By 2050, projections suggest that 2/3 of the world’s population will be residing in cities, a statistic that affirms the need to convert urban landscapes to sustainable, healthy, and environmentally prosperous environments.
“Is future urbanization going to be a good thing or a bad thing?” asks filmmaker Oscar Boyson. “If you care about people,” he adds, “this is going to be the defining question of our time.”
Already, more than half of the global population resides in cities. Notwithstanding current shortcomings such as over-crowding, economic and social injustice, and heat island landscapes, a prosperous urban world is a viable potential. A huge part of this depends upon the greening of urban environments.
A report from the UN hosted Habitat III last year, outlined the importance of green spaces for both physical and mental health and for building thriving communities, while tackling major ecological issues. Their findings concluded that people living within 1km of forests on the outskirts of a city are less stressed and anxious.
The Magic of Trees
Trees store, sequester, and utilize CO2 during photosynthesis. Including them as an integral component in sustainable urban design significantly lowers a city’s carbon footprint:
- When planted near buildings, trees can cut air conditioning use by 30% and reduce heating energy use by a further 20-50%
- Population density means per capita GHG emissions are traditionally lower in urban areas than in the countries in which they are located.
- One large tree can absorb 150kg of carbon dioxide a year, as well as filter some of the airborne pollutants, including fine particulates.
- Cities are better equipped with emergency response capabilities than rural areas, making urban landscapes better prepared to respond to climate-related stressors such as floods, extreme weather events and heat waves.
- Trees can cool cities by between 2C and 8C.
Meet Italian architect and urban planner Stefano Boeri
Working from his studio in Milan, Stefano Boeri’s firm specializes in applying green and ‘living’ adaptations in both buildings and open spaces, specifically in areas undergoing reconstruction or regeneration. (Milan is growing trees on skyscrapers)
Additionally, Boeri is Director of a post-doctoral research program at Shanghai’s Tongji University, where he works with the Italian Politecnico di Milano and TU Braunschweig in Germany on a platform called. Future City Lab (FCL). The interdisciplinary lab is focused on biodiversity and urban forestation as a means to address global climate change.