Photo of the De Boel smart blue-green roof at Amsterdam Zuid (photo credits: De Dakdokters)
An unexpected opportunity
As the RESILIO project had picked up in pace on the procurement and development of the new smart Blue-Green systems, the Covid19 crisis arrived and slowed down activities. However, the social and psychological impacts of confinement precisely due to this crisis, have highlighted the urgency for more accessible space. Blue-green roofs can really contribute to this.
Given that streets and parks as public spaces have not been designed to accommodate social distancing, many municipalities are now trying to find new accessible spaces for citizens. Private building roofs can be part of the solution spectrum when it comes to recreational space requirements.
This applies also to RESILIO whose BG roofs are on social housing corporations buildings, yet the accessibility aspect did not hold a central part in the agenda – partially due to safety and maintenance concerns. However, the InnovationLab of the RESILIO project on the Benno Premselahuis, a building of the Amsterdam University of Applied Science (HvA), is accessible to the public and used as practical example to show residents and other stakeholders in Amsterdam the benefits of BG roofs.
The questions that now arise are "How do we practically leverage this new green space?"; "Where are the best opportunities and how do we strategically plan for new green space?"
Space reassignment opportunity
Many cities have a target for maximum distance from green for all residents. The City of Amsterdam, together with Nijmegen and Utrecht, are involved in mapping projects to identify neighbourhoods that lack green spaces. Based on this information the municipalities identify the higher marginal positive effect of adding green spaces in these neighbourhoods, compared to others that already have such space.
In the Netherlands the areas that lack accessible green spaces are quite often in the historic areas and city centres. These areas have been build up over the ages, leaving very little space for green. These areas are many times also densely populated. This is an issue in the oldest part of Amsterdam, but also in, for example, Utrecht and Nijmegen.
The opportunity for space reassignment might not lie on eye level and therefore not be easy to spot. However we might find space that can be easily reassigned on roof level.
An opportunity for well-being
Due to Covid19, a healthy relationship between humans and their home or office environment needs to be enhanced. In this context, blue-green roofs can offer:
- Socialisation opportunities to combat isolation and loneliness
- Urban gardening opportunities which build community
- Exercise space at a time that our living rooms are too small for this
- Safe playgrounds for children, whose emotional wellbeing can suffer from confinement and school closures
- Space to cool down on hot summer days. If citizens are left without options to cool down, it will put an additional burden on healthcare systems as people can suffer from heat-related symptoms.
Good practices for public utilisation and citizen engagement
There are some great examples of accessible green roofs that enhance social interaction in a safe way, while also offering the opportunity to enjoy green spaces while maintaining social distancing. See below the De Boel, FLOOR, CIRCL and DakAkker Roofs - some of the finest examples for public utilisation