It was, roughly speaking, in the mid 1990s that someone, most likely in the US, thought to put together the words ‘green’ and ‘infrastructure’. Roll on to 2013 and the concept of green infrastructure is still a relatively unfamiliar concept outside the green sector, but it is one that is increasingly set to take centre stage. Though exact definitions of green infrastructure may vary, the consensus is that its key purpose is to produce cleaner air. And that’s a matter that concerns every one of us.
I had the opportunity to speak on the issues, practical challenges and solutions involved with greening our urban environments at this year’s Greenbuild Expo. The challenge is stark. World-wide, more and more people are living in urban environments with limited access to green space, while – at the same time – in many parts of the world pollution levels are increasing. In Europealone, a 10% increase in urbanisation is expected between 2000 and 2015, while 45 million people already have limited access to green space. There is a huge body of research that links poor air quality to higher asthma rates, lung problems and even stunted lung growth in children.
There’s also a growing body of research evidence to link greenery in the form of trees, plants and other vegetation to a happier, healthier urban living experience. Among their many virtues, plants breathe out oxygen and remove pollutant matter or dust – called PM10s – from the air. In addition, greenery also encourages bio-diversity in cities, offers shade, promotes a feeling of wellbeing and can even help reduce crime levels.
At Mobilane, we are working in partnership with Staffordshire University to explore more fully the range of benefits offered by green infrastructure. It was my pleasure to present at Greenbuild alongside John Dover, Professor of Ecology at the university, who talked about the meaning of green infrastructure and the potential for integrating greenery into urban areas.
A creative approach will certainly be needed to ramp up the green volume in our cities. Trees take up huge amounts of space and require relatively high levels of maintenance. Our living screens and Living Walls offer a vertical way to green up space that produces immediate results both in terms of aesthetics and PM10 reduction. We also have a range of temporary green screens such as Living Hoardings that can boost greenery levels around construction sites – and help offset building projects’ carbon footprint.
If green, living structures are to become an integrated feature of urban landscapes, our notion of how greenery is used will need to become far broader. But the results will be well worth it – cleaner air for everyone.
For more information about Mobilane’s green screens, Living Walls and other products, please visit our website www.mobilane.co.uk