy policies that will have the biggest impact on our climate future, and describes how to design these policies well. Available On Amazon
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
by Naomi Klein
In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism. Available On Amazon
From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.