Green oasis and private paradise
Interview by trade journal Playground@Landscape with August Forster, President of the German association for garden, landscape and sport facility construction (GaLaBau), on the success potential for "green".
How important this is, is shown by our image and PR campaign for the target group of private customers. Ten years ago – before the start of our campaign – this market segment had a turnover of less than two million Euro. In the meantime this has increased to around three billion Euros. Many an industrial company would be happy to have this kind of growth. We are proud that we prepared and took the right decisions at that time.
However, we do not intend to just sit on our laurels after this success. Within the framework of a 'future workshop' we have defined and substantiated further tasks for the BGL which will be focussed on in greater depth now. With this background I would like to mention above all urban greenery with public contractors and business companies.
We want to promote awareness for the various positive effects which greenery has. This is about creating convictions and we have support from other areas here. For example, work researchers have presented an idea for work-life-integration. They believe that career and private life will be increasingly interlinked in future. Short commuting distances to the office, good local amenities, different types of restaurant and, not least, green areas for relaxation will be demanded.
In the opinion of urban planners and district developers, the mixture of living, working and recreation is sustainably attractive for users and investors. As landscape gardeners we want to support this and with our new BGL committee for urban development, we will develop corresponding impulses for the public sector.
P@L: Given the backdrop of climate and demographic changes, green cannot be the universal wonder formula for successful future urban development. Despite this, great importance is place on urban greenery with a view of sustainable urban development. Why is this?
August Forster: Due to the high population density and agglomeration of technical infrastructure, cities are more susceptible to the results of climate change. For this reason, adjustment strategies need to be defined at an early stage. In future, cities will face threats from the effects of heat, drought or heavy rains. Cities lying on the coast or near rivers will have to expect flooding and storm floods.
More common and more intensive periods of heat will have an impact, above all, on urban agglomerations. In order to reduce the negative effects of high temperatures on the population, more than only changes in the construction of individual buildings will be required. City planning will need to adapt and take into consideration these effects when planning open spaces. Parks and green areas store considerably less heat than concrete and asphalt. The same applies for roofs with vegetation. This has a positive effect for the immediately surrounding area so farsighted urban planning will include many green areas of at least one hectare, distributed evenly between the buildings.
Along with building-related measures for Federal subventions, settlement or city district approaches should be given more focus. Regulations for urban renovation – and as an extension of this building subventions – should be reviewed with respect to their influence on climate-compatible urban renovation. The "Leipzig Charta" for sustainable European cities should be implemented and, in particular, its requirements for integrated urban development policies, greater energy efficiency in construction and infrastructure, sustainable use of resources and a compact settlement structure.
Climate protection should be given greater attention when city expansion plans are created. Possible measures range from expansion of fresh-air lanes to more green and water surface areas as well as more mixed construction methods. Existing buildings can be given façade greenery, trees planted or street and land surfaces made permeable to water in order to help stop temperatures from rising. The growing significance of trees in urban areas in future, is however offset by their increased endangerment from extreme weather conditions and in particular, summer heat waves and periods of drought.
P@L: The BGL has founded a new committee for urban development. What are their topics of discussion? And what does it hope to initiate?
August Forster: Urban development includes control and management of social, economic, cultural and ecological processes as well as the development of architecture and infrastructure of a community or a region with high building density. Today, urban development is characterised to an increasing extent by requirements for greater sustainability of agglomerations, cities and communities, i.e. a "green city". Along with architecture and construction, landscape gardening and environmental questions play an increasingly key role.
From this, interesting tasks and important markets are generated for gardening and landscape construction. The BGL committee for urban development works on know-how for these areas from a landscape gardening point of view, initiates expert and public discussion and provides the expert opinion of the association. The objective is to make our cities greener while making use of the chances this creates for businesses involved in gardening and landscape construction.
Further instruments for this work include organisations such as, among others, the German foundation "The Green City" (Die Grunge Start), cooperation with the conference of German public authorities responsible for urban greenery, the German central committee for real estate, the associations of German landscape architects, general contractors, architects and engineers, real estate business and many, many more. The intention is to convince third parties in an expert manner, through publications, statements, presentations, conferences and similar platforms, of the necessity for sustainable urban construction.
P@L: What will sustainable urban planning look like in 2020?
August Forster: Sustainable urban planning attempts to imagine the picture of a city in ten to fifteen years and to bring planners of urban construction, greenery, business and transport together in an interdisciplinary way. Faced with mega trends of change in demographic, climate and economic structures and globalisation, cities of the future will themselves need to undergo great changes. The development is characterised by coexistence and simultaneous growth and shrinkage processes.
Increasing urbanisation, which uses great amounts of resources, is part of the problem and, at the same time, provides the opportunity of combining sustainable urban development with sustainable planning of open spaces in the agglomeration centres.
Sustainable settlement structures make a significant contribution towards the reduction of environmental pollution in cities. Avoidance of high traffic emission levels, opening of fresh air lanes, a reduction in sealed ground surface areas and maintenance or creation of expanses of water and green areas are the necessary planning measures for this.
The planned, reduction in utilised area can only be achieved with consistent inner-city development strategies. These stand for avoidance urban sprawl, recycling of area and redensification. A compact city structure with short distances and a mixture of functions is an important prerequisite – also for handling of climate change. Green belts near residential areas, which can be reached in only a few minutes, will become an important component of future urban planning. The sustainability principle of "inner development before exterior development" applies equally to growing and shrinking regions and should be applied not only to construction and civil engineering, but also for green urban development. Traditionally, cities are places of cultural diversity which generates creativity and, in this way, are also places of tolerance. Sustainable city planning must also take this into account when planning free spaces.
Sustainable urban development taking into consideration use of resources, must be oriented along the lines of the Leipzig Charta, developed by European ministers of construction, which aims for energy efficiency, climate protection, provision of free spaces and efficient use of area at the same time. Sustainable urban development can be seen in the cooperation and interaction of social, economic, ecological, cultural and institutional aspects. Its objective is quality of life and attractivity as the basis for economic development of a city. Guiding principles are economic stability and development, ecological responsibility and efficiency and social stability and responsibility.
Together with cooperative methods, integrated urban development and action concepts are a significant key for sustainable urban development in that they attempt to generate synergy from planning, economic, ecological, and social requirements. The resilience of today's urban areas is related to the capability of the city to react to environmental changes: Shortages of natural resources, adjustment to climate changes and limitation of their effects as well as never-before experienced urban growth.
The goal is to develop positive interim strategies and scenarios which will enable city areas to face this combination of major challenges while reducing the ecological footprint of cities through innovative development of the following points: public and private green infrastructure and green belt areas, urban biodiversity, improved climate-neutral infrastructure and research into new methods, in order to provide support in the conversion to sustainable and resilient cities of tomorrow.
P@L: The topic of multi-generation play is important to the federal association BSFH; multi-generational recreation in green areas and parks a topic for the future. How do garden and landscaping companies need to adjust to the wishes of senior citizens?
August Forster: Some examples of multi-generation playgrounds or so-called 'senior playgrounds' as can be found in Berlin or Nuremberg are convincing and hopefully, will set a precedent when multiple benefits and economic advantages are achieved with their realisation. It must be noted that in particular, multi-generation exercise offers providing something for the whole family – parents, grandparents and children – are very interesting as they create a togetherness of the different generations.
Garden and landscaping companies are working hard to design multi-generation and senior-citizen suitable recreation spaces. With their work at an early project stage, the experts for gardening and landscaping can provide important input with regard to construction, maintenance and care of sites and equipment.
The German research institute for landscape development and construction (FLL) has also been involved for some time now with multi-generation landscape planning and construction matters. The trade will be provided with concrete ideas at the 20th international expert trade fair "Urban greenery and leisure space – Planning– Construction– Care" ("GaLaBau") in Nuremberg, with innovative ideas for play and recreation sites of all kinds. From the point if view of the federal association for garden, landscape and sport facility construction, this development should be given great support and good examples well publicised.
P@L: What is the significance of green recreation areas for an ageing society?
August Forster: The impact of demographic change, with an increase in over-65 year olds and a particular increase in the number of octogenarians can be seen increasingly in the structure of orders in garden, landscape and sport facility construction. With this in mind, it is noticeable that in trade publications, topics about the effects of demographic change on free room or landscape planning are very rare. Even though the necessity for public parks and green areas to be adjusted to suit age-specific requirements is repeatedly confirmed, implementation of the concept is often doomed to failure by lack of means or political decisions of the majority fraction in city councils.
An attractive living environment with special free room quality and availability of leisure space designed to be suitable to all age groups, has a decisive influence on the financial value of neighbouring real estate. It is proven that in particular, offers with regard to health, fitness, wellness and sport in the vicinity, result in an increase in value for construction land and play an important role in the satisfaction of owners and tenants.
In addition, in the experience of the BGL, that special attractivity is created when places providing peace and quiet, room for experiences and encounters, alternate with places for training bodily capabilities. Paths with different steep and flat sections also improve bodily fitness.
To achieve creation of new senior-suitable complexes, comprehensive planning is required which encompasses all those involved, as well as the inhabitants, and inquiries about their special wishes.
P@L: What will the public park of the future look like?
August Forster: The answer to this question is a summary of the answers to questions 2, 5, 8 and 11. Future parks will be planned and built in order to confront the effects of climate change and, wherever possible, to reduce these. Future parks will be planned sustainably, the life cycle costs are known and maintenance work is planned. They will be free of barriers and adapted to suit the demographic change, places for intercultural communication offering equipment for sporting activities while taking in account fashions and trends making them attractive and popular places to be.
P@L: Making cities into landscapes is pioneer work and means including the landscape as an existential component of the city. From green urban development to Chelsea Gardens: where is the green trend leading?
August Forster: Garden, landscape and sport facility construction is well equipped to meet the future. The structural data of the trade shows a continual upswing tendency. Both the rising number of companies as well as the number of employees have increased continually over the past years.
It can be assumed that the requirements of the companies and their employees will further increase. The expert companies who are members of the BGL can meet these challenges as well trained business people with a sense of responsibility and highly motivated employees are the best prerequisite for a successful future. However, future also means being ready to invest in good training and, in addition, having the will power to learn new things and continue learning lifelong. I am convinced this is what we want.
Based on a good network, including political contacts, the interests of landscape gardeners are represented well both federally in Germany and in Europe. It is the job of every individual garden and landscape company owner to make use of the chances provided by change.
Interview by Thomas R. Müller (Trade journal Playground@Landscape)