One of seven European projects looking at nature-based solutions for smart cities, Connecting Nature is part of a €12 million investment to help cities make the switch to become more sustainable. The pan-European project, coordinated by the research team at Trinity College Dublin, is looking at 11 European cities in particular—including Glasgow and Genk in Belgium—to explore new technologies to help these cities become greener from the ground up.— Philippe Leonard
Giving Urban Environments a Green Touch
At the moment, more than 70 percent of Europe’s population is centred around cities, and this number is expected to rise to over 80 percent in the next 30 years. This is why one of the key parts of the project involves citizen participation, working with the public to gather data and help find solutions to make cities more sustainable. Some spots like Barcelona and Paris have already managed to make green living a reality, with urban parks and other types of green infrastructure weaved into their landscapes. Others like Glasgow have ambitious plans in place that can benefit and grow from the Connecting Nature project. For example, 60 percent of Glasgow’s population lives within 50 metres of derelict land. The aim is for all citizens to live within 400 metres of green or blue space.
Some of the nature-based solutions, such as green roofs, can be applied to cities across the board, from Glasgow to Genk. But instead of common flat green roofs, the project is looking at more dynamic designs with large supermarket chains and commercial businesses adopting multiple height green roofs that can grow fruit trees and vegetables. Another smart solution is treating wastewater on site instead of relying on costly infrastructure that sends it off to treatment plants.
By crowd-sourcing information from specific cities and using communities to help gather data, this type of collaborative project can meet the individual needs of cities, thereby be applying tailor-made, nature-based solutions that make sense for the citizens dwelling in each spot.
“We see it as an opportunity to up-skill existing businesses with new technologies integrated into nature-based solutions and also to help innovative start-ups in a systematic way,” said Siobhan McQuaid from the Centre for Social Innovation at the Trinity College Business School in an article in The Irish Times. “These nature-based solutions are now moving from early adopter stage to the mainstream.”