Growing Food in Green Infrastructure

Green infrastructure has many purposes. Among them is food production, but do we use green infrastructure for this as much as we could?

Given proper management, there is plenty of scope to make better use of rooftops, walls and water sensitive urban design assets as sites for growing edible plants. These opportunities range in scale from modern twists on traditional home vegetable gardening to behemoth commercial operations.


A typical city rooftop is under-used. It is wasted space, wasted light and wasted rainwater, and an obvious site for urban gardening or farming. Rooftops can be used for food production in at least three ways:

1.   Commercial rooftop farms

Many commercial rooftop farms use soilless hydroponics systems. There are impressive examples internationally, in cities such as New York, Chicago, Montreal, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Amsterdam and The Hague, and it seems to be only a matter of time before they flourish in cities such as Guangzhou. Commercial rooftop farms are yet to take off in Australia where, despite frequent discussion over the last decade, we still lack a practical understanding of what it takes to establish rooftop farms in Australian cities.


2.   Rooftop community gardens

Community-style rooftop vegetable gardening has sprung up in many places, many of which feature a traditional type of container-based gardening, albeit at greater heights than most gardens. In a residential setting, a rooftop community garden is an opportunity for residents to connect with nature and to each other. In a commercial setting, it provides health and well-being benefits to staff, great marketing for the company, and direct benefits for the community if the produce is donated to charity. One of the key challenges in managing a rooftop community garden is keeping enthusiasm among the gardeners high, because their active participation is critical to success.

This article was originally published by

Click here to read the entire article.

Step outside for a moment: the value of pedestrians in healthcare precincts

Michaela Sheahan, Researcher, HASSELL

Bump space, serendipitous encounters: whatever the label, the name of the game in healthcare design is connecting people. But the focus on internal collaboration has some unintended side effects: buildings get bigger, and people spend more time inside.

External space is shrinking as large clinical and research buildings bring teams closer together via soaring atria, internal streets, and sky-bridges. Good connections are vital to a well-functioning hospital, but as public realm diminishes, so does walkability and street activity. Nothing kills a precinct quite like a deserted street.

My research shows that as these precincts grow, two indicators of pedestrian activity – Walkscore and intersection density – decrease. The bigger a precinct becomes, the more difficult it is for people to walk around.

Large buildings and impermeable blocks obstruct pedestrians, and limiting land use to only healthcare decreases small business opportunities. If every nearby building is a health facility, people won’t go outside to grab lunch or drop into the bank. In Boston’s high density Longwood precinct an internal pedestrian network is being developed in response to traffic danger and a need to connect teams across buildings and streets. In Houston’s vast Texas Medical Center, the combination of a sky-walk system, a car-dependent location, and exclusive healthcare land-use leaves the footpaths empty. The meticulously landscaped gardens and public spaces are wasted.

Designers and administrators are working to overcome the barriers to vibrant precincts; high land costs and burgeoning healthcare space requirements limit opportunities. But modest initiatives in external space can deliver large benefits.

At the Gold Coast University Hospital, courtyards provide opportunities for fresh air and quiet conversation.  The Necker Hospital in Paris is replacing obsolete buildings with a park.  In Boston, small public spaces host musical performances to coax staff outside. In Melbourne’s Parkville, public seating has come a long way since the old wooden park bench, and at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital precinct, a new vision that prioritises walkability and community integration is just beginning.

These small acknowledgements of the importance of street level activity suggest a willingness to invest in public realm projects for the good of patients, staff and the community. High quality design of the spaces between buildings plays a crucial role in inviting everyone to step outside for a moment.

This research project was funded by the National Association of Women in Construction, and Cult Design. The full report can be accessed here:

Melbourne Lanes To Go Green

Coromandel Place, Guildford Lane, Katherine Place and Meyers Place are set to be transformed into green leafy spaces as part of the ‘Green Your Laneway’ pilot project by City of Melbourne.

Working closely with residents and businesses, City of Melbourne has developed a range of preliminary concept designs for each laneway showing a range of greening options that are being investigated for each lane.


With over two hundred laneways in the central city, totalling nearly nine hectares, the Green Your Laneway program was established to help transform the city’s laneways into leafy, green and useable spaces with vertical gardens, new trees and new places to sit and relax. The program seeks to enhance the experience of Melbourne’s laneways further, with the opportunity to transform them into the ‘city’s back yard.’ Concepts being investigated include potential for vertical greening, trees, and places to dwell and relax.

The selected laneways are Coromandel Place, Guildford Lane, Meyers Place and Katherine Place. Initial design concepts have been developed for each with further community engagement to refine the concepts, funded by the City of Melbourne.

Invitations are open for the public to share their views on the ideas by exploring the range of greening approaches being worked on with the stakeholders in each laneway. You can also provide your feedback and sign-up for updates on each laneway page.

The City of Melbourne, through our Urban Forest Strategy, has a comprehensive plan for greening major streets and precincts, but not the smaller laneways. Across the municipality, laneways occupy a ground area of 60 hectares, with a further 150 hectares of space on the walls in these laneways.

The Green Your Laneway pilot project investigates the opportunity for lanes to be greened for the following reasons:

  • providing shading and local cooling
  • improved aesthetics and local amenity
  • ecological benefits
  • health and wellbeing flow on effects
  • increasing landscape permeability (and hence flood mitigation and passive watering)
  • creating opportunities for relaxation and recreation.

Read more.

How Placemaking Is Becoming Indispensible For Developers

Original article published by 1 July 2015

As Australia’s population continues to surge upwards and higher density living becomes the norm, many architects and urban planners are focussing on ways to ensure that urban areas feel like real communities instead of concrete jungles.

This movement, which is known as “placemaking” is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces which aims to create public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being.

Not surprisingly, it is a subject of increasing importance to developers because it can greatly affect buyers’ perceptions of a development.

According to international consultants Urbis, the influence of Placemaking can now be felt in all the traditional areas of place development, including masterplanning, urban design, social and economic development, community engagement, retail planning, arts and culture and sustainable development.

“The creation of authentic places in new communities is certainly challenging, but it’s all the more important in new communities than in other places because you are effectively starting from scratch, as opposed to remaking or reinventing an existing environment,” Urbis Director Glen Power wrote recently.

$500 million Darling Quarter mixed use placemaking project in Sydney.
$500 million Darling Quarter mixed use placemaking project in Sydney. Source:

“New communities also offer some unique opportunities to integrate best practice and innovative thinking, because in some ways, designers are less constrained than when planning around existing environments.”

The home of the modern placemaking movement is in the US, where New York’s High Line has become a popular poster child for Creative Placemaking.

Mr Power says that one of the things that stands out from his own work in Australia, is the importance of delivering public amenities early even if a project is delivered in stages.

“In the very first stages of developments, we are making sure that there are really great green spaces and environments that people can feel ownership of, and that most importantly, have relevance to that community,” he says.

“Traditionally, the combination of developing green space, education and retail has always been planned separately.”

To read the full article please visit here.

Adding to the stock of green space

Article published in the Australian Financial Review  by James Dunn on 28 May 2015

Many urban dwellers would take it completely for granted, but ‘green space’ is an area that is exercising the minds of many thinkers. The 202020 Vision is the first time a national audit of urban green space has been conducted, and from that work, a plan has been put together to increase the supply of that commodity.

202020 VisionThe 202020 Vision is named after its mission, which “is to create 20 per cent more and better urban green space by 2020”. The 202020 Vision, a national initiative between business, governments and community groups, was established in 2013 by Horticulture Innovation Australia Ltd, the Australian horticulture industry’s not-for-profit R&D arm, and was funded by peak body, the Nursery and Garden Industry Australia.

Dr. Anthony Kachenko, Research and Development team leader and portfolio manager at Horticulture Innovation Australia, says the first step was to map and analyse the level of tree cover in Australia’s cities.

This work was done by the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at the University of Technology , Sydney (UTS): using a software program called iTree Canopy, developed by the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service, the ISF studied the amount of tree canopy cover in 139 of Australia’s most urban local government areas (LGAs), which are collectively home to 68 per cent of Australia’s population. “We now know what we’ve got, in terms of green space. We’ve done a fair bit of the work to identify the gaps in our urban green space – the next step is to start enacting changes to plug these gaps,” says Kachenko.

The research collated by the 202020 Vision presents a “clear and compelling case” for more urban green space, he says. Apart from the obvious health-and-wellness benefits of green space as a place for relaxation – and 83 per cent of Australians see green space in this way – there are additional benefits that generate an economic case for green space, too.

“Research has found that customers prefer shopping in well-tended streets with large trees,” Kachenko says. “The study also found that people would pay 9 to 12 per cent more for goods sold in central business districts with high-quality tree canopy. More trees equals more local street commerce.”

Also, plants and trees enrich work environments. “It has been found that those working in ‘green’ environments are 17 per cent more productive than those in bare spaces without trees and plants,” says Kachenko.

To read the full article please click here.

To download the 202020 Vision Plan click here.

%d bloggers like this: