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What’s green and blue infrastructure planning?

What’s green and blue infrastructure planning?

As urban populations grow and climate change poses new challenges, it’s becoming more important to incorporate nature into our built environments.  

 Green and blue infrastructure planning is a holistic approach that aims to do just that. By integrating features such as green spaces and water bodies into urban and rural areas, we can create more sustainable, resilient, and visually appealing spaces that benefit both communities and the environment. 

In this article, we’ll explore the components of green and blue infrastructure planning, and how landscape architects help shape these initiatives to design a more sustainable future for everyone.  

What does green and blue infrastructure include? 

Green and blue infrastructure, also known as blue-green infrastructure (BGI) includes a variety of elements, such as: 

Water bodies 

Rivers, canals, ponds, wetlands, floodplains, and water treatment facilities that regulate water quality and quantity, reduce flood risk, support biodiversity, and offer recreational opportunities. 

Vegetation 

Trees, forests, fields, and parks that improve air quality, sequester carbon, moderate temperature, enhance health and wellbeing, and create habitats for wildlife. 

Eco-friendly alternatives 

Green rooves, walls, and streets that reduce stormwater runoff, mitigate urban heat island effect, increase energy efficiency, and beautify the built environment. 

Community spaces 

Community gardens, allotments, and orchards that provide local food production and food security, social interaction, education, and mental health benefits.  

Connectivity 

Cycle paths, footpaths, and greenways that encourage active transport, connect people and places, and promote physical activity. 

What are the benefits of green and blue infrastructure planning? 

Green and blue infrastructure planning offers a wide range of benefits for both people and the environment. Some of the key advantages include: 

Improved wellbeing 

Access to green and blue spaces has been linked to improved mental health, reduced stress levels, increased physical activity, and enhanced overall wellbeing. These spaces provide opportunities for relaxation, recreation, and social interaction – all essential for a high quality of life. 

In a study by Gov.uk, 87% of adults agreed that being in nature made them happy. It’s not always easy to find green and blue spaces in urban areas, so more innovative approaches are now being taken, such as green rooves and walls, and the green ‘wedges’ implemented in cities like Stockholm and Cambridge. 

Better climate resilience 

By adapting to changing weather patterns, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing carbon storage, blue and green infrastructure contribute to improved climate resilience. Take trees, for example. Able to absorb on average between 10 and 40kg of carbon dioxide each year, each tree plays a vital role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They also help regulate temperature and reduce the urban heat island effect by providing natural shade and cooling, which in turn reduces energy consumption. 

Improved ecosystems 

Incorporating natural elements into urban environments creates habitats for plants and animal species, promotes biodiversity, and protects and restores natural resources and ecosystems. From native wildflower gardens to wildlife corridors, there are many ways to support pollinators and improve local ecosystems, which contribute to the overall ecological health of an area. 

Better air and water quality 

Trees and vegetation act as natural air filters, absorbing pollutant particles, odours, and gases such as nitrogen oxides, ammonia, and sulphur dioxide.  

Water bodies and sustainable drainage systems also have a filtering effect, cleaning stormwater, improving water quality and reducing the risk of flooding. 

Supported social justice 

It’s estimated that in England, parks and green spaces provide £6.6 billion of health, climate change, and environmental benefits each year. However, one third of the population don’t have access to good-quality green and blue space within a 15-minute walk of their home

By providing equitable access to green and blue spaces, infrastructure planning can improve public health and safety. It fosters community engagement and empowerment, ensuring that all members of society benefit from the positive effects of these spaces. 

Boosted economic development 

Green and blue infrastructure planning can have positive economic impacts. It attracts businesses and tourists, creates job opportunities in areas such as landscaping and urban agriculture, and reduces the costs associated with infrastructure maintenance and stormwater management.  

According to the Office for National Statistics, living near green and blue spaces also has a positive impact on property, adding £3,145 to the average property price.  

Integrating nature and design: How landscape architecture shapes green and blue infrastructure planning 

Landscape architects play a vital role in the design and implementation of green and blue infrastructure initiatives.  

They use their expertise to assess and analyse the existing urban context, identify opportunities to incorporate natural elements, and create cohesive plans that blend functionality, aesthetics, and sustainability.  

Landscape architects collaborate with urban planners, architects, engineers, and community stakeholders to make sure that green and blue infrastructure is seamlessly integrated into the overall urban fabric. 

By applying their knowledge of plants, materials, and ecological processes, landscape architects design and manage green spaces, select appropriate vegetation for various settings, and include sustainable design principles into their projects.  

They also consider the social and cultural aspects of urban spaces, ensuring that green and blue infrastructure planning aligns with the needs and aspirations of the local community. 

A landscape architect’s role may include:  

  • Conceiving the overall concept and preparing the master plan for the design, organisation, and use of spaces. 
  • Conducting preliminary studies of the site (including contours, soil, ecology, buildings, roads, heritage) and assessing its potential to meet the client’s specifications. 
  • Carrying out environmental impact assessments and seeking the views of stakeholders, users, and residents. 
  • Preparing detailed plans and working drawings of the re-design of the new site, including applications, construction details, and specifications using computer-aided design (CAD) packages or similar design software. 
  • Presenting proposals to clients, dealing with enquiries, and negotiating any amendments to the final design. 
  • Coordinating manufacturers and suppliers, putting work out to tender, selecting a contractor and manager, and leading cross-functional teams. 
  • Carrying out site visits, ensuring deadlines are met, liaising with other professionals on the project, monitoring and checking work on site, authorising payment once work has been satisfactorily completed, and attending public inquiries if necessary. 
  • Generating new business opportunities by showcasing their portfolio of projects and demonstrating their expertise in green and blue infrastructure planning. 

Interested in learning more about landscape architecture and how it can help create sustainable and liveable environments for the future? 

Choose the online, part-time MA Landscape Architecture Studies programme. 

In The Big Picture: Landscape as Infrastructure and Ecosystem module, you’ll explore the complex relationship between built and natural landscapes. You’ll focus on resilience and cover various landscape perspectives and scales, while incorporating innovative approaches such as green-blue infrastructure planning and landscape analysis and representation techniques. 

For those students wishing to pursue a career as a landscape architect in the UK, the course offers a foundation to further education in landscape architecture, with graduates able to access a Landscape Institute-accredited Master's in the UK. 

Visit our MA Landscape Architecture Studies course page to find out more. 

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