December 10 2012

Is There Enough Green Space for Everyone? What About Athens, Greece?

bosco verticale

Is it possible for people to connect with nature while living in urban environments? Especially in big cities with poor access green spaces?

Here are a few examples of percentages of green space per resident, in a sample of cities around the world:

And according to a summary of research findings and key proposal points of the National Technical University of Athens – Urban Environment Laboratory of 2011:

  • Washington DC: 50 m2/resident
  • Vienna: 20 m2/resident
  • Amsterdam: 27 m2/resident
  • Berlin: 13 m2/resident
  • Rome: 9 m2/resident
  • Paris: 8 m2/resident

The case of Athens, Greece:

In 1984, Athens had half the population and half the urban expansion that it has today. In 1984, 2.58 m2  of green space was allotted to each citizen and this remained the standard until 2000. Now, this percentage has declined and it is estimated to be 2 m2/resident.

According to a study at the University of Athens, the temperature in the city center of Athens is up 16 degrees Celsius from its normal temperature. This is because of the dense construction of asphalt and concrete. This phenomenon is also known as the “heat island effect,” which increases energy consumption due to air conditioning and cooling needs, but also affects our health. How is it possible to increase green space in cities like Athens?

There are opinions which suggest that deciduous trees can transform Athens into a more sustainable city because trees can:

  • Reduce the temperature;
  • Reduce pollution by absorbing carbon dioxide;
  • Play a big role in saving energy through shading.

Deciduous trees are preferable because they block sunlight in summer, but allow sunlight in winter (when they lose their leaves) so they warm their nearby environment.

However, for achievable results, studies show that 2 to 3 million trees should be planted! Another solution is to increase nature in buildings and communities. An example of this is the “Bosco Verticale” (“Vertical Forest”) by architect Stefano Boeri. The project is currently in progress in Milan, Italy. It consists of two buildings, each of 80 and 120 meters tall, which, together, will have the capacity to hold 480 big and medium sized trees, 250 small size trees, 11,000 ground-cover plants, and 5,000 shrubs – the equivalent of a hectare of forest.

Worldwide, similar examples are the “Bellevue Towers” in Washington D.C., which holds a LEED Gold certificate in sustainable design and “South Waterfront” in Portland, Oregon which is is one of the largest urban redevelopment projects in the United States.

south waterfrontbellevue towers

The “New England Journal of Medicine” stated that after researching 51 major cities for twenty years, cleaner urban air adds 2.72 years to the lives of citizens. So the benefits are unquestionable.

Do you know any other “green cities?” Share your examples with us. Are they on the same track as the samples we provided?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Athina Kyrgeorgiou

Athina Kyrgeorgiou graduated from National Technical University of Athens, Greece as a Civil Engineer with a specialization in Transportation Planning and Engineering. She currently lives in Athens, Greece and is always eager to learn about sustainable ideas and solutions for a better life in her city. A part of her research has been the impact of day-lighting patients’ rooms, which provided her the possibility to research further into bio-climatic design of buildings. She aims to continue her studies with a Master’s degree in transportation and sustainable development. Her blogs covered environmental issues and urban planning occurring in Athens, but also generally in Greece, trying to analyse them from an engineering point-of-view.

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This entry was posted on Monday, December 10th, 2012 at 6:03 pm and is filed under Architecture, Energy, Engineering, Environment, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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