Environmental and Social Benefits of Greening Urban Infrastructure

Environmental and Social Benefits of Greening Urban Infrastructure

In 1985, Edward Wilson, a Harvard entomologist, brought widespread attention to the concept of biophilia with his biophilia hypothesis, the love of life or living systems. Kaplan said that looking at nature enhances humans in doing tasks that require long periods of direct attention. This theory is called ‘Attention restoration’.


Benyus (1997) defined the term Biomimicry being innovation inspired by nature; a design methodology that seeks solutions to human challenges by exploring what nature has to offer. We are grieving in our cities and urban areas the loss of nature but we are too afraid to integrate it into our surroundings.


Green walls and roofs provide biodiversity benefits to the local environment that have been replaced by urban encroachment; they also represent to us the connection that has been lost between nature and increasing urban development. As more people chose the urban lifestyle over rural, health professionals are seeing increased health problems in our society that are costing governments millions in heath care not to mention the social cost to our communities. A greener urban environment will improve overall health, wellbeing and mental state of the population. The addition of nature provides relaxation, comfort, play and learning in a natural environment.


Other problems of urban development like pollution and water quality can be abated by filtering particles through the leaves of vegetation or slowing the stormwater of an urban environment with water saving urban design. Economically a city will conserve energy with green infrastructure, the value of the land will increase, as will the productivity and creativity of the city.


Greening a roof in a city is likely to help the biodiversity of a region as well as improve the quality of the work life balance that many are striving to achieve. Urban farming is a way to connect the city with rural activities and reduce the transport cost of much of our produce.


Other environmental benefits could include the protection of a threatened or endangered species on a green roof or green wall, well away from its natural predators. Groups of green roofs could act as steppingstones, a pathway to connect isolated remnants, increasing the genetic diversity of flora and fauna, Braaker et al (2014).


The addition of green infrastructure to a city has many advantages for the environment and all its inhabitants. Green walls and roofs have the potential to provide solutions to many of our new problems that urbanization has created. Australia is a unique country with a different climate and spectacular plants, we need to accept this distinctiveness and add it to each of our green infrastructure projects.


Robbie Renu
Gecko Plantscapes
Horticulturist/ Green wall and roof specialist