Greening of cities: from scientific insight to practice

Urban greening? Easier said than done! Dr. Wiebke Klemm has carried out research into the green, climate-proof design of cities. In an interview with De Groene Stad, she explains how we can bridge the gap between scientific insights and greening in practice.

How can we ensure that existing and future green space contributes more than ever to healthy and liveable cities?

The Green Agenda concretizes existing knowledge about the functional value of greenery and helps to convert it into innovative applications. The result is input for activities that contribute to an improved living environment. Royal FloraHolland is working on this together with De Groene Stad.

Passion for landscape architecture
Wiebke Klemm explains: "My passion is to make urban outdoor space both attractive and functional. To create a pleasant environment in which to live, work and play, as well as an environment that contributes to a liveable, healthy city. This includes planning, designing and managing urban green space for a more heat-resistant city."

Towards a liveable city
"Parks, trees and vegetation often play a secondary role in the development and design of city streets. We often consider urban green space as an 'object' or 'furniture' that makes the public space 'more beautiful' when all other spatial functions have already been distributed. But green means much more than just making our cities 'more beautiful'. Look at all the positive effects of a liveable and healthy city:

  • Improves urban climate;
  • Promotes social encounters;
  • Reduces heat and noise;
  • Collects excess rainwater;
  • Increases biodiversity.

These actual ecosystem functions are described in numerous scientific studies. The question is how we realize this. How can we ensure that existing and future green space contributes more than ever to healthy and liveable cities?"

Are we heading in the right direction?
"Yes, in recent years new insights from science and practice have become available. We can translate this basis into the daily practices needed for creating and managing green space. The effective use of greenery starts by finding out which types of plants and trees can reduce heat stress and limit flooding. We are also increasingly seeing that the issue of climate adaptation is being tackled throughout the entire chain - from tree growers and landscape architects to landscapers and managers. We must now embed climate resilience in procedures and ongoing projects, and finally, make funding available."

Is there a role for city dwellers in this?
"Absolutely! All green space helps lower the temperature of a city - whether this green space consists of parks, green tram lanes or green front and back gardens. Residents can also contribute to a better urban climate by greening their gardens. Although there is often a lack of awareness about this. My advice? Inspire the right people and set the right standards while simultaneously spreading the message of the added value of green. At the moment, residents mainly see the nuisance of trees or greenery: 'They drop too many leaves, reduce parking space and cause more bird droppings.' Encourage property owners to take up their own role, for example by making their front and back gardens greener, thus making the city greener together with the municipality."

The city of the future
"What I would like is for greenery to become an integral part of cities, as a matter of course. Not only by putting in plants as an afterthought and/or 'because it looks nice'. In the future, the design and layout of cities will be a matter of mixed application of water and greenery. In my ideal city, the cohesion of green zones and green networks would be optimally utilized. As a result, the city would offer people a healthy and liveable environment - for living and working."

Source: Royal FloraHolland

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