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Thread: Ideal amount of green space

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Ideal amount of green space

    How much green space is ideal for a livable, sustainable city?

    It seems like park space is not necessary at all if the city is vibrant enough. If there are enough things to do, parks are not really missed. (I'm talking about large parks covering several acres)

    Parks could contribute to sprawl by forcing development elsewhere rather than inside the city.

    If the city is sufficiently compact, the countryside is within easy reach of everyone. If the city is sprawling, access to the countryside is restricted which increases the need for urban parks.

    Are large parks even necessary at all in a well-planned city?

  2. #2
    An ideal city would contain a range of parks. Small playgrounds for toddlers, sports fields for older kids and younger adults, large parks for big recreation. People do need open space for recreation. Its not parks that contribute to sprawl, its the large yards around single family houses that do that.

  3. #3
    While we can certainly bulldoze and urbanize everything (and, indeed, we have in the past) we are beginning to understand that wetlands, steep slopes, flood plains, and tidal areas shouldn't be scraped off the table and replaced with impervious surface. These are incredibly valuable resources in an urban area, allowing our environment to be healthier (and significantly more diverse) while creating an opportunity for passive recreation. I think a collateral benefit is an actual increase in property values and quality of life.

    Flexible, large outdoor spaces also have an important part in society, providing opportunities for active recreation, arts and culture, and as a place for public assembly.
    Batter up!

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Yes open space is required in a range of forms as Gotta Speak says. One could debate the minimum and ideal requirements as well as the form (is a green corridor preferable to a large urban park etc).

    I find this phrase worrying:
    Quote Originally posted by PatrickMc View post
    If the city is sufficiently compact, the countryside is within easy reach of everyone.
    Does that imply people are transported to the countryside for fresh air and birdsong? And doesn't that countryside have to be PARKS to provide access? I imagine even young city slickers would notice if there were nowhere to sit outside to eat lunch on a glorious warm spring day.

  5. #5
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by maryindevon View post
    Yes open space is required in a range of forms as Gotta Speak says. One could debate the minimum and ideal requirements as well as the form (is a green corridor preferable to a large urban park etc).

    I find this phrase worrying:

    Does that imply people are transported to the countryside for fresh air and birdsong? And doesn't that countryside have to be PARKS to provide access? I imagine even young city slickers would notice if there were nowhere to sit outside to eat lunch on a glorious warm spring day.
    The Kaplans find nearby nature is effective at restoration from Directed Attention Fatigue. We need parks and open space for this reason alone.

    Not to mention we need somewhere for all the urban dogs to go to the bathroom.

    And somewhere for folks to walk to for their health.

    And evapotranspiration to reduce the urban heat island.

    And, and, and.

    No parks? snork.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian b3nr's avatar
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    The National Playing Fields Assoc. Was founded in 1907 and has promoted it's '6 Acre Standard' ever since:

    From Wiki: The Six Acre Standard aims to help land use planners ensure a sufficient level of open space to enable residents of all ages to participate in sports and games with an emphasis on access for children to play grounds and other play space.

    The standard suggests that for each 1000 residents there should be 2.4 hectares (6 acres) comprising of:

    * 1.6 hectares (4 acres) for outdoor sport and recreation space (including parks)
    * 0.8 hectares (2 acres) for children's play, with about 0.25 ha of this equipped playgrounds

    In its publication The Six Acre Standard, the NPFA outlines a more detailed breakdown including a hierarchy of child play space.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    The World Health Organization promotes a green space access standard of 12 square meters as the minimum health requirement for urban living. I wouldn't call that optimal, nor do I think it considers issues of sustainability (whatever we actually mean by that in this context) but its an internationally recognized standard to start from. I think in this sense, they are probably talking about both private and public spaces, so this could be your yard, or a public space you can access.

    Another approach would be to ensure that everyone has access to a certain amount of green space within a certain distance of their home. I think a lot of cities with vast green/open spaces give the impression of easy access on paper (when you average amount of space per resident), but when you look up close, you find geographic areas that have little access contrasted with those that have a lot. Guess which one is more well-off most of the time...
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  8. #8
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    but when you look up close, you find geographic areas that have little access contrasted with those that have a lot. Guess which one is more well-off most of the time...
    These are two separate, but interesting elements of greenspace in cities wrt distance - access and proximity; does one have an easy, safe route to greenspace, or does one have to take a tortuous route, adding time and distance? We see safety is tied to access - and our roads must be safe to allow us access to greenspaces.

    And is one's residence close by, thereby raising rent/mortgage (proximate principle)? Studies on willingness to pay for greenspace in cities indicate parks are highly valued, and are capitalized in rents, and can show up in utility bills being lower near green areas.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by b3nr View post
    The National Playing Fields Assoc. Was founded in 1907 and has promoted it's '6 Acre Standard' ever since:

    From Wiki: The Six Acre Standard aims to help land use planners ensure a sufficient level of open space to enable residents of all ages to participate in sports and games with an emphasis on access for children to play grounds and other play space.

    The standard suggests that for each 1000 residents there should be 2.4 hectares (6 acres) comprising of:

    * 1.6 hectares (4 acres) for outdoor sport and recreation space (including parks)
    * 0.8 hectares (2 acres) for children's play, with about 0.25 ha of this equipped playgrounds

    In its publication The Six Acre Standard, the NPFA outlines a more detailed breakdown including a hierarchy of child play space.
    Awesome, this is exactly the kind of info I was looking for. Thanks for the helpful response!

    The Kaplans find nearby nature is effective at restoration from Directed Attention Fatigue. We need parks and open space for this reason alone.

    Not to mention we need somewhere for all the urban dogs to go to the bathroom.

    And somewhere for folks to walk to for their health.

    And evapotranspiration to reduce the urban heat island.

    And, and, and.

    No parks? snork.
    Good point. Here is a recent story about that:

    http://planetizen.com/node/36806


    I guess in my vision of a hypothetical park-less city, the city itself occupies such a small area of land that the entire surrounding countryside functions as a park, with mass transit extending to popular destinations (campgrounds and unique/interesting geographical features) Under this scenario the city would have to be small enough that one could take transit from the center of the city and be outside the city limits in less than 20 minutes. Of course, such a city would still need small squares and the like so that people can sit outside on a nice day, but these areas could be smaller than a single city block. There would also be trees planted along every sidewalk to bring some nature into the city and prevent "directed attention fatigue".

  10. #10
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PatrickMc View post
    I guess in my vision of a hypothetical park-less city, the city itself occupies such a small area of land that the entire surrounding countryside functions as a park, with mass transit extending to popular destinations (campgrounds and unique/interesting geographical features) Under this scenario the city would have to be small enough that one could take transit from the center of the city and be outside the city limits in less than 20 minutes. Of course, such a city would still need small squares and the like so that people can sit outside on a nice day, but these areas could be smaller than a single city block. There would also be trees planted along every sidewalk to bring some nature into the city and prevent "directed attention fatigue".
    Thats not realistic. Land surrounding the City will almost always be under private domain. The best use for this would be agriculture. If you try to create a greenbelt of City owned land you could end up making making the impact of sprawl worse by havinng it jump to areas outside the greenbelt and not under the City's jurisdiction.

    Kids and dogs (heck make that planners too) need places to run around that are close to home, that they can walk to. Relying on transit to get to parks will reduce the usage, make them less available to the poor, and less sustainable (still need at least buses to get to them and buses need an energy source) that in they were placed in regular intervals within the City grid.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  11. #11
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PatrickMc View post

    I guess in my vision of a hypothetical park-less city, the city itself occupies such a small area of land that the entire surrounding countryside functions as a park, with mass transit extending to popular destinations (campgrounds and unique/interesting geographical features) Under this scenario the city would have to be small enough that one could take transit from the center of the city and be outside the city limits in less than 20 minutes. Of course, such a city would still need small squares and the like so that people can sit outside on a nice day, but these areas could be smaller than a single city block. There would also be trees planted along every sidewalk to bring some nature into the city and prevent "directed attention fatigue".
    The issues here are multifold; in such a scheme, you are building vertically, effectively shading streetscapes, making decent canopy cover difficult to attain. Second, building vertically will be problematic in ~50 years, with the cost of energy being so high - unless a miracle happens and we somehow find a cheap alternative to cheap fossil fool, high-rises will be white elephants. Third, we have tremendous sunk costs in extant cities - building entirely anew not only is expensive, but intrudes upon greenspace and farms, and by 2050 we'll likely have ~9B people. We'll need every scrap of land to grow food, as cheap fertilizer may not be around anymore.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan Staley View post
    ...Second, building vertically will be problematic in ~50 years, with the cost of energy being so high - unless a miracle happens and we somehow find a cheap alternative to cheap fossil fool, high-rises will be white elephants....
    As an aside, how do you see the energy costs impacting vertical building? Are you talking about the energy to build (and acquire materials) or to heat and cool? I had read at one time (clearly this is anecdotal info) that vertical structures are actually often cheaper to heat, for example, then if the same amount of space was devoted to single family detached housing. The surface area in contact with outside air is reduced and the building can take advantage of rising heat from lower floors to heat upper floors. Their thermal mass is greater, too, and so long as the building does not fluctuate in temperature too wildly, it should hold at a steady temp more easily (ie with reduced additional energy). Again, this is an aside, but I was curious if you were considering other factors I'm not thinking of. I assumed these towers would be highly efficient structures in PatrickMc's scenario.

    I agree with the other things you said (shading of the towers, and especially the lure of building a city from scratch which, I think, is less realistic than addressing our current urban centers) and the general critique of placing "park land" in the city outskirts. Overall, I strongly feel we need to resist the temptation of "what if we could start over from scratch" because here in the US, for the most part, the real inefficiencies are in the existing building stock and urban forms. Finding a way to retrofit or otherwise improve the efficiencies of these settings seems the more significant and pressing challenge of our times. Even if one were to start a city from scratch (as China has done quite a bit of in the last decade), here in the US, existing land ownership patterns would make it very difficult to just acquire a large parcel for development of a city free of constraint. Unless the government is going to use some public lands they (we) already own, and I'm not very down with that idea...

    Some of you probably saw the recent Boston Globe story about the city's impact on cognitive functioning (its not good) and the role green space and nature can play in rejuvenating our mental functioning (it is good): http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/id...ain/?page=full

    This article references the Kaplan work as well as some other more recent studies.

    One of the main forces at work is a stark lack of nature, which is surprisingly beneficial for the brain. Studies have demonstrated, for instance, that hospital patients recover more quickly when they can see trees from their windows, and that women living in public housing are better able to focus when their apartment overlooks a grassy courtyard. Even these fleeting glimpses of nature improve brain performance, it seems, because they provide a mental break from the urban roil.
    In short, people will need access to and even just the ability to look at natural settings easily and on a regular basis (like every day) if the city is to be a healthy place for humans to occupy.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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