Green infrastructure is good for you, property industry told

Street trees, roof gardens and parks can add to property value as well as enhance community well being UK Green Building Council has told developers.

It has urged the property industry to play a leading role in protecting and enhancing natural features and biodiversity in the UK’s towns and cities.

The call comes as a UK-GBC Task Group published a new report presenting the business case for “green infrastructure”, the term used to describe natural and semi-natural features ranging from street trees and roof gardens, to parks and woodlands.

"There are a growing number of clients and developers demonstrating that green infrastructure is absolutely central to quality place-making, and that there is a clear business case for it. This has to become the norm."

The report, Demystifying Green Infrastructure, finds that introducing green infrastructure into the built environment offers a number of business opportunities - including a potential increase in the value of land and property – in addition to social and environmental benefits.

Aimed primarily at property developers and clients, the report also identifies business risks from failing to incorporate adequate green infrastructure into building projects – such as delays in planning, increased costs and reputational damage.

“The property industry must step up and take a leading role in protecting cherished natural environments and reversing the loss in biodiversity that we have seen nationally,” said John Alker, director of policy and communications, and acting CEO of the UK Green Building Council.  

“We have to shed the image of green infrastructure as a fluffy optional extra, an additional cost or an unnecessary burden. There are a growing number of clients and developers demonstrating that green infrastructure is absolutely central to quality place-making, and that there is a clear business case for it. This has to become the norm.”

The benefits and risks can be felt across the entire building lifecycle from planning and construction to operation, and extend beyond this to include organisational reputation, staff productivity and retention, and future proofing, the GBC report suggested.

It said the benefits of green infrastructure include:

  • ·         potentially increased values of land and property*
  • ·         reduced installation and maintenance costs
  • ·         reduced energy/air conditioning costs through natural cooling from living walls, roofs and courtyards
  • ·         improved health and wellbeing of people

Risks associated with failing to incorporate green infrastructure include:

  • ·         planning permission being refused or delayed
  • ·         flooding
  • ·         loss of valuable habitat
  • ·         reputational damage through loss of client relationships/investment

The report was sponsored by Aggregate Industries, Canary Wharf Group and Skanska and sets out a number of tools that can be used to measure the value of green infrastructure – whether economic, social or environmental.

It also includes 18 case studies highlighting good practice on green infrastructure conservation or enhancement. These include Canary Wharf’s new Crossrail station which features green infrastructure such as reed beds and water terraces (to provide improved water quality and biodiversity) and a new roof park (which offers a valuable new amenity and wildlife resource).

“Green Infrastructure is a topic that needs to be higher up our agenda,” said Oliver Jones, head of communications and sustainability at Aggregate Industries,. “The business case is clear as is the societal need. This report is full of common sense ideas and case studies that should help the wider construction community understand the importance of green infrastructure.”

John Garwood, chair of the corporate responsibility working group at Canary Wharf Group, said: “We value green infrastructure and believe it will significantly help raise understanding within the development sector of the fact that appropriate natural capital such as wildlife habitats and green corridors should be better incorporated within the built environment.”

For Jennifer Clark, director of environment, Skanska UK, “the report highlights the important role we can play by championing green infrastructure and the case studies clearly demonstrate what can be achieved with joined up systems thinking and greater leadership in the subject.”

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