Integrative Design Solutions for Connecting Street Trees to the Urban Water Cycle

Grimm, Karl and Grimm-Pretner, Dagmar (2023) Integrative Design Solutions for Connecting Street Trees to the Urban Water Cycle. LET IT GROW, LET US PLAN, LET IT GROW. Nature-based Solutions for Sustainable Resilient Smart Green and Blue Cities. Proceedings of REAL CORP 2023, 28th International Conference on Urban Development, Regional Planning and Information Society. pp. 429-438. ISSN 2521-3938

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Climate change adaptation and the need to improve micro-climates in cities bring urban forestry into focus. Street trees are important nature-based solutions (NBS) with multiple functions. But only large, well-developed trees that are at least a few decades old can provide the necessary range of ecosystem services and perform the tasks required. There are two essential criteria for trees to grow old: (1) the qualities of the site, in particular the adequate supply of water, air, and nutrients to the root zone, and (2) the choice of tree species. This links tree planting in the urban environment to the improvement of the urban water cycle, which is a goal of NBS in its own right. In this paper, we explore how tree planting and the urban water cycle can be combined by means of integrated design solutions in different types of open spaces in cities. Based on a qualitative analysis of built design projects using NBS in Austria and scholarly literature, we explore the requirements for and the range and combinations of different design solutions for NBS. In the design of urban rainwater management based on the “sponge city” principle, NBS can be used for the “collection of water”, “retention of water”, “purification of water”, and “discharge of water to the atmosphere or water bodies”. Three different design approaches for water management are possible: “concealment” (diverting rainwater rapidly from the surface to underground systems), “integration” (leaving the water visible, but unobtrusive, and integrating it into the overall design of the site), and „showcasing” (transforming stormwater measures into water-based amenities). The analysis of 24 projects showed that implementing NBS by using the sponge city principle for trees has become an important element in stormwater management cascades and has been applied in a range of different types of urban open spaces. The sponge city principle for trees is primarily a NBS with low design impact: strategies of “concealment” and “integration” predominate. “Showcasing” has only occurred in conjunction with sunken planters for purification. Incorporating NBS into the overall design of an open space has untapped potential. The projects under analysis also show that while the water conditions for trees are being improved, the choice of species is also changing. The focus now is on species that are able to cope with hotter and drier conditions. Native species are being replaced with trees from appropriate climatic regions. The conclusion is that finding synergies between landscape design and engineering provides a rich source of innovation for new urban open spaces. The overall design goal is to achieve an integrative solution serving technical, ecological, social, and economic needs. Designing nature-based solutions means taking a site-specific, integrative approach and connecting with a citywide network of green infrastructure.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: street tree, urban water cycle, urban design, sponge city, nature-based solutions
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Depositing User: REAL CORP Administrator
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2023 10:42
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2023 17:28

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