Making space for nature in cities will make them healthier, more resilient and sustainable
Today, the world population stands at almost 7.8 billion. In the next 30 years it is expected to grow by a further 2 billion. According to the latest UN projections, humanity is expected to have developed into an almost exclusively urban species: two out of every three people are likely to be living in cities or other urban centres by the middle of the century. If urbanisation occurs at a massive scale, it could undermine the capacity of cities to be environmentally sustainable and economically successful. GROW GREEN is working to address these challenges and the opportunities urban areas face. It intends to showcase the benefits that high-quality green spaces and waterways could bring to urban landscapes. “GROW GREEN will provide evidence that cities which embed nature-based solutions into their infrastructure are more resilient to the negative impact of climate change. They are also happier, healthier, wealthier and socially cohesive places to live and will help biodiversity to flourish,” notes project coordinator Michelle Oddy. The project is testing this hypothesis in three European ’frontrunner cities’: Manchester, Valencia and Wrocław. Each city is then paired with a ‘follower city’ that will learn from the implementation strategies and business models adopted by the frontrunners.
Pilot projects show how nature and cities could thrive together
The green solutions under development are expected to deliver measureable improvements in climate and water resilience, and in social, environmental and economic performance. Through GROW GREEN, residents in West Gorton in Manchester (UK) are supported to transform their area into an exemplar green neighbourhood, with trees, shrubs, community planting (bio-retention tree pits that remove storm water run-off), permeable pavement (which infiltrates storm water run-off), and small streams. A new park will become a focal point for the community, providing the much-needed high-quality green space for residents and visitors to relax, play sports and enjoy. Valencia (Spain) will see a big change with the project. The city council has installed a vertical garden in one of the public schools to improve temperature regulation and sound isolation. Wastewater from sinks and showers is collected in a tank at the bottom of the ‘green’ wall and reused to irrigate the school garden. A small sustainable forest that will offset CO2 emissions and act as a habitat for local fauna will also be created. Additionally, a new green pedestrian corridor (pergolas, shade trees, fountains, etc.) will enhance the connections between green spaces in the neighbourhood. The corridor and special permeable pavements for footpaths in the forest will allow rainwater to reduce the rate at which water flows into the sewer. Furthermore, a detailed monitoring of a newly installed green roof in Valencia will determine how it has contributed to reduced internal temperatures and subsequently to reduced energy use. In Wroclaw (Poland), unsightly and underused courtyards have been transformed into community gardens for the surrounding blocks of residential flats. Once GROW GREEN completes the demonstration projects, it will start working on a post-construction monitoring plan. Furthermore, it plans to roll out the Green Cities Framework that will help other cities globally to develop and implement nature-based strategies and easily replicate successful approaches. Working on nature-based solutions requires partnerships and collaborations across the many municipal departments and external stakeholders involved. To this end, Grow Green is engaging municipal departments. Grow Green has released a compendium of nature-based and grey solutions to common challenges related to climate and water management in cities. In collaboration with other H2020 projects working on nature-based solutions, the project has also developed a report with an overview of financing approaches that are used to deliver green infrastructure and nature-based solutions for water and climate adaptation in cities.
GROW GREEN, cities, nature-based solutions, green space, permeable pavement