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Why green is gold

Summer in Adelaide is in full swing, with 2019 already bringing with it a few scorching hot days*. This is the season we most appreciate the trees and plentiful green spaces throughout the city, so it’s timely to look at how ‘greenery’ improves city life and where ‘design’ fits.

First up, we should all tip our hat to Colonel William Light, South Australia’s first Surveyor-General. He was responsible for centrally positioning Adelaide between the hills and the ocean and designing a layout which has allowed the city to grow in balance with nature.

Light’s vision was to create a city of the future: one that celebrated the surrounding landscape and prioritised people’s wellbeing and quality of life. He wrapped a grid-like pattern of wide streets, tree-lined terraces and public squares where people could connect, celebrate and contemplate – in a natural green embrace. In so doing, he created the world’s only ‘city in a park’.

Adelaide – the city in a park

Light’s legacy is that today, people who live, work, study or visit Adelaide are still reaping the benefits of his thoughtful planning – and will continue to do so.

Green infrastructure is an integral part of the City of Adelaide’s holistic design approach and, as the world’s climate changes and heatwaves get hotter, longer and more frequent* – its role is only set to grow.

The Adelaide Design Manual (ADM) is Council’s toolkit for making quality public spaces that are accessible and enjoyable for all.

“The ADM encourages a ‘complete street’ approach to the public domain and outlines how everything can work together: footpath widths, lowing of traffic, designing for bikes, great building frontages, street trees for shade, equal and inclusive access, quality paving, welcoming lighting, street furniture and other essentials of a well-designed domain,” said Daniel Bennett, City of Adelaide’s Associate Director, Strategy & Design.

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When you think of green infrastructure, trees are sure to spring to mind. Within its commercial hubs and throughout the Adelaide Park Lands, the city is home to thousands of trees and planting continues. In 2018, the City of Adelaide exceeded its current Strategic Plan target of planting 1,000 new street trees in the city by 2020. An extra 500 new trees have been added to that goal, with the focus on planting in built-up areas with little or no canopy cover.

Green infrastructure also takes the form of grass, shrubs, plants, community and verge gardens, nature strips and green walls. Together, these living elements build the city’s climate resilience and improve our renowned liveability by enhancing character, our economy, safety and people’s overall health and wellbeing.

Environmentally, increasing tree canopy cover can help counter the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect in Adelaide. This is where the city stores the day’s heat in hard surfaces like concrete and roads, then slowly releases it after sunset – extending a hot day even further. Shading buildings and streets with trees and reducing hard surfaces with garden beds, helps keep the city cool and generally more attractive and liveable.

The social benefits of ‘city greening’ are also far-reaching. Green spaces are natural people magnets and make perfect locations for community celebrations of all sizes. The act of ‘greening up’ a space can also be an agent for social connection.

The City of Adelaide’s Adelaide Community Leaders program gives city residents a chance to become actively involved in their community.

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The latest Community Leaders group was keen to share knowledge about the UHI effect and the benefits of urban greening. For over 18 months, HYPA (Helping Young People Achieve) had been wanting to green up one of its residential courtyards in the city. HYPA Housing offers young people (17-25 years) who are experiencing or at-risk of homelessness, a safe and affordable mid-term housing option.

Through a joint effort by the City of Adelaide’s Participation & Inclusion and Sustainability programs, the two groups were connected, and advice and funding made available for a small greening project.

The Community Leaders ran a session inside the courtyard with tenants and HYPA staff where they shared the environmental benefits of greenery before everyone helped with a gardening bee to install and pot planter boxes.

“I had a great experience at the barbecue, I had so much fun planting the plants and learnt some interesting information,” said one of the participating HYPA tenants. “I’ve already been able to use some of the herbs we planted in my cooking and have enjoyed looking after the garden. I’m very thankful for their donations.”

To get a better picture of all the ways ‘green gives back’ to a city – click here!


* The City of Adelaide wants to understand how the local community responds to and prepares for extreme heat and heatwaves, including where people go to stay out of the heat. Your feedback will help inform our approach and priorities for planning, greening, emergency management, and resilience building for our community. Share your thoughts by clicking here Your Say feedback will be taken until 5pm Wednesday 27 February 2019.

Skye Murtagh

Skye Murtagh

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