1 May 2024

Defining City Greening and its Value

City Greening involves the seamless integration and preservation of green spaces, green infrastructure, and nature into our urban environments These green spaces include buildings, remnant landscapes often rich in biodiversity, parks, gardens, streetscapes, freeways, carparks, development sites, urban forests, roof tops, green infrastructure in buildings, and the public realm. Over half of the world’s population is now urbanised. They live in highly dense and compact cities, and often in apartments separated from natural systems, or on small lots with limited site permeability. Far removed from the natural systems and processes on which we depend to sustain us.

Bio-urbanism emerges as a cornerstone for fostering healthy, economically vibrant, and sustainable urban areas.

Julie Slifirski — Director, Design

The Green Revolution: City Greening Explained 

The transformative journey of City Greening represents a profound shift in how Australian cities interact with their underlying natural systems. This shift underscores a growing recognition that urban landscapes are intrinsically linked to vibrant ecosystems. Cities rich in greenery boast an increased presence of native flora, expansive parks, and broad access to verdant spaces for all residents. Although some Australian cities already exemplify this lush vision, others still lag behind. Driven by a commitment to sculpt better urban and community spaces, we seize the present opportunities to foster a greener future.

Grasping the heritage and swift development of Australian cities offers crucial insights as we envision and craft their future. The pace of urban sprawl has exacted a severe toll on natural landscapes, erasing invaluable ecological knowledge once held by First Nations peoples. This historical context is essential for understanding the depth of transformation required.

Bio-urbanism emerges as a cornerstone for fostering healthy, economically vibrant, and sustainable urban areas. This approach promotes carbon reduction through green decarbonisation strategies, enhances resilience against climate change, and cultivates cities that are not only sustainable but also desirable places where communities can flourish amidst nature. This vision propels us toward an urban future where the environment and human well-being are in harmonious alignment.

Urban heat island mitigation becomes more achievable with City Greening, meaning we can look to reduce temperatures by around 10%. In the same vein, we can see less reliance on infrastructure including air conditioning to moderate temperatures.

Urban forests and greening strategies not only cool cities but encourage communities to walk or cycle as their preferred method of transportation. City greening initiatives such as Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) can reduce impacts on infrastructure and stormwater systems and prevent pollution from entering natural waterways. Green cities can see improved air quality, as vegetation absorbs pollutants and particulate matter.

The Covid pandemic and restrictions on community movement were a catalyst for many to connect with their local environment. Parks were overflowing, streetscapes activated, and many people in their local community forged new connections, often through the setting of green spaces such as parks and streets. This tangible connection to nature and the relief it provided created a big shift in thinking about the value of green and its positive social impact.

The positive benefits of access to green spaces are vast; positive participation in physical activity, improved cognitive function, reduced stress levels, higher productivity, and improved mental and physical health.

Greenness is a positive mitigator of disease. There is demonstrated evidence that links low levels of ‘greenness’ to disease progression, comorbidity, and poorer mental health outcomes. Lower levels of stress and anxiety are associated with having a stronger connection to nature, street trees can be linked to greater levels of wellbeing for property residents, and people living in areas with higher levels of tree canopy may be less likely to have some types of costly hospital admissions.

Our natural environment stores carbon and mitigates greenhouse gas emissions. Stopping land clearing, including in cities, is essential to mitigating climate change. Retention of trees within urban landscapes is essential.

Greening cities plays an enormous role in carbon sequestration, and Eucalyptus trees are excellent for offsetting carbon emissions. Urban forests in carparks also provide important shade, habitat, and amenity and prioritise the ‘park’ in carparks.

Through the design and implementation of greening strategies in a precinct or city, local heat reduction measures assist in the reduction of energy use and emissions of the built environment. By reducing the outside ambient temperature through green infrastructure, the energy demand of buildings and infrastructure within a precinct and city can be influenced, reducing the energy demand required for cooling within the building.

In cooler climate zones, well designed green roofs and facades also provide important thermal insulation that can lead to lower energy and emissions in winter for heating. As we continue to model future scenarios with considerations of global temperature increases, city greening provides us with mitigation techniques to assist and support us at a local and city level.

Proximity to quality green spaces and incorporation of quality green infrastructure has been associated with increased property values and rental returns. This includes higher demand for urban areas, including apartment buildings, with quality green infrastructure that is well maintained and designed.

Valuation reports vary widely but the direct correlation between quality green investment and building sales and rental yield is compelling. Some research shows that the value of a green building is 2-4% higher than a building that does not incorporate green initiatives. For residential properties it is well established that tree canopy coverage can have a positive impact on property values, with some research has indicating that in Australia large street trees can increase median property value by nearly $17,000.