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Designing green and blue infrastructure to support healthy urban living
Gehrels, H.; Meulen, S. van der; Schasfoort, F.; Bosch, P.; Broslma, R.; Dinther, D. van; Geerling, G.; Jacobs, C.; Goossens, M.; Jong, M. de; Kok, S.; Massop, H.; Osté, L.; Pérez-Soba, M.; Rovers, V.; Smit, A.; Verweij, P.; Vries, B. de; Weijers, E.P.
Published by: Publication date:
ECN Environment & Energy Engineering 20-6-2016
ECN report number: Document type:
ECN-O--16-029 Other
Number of pages: Full text:
111 Download PDF  (5847kB)

There is a growing awareness in cities throughout the world that green and blue infrastructure can offer a wide range of ecosystem services to support a healthy urban environment. For example, landscape architects explore possibilities in their design of the urban landscape to use the potential of green elements for regulating air temperature, air quality, water storage and drainage, and noise reduction. However, the potential benefits of green and blue infrastructure are probably only partially utilized because of a lack of both scientific knowledge and practical understanding of what these benefits are, and how green and blue infrastructure can best be implemented. Hence there is a need for a translation of scientific knowledge on the functionality of green and blue infrastructure into design principles and how to integrate these principles into the design of multifunctional green and blue infrastructure. This report focuses on developing concepts and design principles for blue and green infrastructure that not only support climate resilience but also contribute to a healthy and liveable urban environment. A healthy and liveable urban environment contributes to the strengthening of the socio-economic climate in cities. The objective is to assess and show how the functional use of urban blue and green infrastructure contributes to a liveable and healthy city. The premise is that liveability can be improved with a variety of ecosystems services. First, the functional use of blue and green infrastructure was assessed on the basis of available literature and experience from the city of Utrecht. Secondly, design principles were formulated for the design of blue and green infrastructure in the urban landscape. The design principles are compiled in a number of infographics that provide information on the effectiveness of green spaces as part of the green infrastructure to deliver ecosystem services. The design principles focus on a variety of ecosystem services such as temperature regulation, air quality regulation, storm water runoff mitigation, noise reduction and recreation. In this way, relevant ecosystem services are linked to principles that help to optimize the design of green spaces for the selected services. The design principles for green infrastructure are classified into five key aspects of green spaces that influence their effectiveness: volume, shape, location, dispersion and maintenance. For blue infrastructure we distinguish three categories of health aspects of water and ecosystem services that support human health: 1. direct exposure to water contributing to medical health; 2. encouraging healthy living by creating possibilities to exercise, and 3. aesthetical aspects of water contributing to mental health. Design principles for healthy blue infrastructure are formulated within these three categories. Next, we analysed economic benefits that can be derived from the ecosystem services. This analysis will help to better compare green infrastructure with alternative (grey) infrastructures in cities, in this way supporting the decision making on investing in urban design. This analysis was limited to green infrastructure. Benefits of blue infrastructure will be analysed at a later stage. We organized a series of workshops with the municipality of Utrecht, the first of which focused on discussing and improving design principles, and demonstrating and applying a number of tools to support the design process. In a second workshop, we incorporated the design principles into the conceptual design of a city district that visualizes healthy urban living. In a final workshop we identified the state of knowledge on climate adaptation and healthy urban living, which we will incorporate in a strategic research agenda for the city of Utrecht.

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