Vacant to Vibrant: Creating Successful Green Infrastructure Networks
Sandra Albro, Holden Forests & Gardens
This session offers practical insights for revitalization of urban vacant land based on a three-city project, “Vacant to Vibrant.” From 2011-2018, Sandra led an interdisciplinary team of urban greening professionals in the redevelopment of nine vacant lots as stormwater parks to reduce runoff and create much-needed neighborhood amenities. Sandra draws on the team’s personal experience working in three Rust Belt cities – Gary, Indiana; Cleveland, Ohio; and Buffalo, New York – and shares successes and challenges of planning, design, community engagement, implementation, and maintenance from the Vacant to Vibrant project.
Strategies for Mitigating Urban Heat Island Effect
Rasmus Astrup, SLA Architects; Devanshi Purohit, CBT Architects; Kishore Varanasi, CBT Architects
A growing threat to urban environments around the world, the risks of Urban Heat Island (UHI) have received significantly less attention than other aspects of climate change, such as sea-level rise or extreme storm events. A neighborhood’s design greatly influences its risk level to the effects of rising temperatures, from decisions about land use and building density to the integration of blue/green infrastructure and the implications of surface materials. An expert panel of designers will discuss strategies to reduce UHI that lead to improved health and wellness, mitigate environmental impacts, create comfortable public spaces, and result in more livable cities. We will discuss nature-based solutions as well as an evidence-based approach to designing the public realm in cities. The panel will share global best practices that cities like Copenhagen, Boston, and Abu Dhabi are already implementing to mitigate UHI and how they can be adapted globally to inspire community action.
Rebuilding Urban Soils for Trees
Vincent Verweij, Arlington County, VA, Department of Parks & Recreation
Urban soils are some of the most difficult soils to grow and conserve trees in. Remediating soil through decompaction and introduction of organic material has been a method used in the landscape industry in the past, and it has received research to support its value. It can improve tree health, reduce stormwater runoff, and capture carbon, if implemented correctly.
Soil Profile Rebuilding, a technical specification developed by Virginia Tech, provides a clear direction to remediate soils after disturbance, or from other impacts. This presentation will go over personal experience supporting the research, practical limitations, and applications in Arlington County, Virginia. A link to the specifications and research is available here.
Let’s Talk About the Birds and the Bees:
Backyard Habitats in Suburban Yards
Susannah Lerman, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station
Urban and suburban development results in the loss and alteration of vegetation, and is one of the leading causes for severe declines of birds, bees, and other wildlife populations. However, backyards have the potential to mitigate some of the detrimental impacts by providing wildlife habitat. Although these green spaces result in small fragments of non-cohesive parcels, collectively, they have the greatest potential for increasing and enhancing habitat in urban and suburban areas. Thus, individual households, in particular their associated landscaping decisions, have a role to play in improving the capacity of backyards for supporting wildlife and other ecosystem services. This presentation will describe research that has demonstrated how wildlife has responded to landscape design variation, highlighting native plant and native bird relationships, lawn mowing frequency and bee abundance, and wildlife responses at a continental scale. Improving habitat in private yards has implications for human well-being as well since this is where people have their primary interaction with the natural world. Increased exposure and participation in field science programs can further enforce the importance of conservation initiatives and policies aimed at improving habitat in our cities and suburbs.