Our readers may remember the launch of GreenBlue Urban’s second successful EU Interreg funded 2Seas Project, Cool Towns. This project focuses specifically on the interplay between the integration of green and blue infrastructure into the urban environment and the effect this will have on urban cooling and climate change mitigation. The pilot projects that will be used to develop decision making toolkits and new guidance across member states includes French, Dutch and Flemish partners as well as Southend City Council and Kent County Council in the UK.
GreenBlue Urban are integrating the RootSpace soil cell system across key pilot sites in Oostende, East Flanders, Breda, St Omer, Southend and Kent. The first pilot site Charlotte visited was in the Belgian city of Ooestende this week. This is an exciting and challenging opportunity to encourage the municipality and the local landscape architects and engineers to consider the multi-benefits of utilising engineered systems rather than the historical methodologies that include tree sand. The municipal authority have recently received the support of local politicians to bring forward an exciting scheme in the heart of this coastal community.
Charlotte met with the design team at city hall to discuss the emerging vision for a currently neglected area where there is a problem of overheating compounded by a lack of green infrastructure and impermeable space used for car parking and deliveries to local businesses. There has been due consideration given to the need to maintain access and to provide alternative provision of parking. The concept will focus on the integration of two greening approaches to reduce the impact of the urban heat island effect and to reinvigorate the space to encourage increased footfall through the area; namely green facades and a series of interconnected tree pits with modular soil cells.
The selection of species and the anchoring of the trees as part of this scheme will be critical.
Notably due to the proximity of the site to the sea. The landscape architect for Oostende Eli Devrient, commented on the advantages of the GBU system, enabling him to utilise a broad palette of species for his design and to provide rigorous canopy growth when compared to structural soil and sand-based systems. Eli is able to select complimentary species and realise biodiversity objectives. The trees will be able to share and exploit the generous rooting environment with GBU RootSpace cells configured in a continuous trench.
Charlotte’s second visit was to the Dutch city of Breda in Brabant. Meeting with Vincent Kuiphuis and his design team, Charlotte explained the benefits of moving away from the TreeBunker approach which would not provide the structural integrity and co-benefits of water attenuation that they required for their pilot.
There is ongoing discussion regarding the location of the pilot due to the fact that they have urban heat island hotspots in multiple locations, particularly in the vicinity of the train station. Charlotte explained the valuable contribution GreenBlue have made in the proximity of transport hubs in the UK such as King’s Cross, which was of great interest to these project partners.
The application of a similar approach to Greener Grangetown where tree pit build outs integrated into a raingarden approach would also be useful as the project teams in Breda have experience retrofitting raingardens and are keen to increase the capacity of such interventions.