Infrastructure is a familiar term, traditionally denoting networks and systems that provide us with essential services such as water, power, and transport. Green infrastructure is more than just delivering each of these services in greener ways.
It should stress multifunctionality, using urban networks of natural and semi-natural features, such as green spaces, rivers, street trees, and parks, to deliver a wide range of ecosystem services.
More emotive language describes green infrastructure as our “natural life support system” that enables us to work with the grain of nature. Whether we use technocratic or populist language, there is considerable support for the potential of green infrastructure to deliver a wide range of benefits to society, the environment, and the economy.
Enhance people’s health and wellbeing is just one of these benefits. A correct definition of green infrastructure should be the one that includes networks and multifunctionality and implies landscape and infrastructure.
The most correct definition should be also the most comprehensive and define green infrastructure as a strategically planned network of high-quality natural and semi-natural areas with other environmental features; which is designed and delivered a wide range of ecosystem services and protect biodiversity in both rural and urban settings. Our cities face many challenges, yet they often approach these as separate issues.
The idea of green infrastructure evolved during the ‘90s in response to a growing recognition that those planning and designing complex urban areas often ignored the interactions between issues such as
- public health
- flood management
- housing delivery
- climate change adaptation and so on
This ‘silo’ approach prevented the adoption of more dynamic, integrated, and forward-thinking solutions.
Green infrastructure accordingly offers an alternative to this narrow-minded approach thus a way of tackling enormous challenges so ahead and delivering multiple secondary benefits at the same time as well.
This integrated approach uses the ability of nature to provide us with the ecological services that we need and helps unlock the potential of our towns and cities to support healthier lives.
Imagine a city which has cleaned up its rivers and streams, provides footpaths and cycleways along them, links these with larger open spaces such as parks and squares, invests in tree planting in large and small public spaces and streets.
A city that develops community gardens has an educational program that encourages hard to reach groups to be more active, and it commits to implement sustainable drainage systems (SuDS).
That city’s urban heat island effect and flood risk will reduce; there will be increases in air and water quality, active travel, the number of people walking, running and cycling for fun, and growing their own food.
There will also be more opportunities for formal and informal education focused on enhanced wildlife.
All these changes will have positive impacts on people’s health and wellbeing.
Green Infrastructure Vs Grey Infrastructure
|Green Infrastructure typologies
|Grey Infrastructure typologies
|Public transport networks
|Horticultural and botanic gardens
|Cemeteries, churchyards and burial grounds
|Allotments, community gardens and urban farms
|Grassland and heathland
|Factories & industrial
|Watercourses & waterways
|Mines and quarries
|School playing fields
|Utilities & distribution of services:
|Outdoor sports facilities
|General amenity space
|Cables (underground & overhead).
|Parks and public gardens
|Water and gas pipelines
|Waste management & landfill
|Schools, Universities & Colleges
|Hospitals, Clinics & healthcare facilities
|Gymnasia, Swimming and sports buildings
|Coastal defences & flood control
|Army and Government establishments
Do you agree?