by Alissa Brown
Edible forests, vertical gardens, green roofs…In large, densely-populated urban centers?
Current government entities and NGOs are not at a loss for creative fusions of natural and urban landscapes. And why should they be? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more and more people are opting to move from rural or suburban areas to more densely-populated centers and people tend to be happier when living in close proximity to green space. Nationwide, people are enjoying the benefits of urban green space planning. Seattle’s anticipated Beacon urban food forest, downtown Portland’s eagerly awaited 18-story vertical garden, and the green-roofed Solaire Building in lower Manhattan are just a few examples of the new wave of innovative, green urban design.
Less than 3 miles from downtown Seattle the Beacon Food Forest will contain edible plants, including a canopy of fruit and nut trees, an understory of berry shrubs and herbs, root vegetables, fruiting ground covers, and climbing grape vines.The Friends of the Food Forest Community Group plan to use certain types of soil and plants arranged strategically to prevent pest invasion and produce a large amount of food for human and non-human visitors with very little maintenance.
The Federal government is in the planning stages to renovate the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in downtown Portland. A key component of the design includes an energy-saving vertical garden on the side of the 18-story building. The building will use captured rainwater as irrigation and window washers will perform regular pruning.
The Solaire Building of Battery Park City, NY, boasts 5,000 and 4,800 square-foot rooftop gardens, providing residents a garden oasis while reducing the heat island effect: the warming of urban areas as formerly vegetated areas converted to buildings and roads. The gardens retain almost 70% of the rainwater, stored in the soil until needed by the plants, and the building consumes 35% less energy than similar residential high-rise buildings.
Great Ecology is an active participant in urban greenscaping by reintroducing ecological function to degraded urban spaces and waterfronts, increasing public access, and adding cultural, ecological, and economic value. As part of the Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. team, we contributed to the ecological design of the Brooklyn Bridge Park, using our expertise in the restoration of freshwater and tidal wetlands and incorporating public access for recreation and education. Across the river in Manhattan, Great Ecology conceptualized the intertidal habitat to encourage the growth of mussels and other subtidal organisms for the East River Waterfront Eco- Park. Our San Diego office provided project management and strategy to the Culver City Rainwater Harvesting Program, educating residents about the importance of water management by providing residents with water-saving landscaping as well as rain barrels for storing rainfall for later use. With our new office in Denver, Colorado, Great Ecology is excited to continue contributing innovative green designs to our cities.