Ecological Sustainability and Urban Green Space


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Ringkøbing -DK

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Ringkøbing Area Resources

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Data on green space in Køge

Green space in Ringkøbing



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Karen Attwell, Danish Building Research Institute, Housing and Planning Research

The potential role of urban green space - chains of implications


The fundamental assumption of our research and of the associated workshop (held in Ringkøbing, August 1998) is that the urban green is - or ought to be - more that just a visual backdrop to built structures and more than a stage for active or passive recreational use. This includes the realisation that:

  • the urban green space is also important locally for air quality, temperature and wildlife
  • the non paved urban spaces, mainly vegetation covered, can be an important resource for handling the flows (in particular water and waste flows) locally
  • such spaces allow for retention and infiltration of storm water

The Danish Building Research Institute is undertaking research into these issues.

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There is a considerable difference between what is normally recognised in Town Planning documents as Green or Public Open Spaces and the Green Structure of a city, here the latter is taken to include all unbuilt and unsealed (vegetated) land surface whether in private or public ownership - here, when the words Greenspace are used we refer to the Actual Greenspace not the "planned green". The diagram below of Ringkøbing Municipal Plan shows just how little land is designated as Open Space - the discussion here on Green Space in Ringkøbing shows how much actual greenspace there is.

Extracted from Ringkøbing's Town Planning Statement

Summary - the role of urban green space in enhancing local environmental sustainability

  1. Even within very built up town centres and urban areas the mainly paved spaces between buildings still include green elements important locally for air quality, temperature and wildlife.
  2. Local retention and infiltration of storm water is known to have positive environmental implications in relation to fresh and salt water areas and to the groundwater table and quality.
  3. In particular, the retention of storm water in areas with no or few water features has implications for vegetation diversity and growth, which again influences the amount and diversity of wildlife, local climate etc. in chains or networks of implications.
  4. Ultimately it might create a physical diversity of elements and meaningful processes, which are assumed to be much more satisfying to a recreational experience than purely aesthetically based forms and elements.
  5. That is not to say that aesthetics is irrelevant, only that the combination of aesthetic and environmental purposes might be an optimal basis for recreational experiences.

The same, although often much less visible, qualities of local treatment and use could be cited for biodegradable waste from private households and from green spaces: vegetation growth is supported by the use of more or less composted material. In particular, newly established and climatically stressed (wind/evaporation/sandy soils, etc.) plants and nutrition-demanding vegetables benefit considerably. Soil quality, food chains from micro-organisms to birds and mammals, feeding, hiding, breeding in piles of decaying garden waste, successful (vegetable) gardening, growth for wind shelter etc. are all influenced, as ultimately are improved recreational opportunities which derive from those processes.

Most processes are dependent on biologically open (non-built and non-paved) areas

With exceptions such as the percolation of storm water in underground soakaways, which might well be established under paved areas, most processes are dependent on biologically open (non-built and non-paved) areas, here termed vegetation areas

Water surfaces are included in the open areas, but the fresh water features are few in the municipalities included in this research project. Consequently, the soil surface, mainly vegetation covered areas constitute the main focus.

Is suitable space available in sufficient amounts? The importance of detailed mapping to allow assessment of potential

In planning for local resource flows and a diverse urban nature it is consequently necessary to map not only the current flows and existing technical systems and the habitat quality of existing urban nature, but also to map the amount of suitable, available areas which have the potential to allow a change of water and waste management and/or a change of vegetation.

One of the most important underlying questions of the "visions" of urban ecological changes related to the outdoors thus is, whether suitable space is available in sufficient amounts. It is the purpose of this paper to explore the urban area resources of Ringkøbing.



© 1998 Karen Attwell, Danish Building Research Institute, Housing and Urban Planning Research