By: Pete Pointner, FAICP, ALA, ITE
Green infrastructure is all of the elements of the natural environment that influence and support human communities – urban, suburban and rural. These elements include wetlands, surface and ground water, forests and native landscapes, urban streetscapes, parks and open space. Therefore, consideration of natural resources in site planning is central to the concept of Green Infrastructure.
The benefits of green infrastructure are many. At all scales of consideration, there are significant benefits of green infrastructure. Environmentally, it helps reduce greenhouse gasses, moderate temperature extremes, provide wildlife habitat, and preserve prime agricultural land and rural character. It can purify and return rainwater to groundwater aquifers and protect and enhance the functioning of ecosystems. Socially, green infrastructure provides people with aesthetic, recreational and health benefits by creating pedestrian and bicycle pathways to and within green areas. Economically, trees and green plant materials can reduce flooding, improve property values and create an environment conducive to social interaction and commerce. There are many techniques for integrating green infrastructure into a site plan. These are described and referenced in my article which is available on the Sustainability Divisions web site.
There are many techniques for integrating green infrastructure into a site plan. These are described and referenced in my article which is available on the Sustainability Divisions web site.
The process for this integration is critical to achieving the environmental, social, economic and health benefits of green infrastructure. This article identifies the process in terms of: the importance of an interdisciplinary team; the identification and response to the direction given by the program from the client; the identification, evaluation and documentation of planning factors; and the necessity of balancing trade-offs in the evolution of a site plan. The article concludes with two illustrative case studies which show how the recommended process was applied. The first is for an approved plan for a 158.4 hectare (396 acre) mixed use development with residential, retail/service and office components in Woodstock, Illinois. The second covers site selection and planning for a boarding school campus within a 480 hectare (1,200 acre) forested parcel adjacent to a wilderness area in northern Wisconsin. This school, with “environment” a key component of the teaching curriculum, has been implemented and is in operation. Each case study presents the key components of the process: defining the program; the team formation; the existing conditions; and the planning response in terms of green infrastructure. These two case studies have been adapted from two of the 19 case studies contained in the author’s book, “Planning Connections – Human, Natural and Man Made”. For more information on Green Infrastructure, Low Impact Design and Sustainability see, “Readings in Urban Planning and Design”, available via petepointnerplanning.blogspot.com.