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  • 1.  On the road to Future Green City 2: Good things come in threes

    Posted 20-06-2023 15:02
    Edited by Chris Champion 20-06-2023 15:05

    This is the third contribution in our series 'On the Road to Future Green City' in which we explore the ingredients we need for a green city with a future. This is in the run-up to the Future Green City world congress, Utrecht 23-26 September 2024.

    Good things come in threes

    by Wouter Veldhuis, Chief Government Advisor
    Built and Rural Environment, The Netherlands

    Whether it is declining biodiversity or climate change; greenery in public spaces helps to mitigate these problems. But it also creates a new problem, or at least an important question: who will maintain all this greenery? Anyone living in a neighbourhood with a lot of public green space knows how municipal departments struggle to manage public greenery. In many post-war housing estates, little of the original wealth of planting and layout elements remain after 50 years of management. And even then, management and maintenance still weigh heavily on the municipal budget.

    Set against this is the high-quality greenery of the Future Green City. Impressions of swaying grasses, wadis, and lush plant beds in public spaces as well as on balconies and roof terraces promise a carefree climate-adaptive future. But so far, this future seems to be reserved only for affluent leafy neighbourhoods and exclusive apartment buildings that can afford the cost of a low-maintenance irrigation system and a gardener thanks to an active owners' association. And so, the future of the Green City seems to be bogged down open-eyed in an ancient law of property development: where money is no object, intensive green management is an added value; where resources are limited, green management is a cost. Thus, the green future, entirely unintentionally, leads to even further segregation of privileged and underprivileged residents.

    Fortunately, there is a way out. Because alongside climate change and biodiversity, the recalibration of justice plays an important role in contemporary thinking about the future city. Social geographer David Harvey, for instance, argues that a just city must offer much more than easily accessible urban amenities. Above all, he says, it must provide room for people to be able to change themselves by changing the living environment. And precisely this insight provides a starting point for managing public space in a different way.

    Most cities in the Netherlands have been working with handbooks for the design of public space for several decades. In these, clear design principles lead to a calm and high-quality streetscape as well as a reduction of management costs through standardisation. But these handbooks date from a time when climate adaptation and biodiversity were not on the agenda. Moreover, they often leave precious little room for residents to contribute to the design and often preclude residents from taking on the management themselves.

    To make the step towards Green City, we need to shake up our handbooks and practices considerably

    To make the step towards Green City, we need to shake up our handbooks and practices considerably. Not only because of biodiversity and climate adaptation but also to make room for a more equitable city.

    Let us restore the confidence of the residents so that they collectively have the opportunity to maintain public green spaces. This will irrevocably lead to more variety and diversity in appearance and levels of management. At first glance, this may all look very untidy, but that is because our professional eye needs to be retrained to recognise a new form of beauty. The beauty of a much greater variety belonging to a city that is climate-adaptive, biodiverse, and equitable.

    Reproduced with permission from Stadswerk magazine, March 2023

    Chris Champion
    International Federation of Municipal Engineering

    IPWEA Asset Management Pathway

  • 2.  RE: On the road to Future Green City 2: Good things come in threes

    Posted 21-06-2023 17:06
    Thanks for sharing, Chris. And well done, Maarten.
    You do both a great job in promoting Future Green Cities 2024 in Utrecht.
    Save the date!

    IPWEA Asset Management Pathway