Green infrastructure, also referred to as GI, is a catch-all term used to describe the network of natural and semi-natural features within and between villages, towns and cities. GI often varies in scale, from street trees, green roofs and private gardens as well as parks, rivers and woodlands. On a bigger scale, it includes wetlands, forests and agricultural land.
Green infrastructure, along with the implementation of biodiversity net gain (BNG), has an essential role to play in the adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. The green infrastructure approach advocates that GI elements need to be protected and enhanced to help sustain and improve our quality of life.
The benefits of green infrastructure
Some of the most significant benefits of green infrastructure include:
- It can help to support people’s mental and physical health
- It encourages active travel
- It can cool urban areas during heat waves
- It can attract investment
- It reduces water run-off during flash flooding
- It can contribute to carbon storage
- It provides sustainable drainage
- It increases biodiversity
The extent to which green infrastructure provides these things depends on how it is designed and maintained, and the maturity and health of the elements (such as trees) that form it.
Developing and implementing green infrastructure
GI has to be taken into account when planning a new building or structure. Complying to the regulations put in place by the appropriate council's planning permission guidelines are a vital part of constructing any new development.
A new building or structure needs to adhere to relevant environmental guidelines and this includes the policies surrounding green infrastructure, such as Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG). This approach to development leaves biodiversity in a better state than it was previously and encourages developers to increase natural habitats.
Our biodiversity webinar content library covers the importance of biodiversity in our urban areas, including how we can bring about change through architecture and design.
If a newly built structure is located in London, the regulations set out by The Urban Greening Factor (UGF) scheme need to be considered. This is a tool which evaluates and quantifies the amount and quality of urban greening that a scheme provides. This helps to inform decisions about the appropriate levels of greening in new developments. The UGF may look at various factors and decide that the structure you’re working on, perhaps a block of flats, requires a green roof to be compliant with planning permissions. If these environmental policies aren't adhered to, your development may be hit by delays or financial setbacks.
If you have a project where either UGF, BNG or both are applied, we are able to advise and support you through the process in finding practical solutions to comply with the regulations and aid the planning process.
Property and environmental value with green infrastructure
Green infrastructure can add huge value to a property. Research has indicated that implementing green infrastructure to a building adds approximately 7% to the average rental rate for office buildings.
Similarly, research on urban business premises has discovered that consumers are willing to spend more on products, visit more often, or travel further to shop in areas with attractive landscaping, good tree cover and spaces which encourage biodiversity.
In areas with tree canopies, consumers have indicated that they are more willing to pay 8-12% more. For a mid-size retail centre, this could generate over 1 million in sales annually.
Furthermore, this increased revenue for retail tenants suggests that retail building owners should be able to earn rental premiums for providing green infrastructure amenities.
In one study, green roofs were found to add 16% to the average rental rate for multifamily units. GI can also help commercial buildings attain certification under BREEAM and similar eco-labelling programs.
We’re passionate about green infrastructure here at Viritopia and are committed to improving air quality, well-being and urban biodiversity by using greener, smarter building solutions. For an introduction to our work and to find out more about our living wall system and biodiverse green roofs, please don’t hesitate to get in touch today.