Green Space Is an Urban Design Necessity – Here’s Why

In the rush to build homes for a rapidly-growing urban population, we often neglect the need for green space. 

Even where we do plan rigorously, only an average of 15% of the land is public. In poorly planned cityscapes, this falls to just 2%. In such locations, cities are unable to accommodate critical infrastructure, safe pedestrian areas, and green space. Indeed, we find that just 15% of public space is allocated to green space.

Does green space really matter? Or is it a ‘nice-to-have’ that could be foregone so we can house people more densely in our attempt to construct greater amounts of affordable housing?

What Is Green Space?

Green space can be defined as any outdoor area that is not paved over. Parks are a type of green space that is often thought of as the quintessential example. However, they aren’t the only type; trees in parking lots, city squares, and even some sidewalks can all be considered green spaces.

In urban environments, green spaces help reduce the feeling of crowding and claustrophobia by providing an open space for people to walk through and enjoy ─ a place for people to get away from the noise of the city and take some time for themselves. They also provide opportunities for recreation, help to improve physical and mental health and improve quality of life.

Green Spaces: Not a Waste of Space

There is a lot of research that shows how green spaces have a significant impact on our health. Green spaces improve air quality, reduce the noise from traffic, help to cool city temperatures, and help people to live longer.

Here are five ways in which green spaces directly impact the people who live in our neighborhoods.

  1. A Place to Relax and Unwind

A place to relax and unwind is not always a luxury. It can be as simple as a bench in the park or a beautiful garden. It is important to have spaces like these because they offer people an escape from the stresses of their day-to-day lives.

  1. A Place for Kids and Pets to Play

Playing in the park is a childhood rite of passage. It’s not just an opportunity to get some exercise, but also a chance to learn about nature and socialize with friends. Parks provide safe, green spaces, and fresh air for kids and pets.

  1. A Place for Mental Health and Physical Wellbeing

Green spaces in urban areas provide a place for mental health as well as physical wellbeing. Studies have shown that access to green spaces can significantly reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.

In its responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, the CDC noted that “Exposure to green space, even in a limited setting (e.g., residential city streets in urban areas), is just as beneficial for health as that of visiting a natural setting or large public park.”

  1. A Place for Adults to Exercise

It is no secret that exercise is good for your health. In cities, parks and green spaces provide areas where people can exercise safely. Many parks now include a range of free-to-use exercise equipment, as well as dedicated walking and cycling routes.

These places allow adults to get the exercise they need without having to spend money on a gym membership or expensive equipment at home. 

  1. Improved Community Development and Designing Potentialities

Urban green spaces can offer many benefits to communities. They can improve community development by providing opportunities for socializing and physical activity. They beautify neighborhoods and provide opportunities for education as well as recreation.

The design potentialities of green spaces are dependent on their location. For example, parks located near housing could provide a safe area for children to play, while parks located near offices could be used as lunch spots or break areas for office workers.

Green Spaces and the Economy of the City

Green spaces are an important part of the economy of a city. As we’ve discussed, they provide many benefits, including cleaner air, better health, and improved quality of life. They also improve the sustainability of a city, by reducing the environmental impact of buildings and transportation systems on the environment. And great green spaces can also draw in new business, in the form of tourism ─ who doesn’t want to visit Central Park the first time they travel to New York?

Green Spaces Are Building Blocks of Community

When we are designing our urban landscapes, it is a mistake to neglect the need for and benefits of green spaces. They are assets that help us to build community. Parks and gardens are often a place where people meet, socialize, and share stories. They are places where children play and learn. They are places that attract visitors, improve air quality, and reduce noise pollution.

The time for developing concrete jungles to house humans is gone. It is now time to develop more thoughtfully and sustainably. The benefits of urban green spaces must be included in how we design our cities.

At ACB Consulting, we are committed to helping improve the communities in which we live, work, and play – including how they are conceived, designed and created. To learn more, contact ACB Consulting.

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