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SkyPark revolution is well underway
THE greening of Western Sydney is well underway with University projects such as revolutionary SkyParks set to expand into the wider community.
Most of us see ‘greening’ as more parks and bushland dedicated to the cause, but planning experts are looking upwards for the next big development in greening the city.
If you stand downtown in any Western Sydney CBD and look upwards you will see prime airspace and hectares of bare concrete that is perfect for greening.
And scientists are now able to predict which plants will survive and thrive in CBD’s as part of our changing climate conditions.
This, coupled with SkyParks now being installed in the city’s east and new parklands being installed in our region, will mean that the West’s favorite color in years to come will be green.
Researchers from Macquarie and Western Sydney universities have developed a new tool to help local government work out which plants will survive and thrive in various locations over the next 50 years.
Government News reports that Program Manager Gwilym Griffiths, the former urban forest and ecology manager for Inner West Council, said the ‘Which Plant Where’ tool was a key resource for future-proofing urban greening projects.
The website, funded by not-for-profit research and development corporation Hort Innovation and launched recently, is the first of its kind in Australia.
It was developed during a five year research project which included compiling a database of more than 2600 plant species, as well as simulated greenhouses testing and 12 ‘living labs’ across Australia.
“The database is really comprehensive, you can look up heights, tolerances, whether it’s suitable as a street tree, or a park tree. Combining all that information with climate data makes this a really powerful tool,” Mr Griffiths told Government News.
Ensuring resilient landscapes
Mr Griffith said the tool could be used by arborists and urban forest teams to identify which of their existing inventory was likely to do well in the future and to align future planting with the changing environment.
Landscape architects and capital project teams, meanwhile, can use the tool to check off planting palettes and make sure the plants they are selecting are going to be resilient.
“A lot of people rely on past experience – you build up a palette of plants that you keep in your back pocket because you know they do well and are interesting plants to use,” Mr Griffiths told Government News.
“But that can be a dangerous approach. What worked in the past might not work in the future, because we are going to see changes in the plants that are surviving, and the tool’s demonstrating that already.
“The biggest mistake people make when planning for green spaces is failing to select the tree that’s going to reach peak performance in a particular location, and the tool’s going to help that.”
The tool will provide a valuable resource when making choices about sustainable urban greening, developers say.
Climate change scenarios
Which Plant Where also provides best practice guides on topics including plant selection, procurement and urban tree management, as well as maps highlighting changes in climate suitability for plants under predicted climate change scenarios in 2030, 2050 and 2070.
Subscribers will also be able to build plant palettes, access information such as carbon and shade values and download a spreadsheet to send to the nursery to check for availability.
Skyparks Greening the City
Meanwhile, planning authorities need to focus on repurposing existing urban spaces rather than constructing new buildings if they want to create sustainable cities, a living cities expert said.
Alexander Georgouras from UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture has been working with Sydney councils to turn under-utilised spaces into functional rooftop gardens and green spaces.
Government News reports Randwick City Council has partnered with Mr Georgouras on a project to establish a SkyParks garden at UNSW, while Waverley Council has unveiled three SkyParks with shopping centre group Westfield.
SkyParks, funded under the NSW government Greening Our City initiative, involves establishing rooftop gardens in unloved spaces. As well as increasing urban greening, the SkyParks are contributing to learnings about how greening can contribute to cooling, save energy and improve air and water quality.
While investing in sustainable new buildings can help reduce emissions, Mr Georgouras said modifying existing buildings was a more effective way of creating efficient and sustainable cities.
He said the concept of the SkyPark came largely in response to urban density and the increase in people living in apartments.
“It’s about trying to harness some of these more obscure unused urban spaces to provide what you could call the ‘missing middle’ of landscape amenity.”
Mr Georgouras said SkyParks didn’t have to be on public land, but they must be publicly accessible.
“A lot of our private landowners have been really onboard with creating these spaces and blurring the boundaries between public and private and that’s what’s really ground breaking about what we’re doing,” he said.
He described skygardens as a “retrofit model applied to urban greening”.
“What we’re trying to put in the spotlight here is when we don’t have the resources or the appetite to completely knock down and rebuild, what can we do to transform the built environment to become more climactically adaptive?”
As part of the project the University has installed equipment to monitor weather and environmental conditions at the
SkyPark to better understand the benefits of and requirements for greening built-up spaces.
Researchers hope it will provide quantifiable insights into the environmental, social and community benefits of rooftop gardens.
Mr Georgouras said working with local government on the projects had demonstrated the benefits of sharing knowledge within the local council network.
As part of his ongoing research Mr Georgouras is looking at establishing networks and protocols for ‘above grade greening’.
“At the moment the Sydney Green Grid deals with parks and transport corridors on the ground,” he said.
“But there hasn’t been a strategic plan for how to actually green our top spaces and look at things like pollination corridors and urban cooling rooftop greening.”
NSW DPE executive Director of Green & Resilient Places, Steve Hartley, said SkyParks was part of a wider suite of work to increase tree canopy cover across Greater Sydney.
“We are pleased to support and fund innovative projects like SkyParks which focus on creative, collaborative, and real-world solutions to help with greening our city,” he said.
“Greening car parks and other traditionally not-so-green spaces is something that can easily be scaled up across the city and beyond.”
Source: Government News


Michael Walls
0407 783 413

Access News is a print and digital media publisher established over 15 years and based in Western Sydney, Australia. Our newspaper titles include the flagship publication, Western Sydney Express, which is a trusted source of information and for hundreds of thousands of decision makers, businesspeople and residents looking for insights into the people, projects, opportunities and networks that shape Australia's fastest growing region - Greater Western Sydney.