The benefits of green infrastructure in residential buildings
Recently, the Australian federal government announced an initiative to minimise the urban heat island effect by introducing more trees into our cities. Acting Minister for Cities and the Built Environment, Greg Hunt, pledged to work with major Australian cities to set goals for each decade up until 2050 to increase overall tree coverage.
Adding trees to our concrete cities is certainly a start, but for now, let’s leave that to the pollies to sort out. We can play our own part in reducing the heat island effect by incorporating more green space around our homes.
The heat island effect refers to a city or metropolitan area that causes higher temperatures compared to regional or outlying areas due to the greater density of human activity.
For many years, we have continued to replace green vegetation with structures made of hard surfaces, with these urban environments absorbing and storing the sun’s heat and energy. This is similar to thermal mass heating within your home. Thermal mass is basically the ability of high density materials such as concrete and brick to be able to absorb and store the energy from the sun.
The introduction of urban buildings at the expense of trees and green spaces not only alters the natural water paths, but also affects the local wind patterns. In turn, this affects the humidity and precipitation rates that also create fog and cloud formation, which attributes to additional rain and storm activity. The heat island effect can play a part in increased health concerns including, but not limited to, respiratory problems, increased chances of heat exhaustion and heart attacks.
What can we do about it?
The easiest and most immediate method would be for each of us to plant more trees and create more green space within our communities. With the introduction of greener infrastructure to our own properties, we can all contribute to the reduction in the heat island effect. Just think of the results if each of us planted just one tree or created just 1 square metre of green space. We would have lush, healthy cities and metropolitan areas.
The combined effect of green infrastructure
Green infrastructure is a network of green spaces including green roofs, vertical gardens, trees and water systems that work in harmony to provide environmental, social and economic benefits. We can all assist environmentally by incorporating green infrastructure to building structures themselves, such as with green walls and roofs.
Green roofs are more than just beautiful features; adding a green roof to a building
has many benefits. Green roofs increase biodiversity and create their own mini ecosystems with many beneficial functions, while also acting as a natural insulator for noise and the weather. The plants not only improve air quality, but also act as a protection barrier against harmful and damaging UV rays. Additionally, the plants and soil absorb and store rainwater, minimising the impact on our local stormwater catchment systems.
The plants in vertical gardens and green roofs also attract flora and fauna. The flowering plants lure bees to pollinate other plants, which is arguably one of the most crucial elements of natural ecosystems as they contribute to around one-third of the pollination of plants we humans consume.
Although I have provided basic insight into the positive benefits of a green roof, please don’t just go and place soil on your roof and start planting. You’ll need to engage an engineer or sustainability designer to assess the maximum weight loading of your roof. If you’re considering building a new home, the initial design can incorporate all of the engineering allowances and building specifications required.
Vertical gardens added around your existing home or commercial structure have similar benefits to green roofs. Vertical gardens/green walls can insulate against street noise as well as insulate your home against the harsh effects of direct sunlight. The plants also absorb noise and heat.
Water capture and storage
Instead of depending on town water, water tanks can be used to store water from the green roof to irrigate additional plants. By adding permeable pavers or surface around the structure, water will filter through the hard surface and be absorbed by the natural ground below.
You don’t need government-funded research or a team of scientists to work out the psychological benefits of green infrastructure. Whether it is a green roof or vertical garden, humans are naturally attracted to nature. Green infrastructure provides cleaner, healthier environments, which, in turn, create economic benefits.
Once people start to incorporate green spaces into their homes and structures, neighbours usually start to follow suit. Greener homes and structures create greener cities, which increases property values and the general health and wellbeing of city residents. Green infrastructure provides environmental, social and economic benefits enjoyed by all.
So what are you waiting for? Talk to a sustainability and green infrastructure expert today and start your journey towards a greener, healthier and more prosperous lifestyle.
Greener homes and structures create greener cities, which increases property values and the general health and wellbeing of city residents