It is Spring 2020 and the trees are blossoming and slowly but surely the Coronavirus is bringing the world to a halt. With this pandemic, global warming trends and winter floods in the UK, it is starting to feel like the end of days. As environmental scientists we have seen the trends that have brought us to this difficult place. Will the virus impel the changes the world needs to make to reduce the risk of future pandemics?
Podiums are very much in the news at the moment as developers try to maximise return on investment, by incorporating green infrastructure and open space into the fabric of their buildings. The imagery provided by promoters of these developments suggest the creation of a oasis in the clouds. However the reality can be different. Podium landscapes have substantial physical requirements that need to be incorporated: sufficient light, depth of soil for successful growth and a source of water, among other things. These factors can all drive costs up. After planning permission is obtained value engineers get involved to control the build out costs and Landscape architects know that landscape costs are always in the firing line!
The reality of providing podium landscapes can be prohibitive. Podiums that are implemented successfully have a simple but effective design approach. Design must not compromise function and a low cost (and low risk) approach may provide all the benefits without the limitations. For example, using resilient planting adapted to drought or exposed coastal conditions can be visually pleasing and not require irrigation or the loading requirements that tree planting needs. Coastal margin plants or acid heathland plants and chalkland meadow in designed plant communities with pebble pools and rain gardens arranged in a mosaic can be a very attractive solution in these situations.
Illustrated here is Nigel Dunnett’s exemplar podium landscape at the Barbican. Here limited tree planting is used but naturalistic swathes of drought tolerant perennials, grasslands and shrub planting provide planting with year round interest.
The new draft London Plan and it’s drive for increased building densities means that a functional and cost-effective approach to greening and future proofing the city is required to ensure these features are affordable and risk free.
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