Future Green Cities
Tall Cities = Green Cities?

By Matthew Sparkes
June 15, 2007

Richard Fuller is a post-doc researcher at the University of Sheffield, working
in the ecological sustainability of cities. He has written an interesting
comment piece for the BBC where he talks about the implications of what the UK
Government see as the future of housing. More than half the population now live
in cities, and they have grown rapidly in recent years. Because urban areas have
tended to sprawl, many areas are now car-dependant - miles from anywhere and
with a lack of decent public transport. The Government want new housing to be
compact, and tightly spaced, 30 to 50 houses per hectare in fact. This would
allow people to live near work, make bicycle and car trips more easily, and
reduce the amount of land that we swallow up for redevelopment. Sounds like a
good plan, but Fuller sees some problems.

“This will pack a lot more people into the same space than we currently do. It
is perhaps the single most important piece of housing legislation for decades,
yet it is not well known and the potential consequences of it have not been
widely debated.”

One problem that Fuller sees is that we will all have less access to green
spaces, which is important for our well being, “Green spaces, including our own
domestic gardens, are important even to the most hardened city slickers among
us. They are places to sit and contemplate, meet with friends, walk the dog, go
for a run, feed the ducks, for children to play.” How will communities alter,
once nature is effectively removed from the equation?

It’s not just humans that are dependant upon these inner-city oases; a lot of
wildlife needs them too. Some species are now more common in urban areas than
outside, and squeezing houses tightly together will force them out. “Work at the
University of Sheffield has recently shown that building at the kinds of
densities required by the UK Government will likely reduce the populations of
even those birds that are well adapted to city living.”

There are other issues to take into account as well. Green spaces store carbon,
for instance. Also, large areas covered entirely in non-natural material will
create a lot of heat, causing the area to be slightly warmer than a similar area
with gardens and other spaces.

The basic problem is that huge, sprawling suburbs aren’t green, but neither are
tightly packed urban areas. :: BBC


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