How one city has taken on climate change (and your city can do it, too)

Wed, 2017-11-08 10:11 -- Doug Peeples

Last month SCCANZ, the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects and the Internet of Things of Alliance Australia partnered to deliver a demonstration project called Future Street. Future Street was a concept of three key concepts – green streets, complete streets and smart streets. The feature image to this article above clearly shows the transformation to a place from simply installing trees.

After a week of the installation being in place, we learned one major thing, that our streets in the future cannot leave out any of the concepts – green, complete, and smart.

In this article we see an award-winning advancement of green street concepts, providing the critical living infrastructure our cities and neighbourhoods need to help manage runoff, promote active living, enhance retail experience, create jobs and mitigate the heat island effect. Street trees are truly one of the most powerful strategies for building more sustainable cities. — Adam Beck

 Blacktown, a suburb in Greater Western Sydney's growth corridor, has won a national award recognizing its tree planting program designed to cool streets, reduce energy bills and lower carbon dioxide emissions.

As described in Domain, a property marketing media company publication, Blacktown's Cool Streets Pilot Project is a successful example of how cities can deal with the problem of urban heat islands that occur when concentrations of buildings trap heat and drive temperatures higher than they are in the areas around them.

The project, which ran from late 2015 to early 2016, was guided by the research of a landscape architect but incorporated extensive community involvement from the very beginning. For example, citizens had final say on the project design. And that contributed to it winning a National Award of Excellence during the AILA National Landscape Architecture Awards held in mid-October.

It would be hard to over-estimate the value of tree planting programs that take consider which trees are appropriate for the region and where they are located. A successful program like Blacktown's offers — as mentioned above — cooler streets, shade that helps reduce energy bills and lower carbon dioxide emissions. And important to homeowners: the presence of street trees can significantly increase property values. The addition of greenery also supports a healthier, more liveable environment for residents.

A common sense approach
In a previous story we reported that Sydney's population is expected to double by 2056 and that climate change is expected to drive temperatures higher. And add to the equation Australia's energy costs are already among the highest in the world.

The Blacktown project also is in line with the goals of the city of Sydney's proposed plans to invest $8 million over the next several years in street trees, urban forests and sorely needed parks and green spaces, as outlined in its draft budget earlier this year. Part of that funding would be used for trees and part would be used to supplement the city's upgrading of existing street and rain gardens and planting new ones.

Greening programs can be replicated elsewhere
The Blacktown success story also can be replicated in other cities, as Linda Corkery, jury chair for the AILA National Awards, noted. As she put it, "It really demonstrates how to roll this kind of project out. And teaching residents the value of trees."

Doug Peeples is a writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartcitiesanz on Twitter.