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UK-GBC calls for more green infrastructure in the built environment

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The UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) has called on developers to stop downplaying green infrastructure as ‘a fluffy optional extra’ and include roof gardens, streets trees and woodlands in every scheme

In a new report ‘Demystifying Green Infrastructure’ published today (24 February), the council sets out the benefits of introducing green infrastructure in the built environment, including a number of business opportunities - a potential increase in the value of land and property.

Aimed at property developers and clients, the report also outlines potential risks from failing to incorporate appropriate green infrastructure into building projects, including increased costs and planning delays, as well as risk of flooding and loss of habitat.

According to the council, the associated benefits and risks of green infrastructure are ‘felt throughout the lifecycle of a building, from construction to operation, as well as staff productivity and future proofing’.

Green infrastructure, it claims, could also reduce installation and maintenance costs, potential land value increase, reduced energy costs and improved health and wellbeing.

John Alker, acting CEO of UK-GBC, said: ‘We have to shed the image of green infrastructure as a fluffy optional extra, an additional cost or an unnecessary burden. There are a growing number of clients and developers demonstrating that green infrastructure is absolutely central to quality place-making, and that there is a clear business case for it. This has to become the norm’.

Sponsored by Aggregate Industries, Canary Wharf Group and Skansa, the report sets out tools that can be used to measure the economic, social and environmental value of green infrastructure, as well as including 18 case studies to highlight good practice on green infrastructure conservation or enhancement. These include Birmingham New Street Gateway, which features a green living wall as part of the extensive remodelling and regeneration of the central train station.

The new Crossrail station at Canary Wharf is also highlighted in the study. It includes water terraces to improve biodiversity, and a new roof park which offers a wildlife resource and a new publicly accessible space.

John Garwood, chair of corporate responsibility at Canary Wharf Group, said: ‘We believe it [the report] will significantly help raise understanding within the development sector of the fact that appropriate natural capital such as wildlife habitats and green corridors should be better incorporated within the built environment.’

Canary Wharf Crossrail station

Canary Wharf Crossrail station

Jennifer Clark, director of environment, Skanska UK, said: ‘Skanska supports this initiative since the construction industry and society depends on the services, resources and benefits that the natural environment provides and we can impact positively on these. The report highlights the important role we can play by championing green infrastructure and the case studies clearly demonstrate what can be achieved with joined up systems thinking and greater leadership in the subject.’

Several cities and towns across the UK are already embracing green infrastructure within the built environment. In Brighton, for example, the 1.2km green wall on Madeira Drive was designated a local wildlife site in 2013, ensuring its continued protection as the only site of its kind in the UK.

Yesterday (23 February), in the 2015 European Green Capital city of Bristol, Mayor George Ferguson rolled out the world’s first ‘One Tree Per Child’ initiative, which will see that all of the city’s 36,000 primary school pupils will be given the chance to plant at least one tree as part of a global initiative (see AJ 24.2.14).

Ferguson said: ‘Planting trees and shrubs is a great way for school children to connect to the environment and their local community. As a child’s tree grows, their commitment to the environment and their local community grows as well.’

London too has its share of green infrastructure, with over 700 green roofs covering an area equivalent to around 25 football pitches (175,000m²). Living roofs plan an important role in helping to achieve Mayor Boris Johnson’s target to increase green cover in central London by 5% by 2030. Currently, London is ranked as the third greenest major city, with 38.4% open space.

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