There are ways to bring nature back to our cities with the example the installation of an urban rain garden from Washington in the United States.
With the extent that our major cities are becoming “asphalt jungles” with all the roads criss-crossing allowing for increased car use and the associated air pollution.
Or even “concrete jungles” with ever more buildings being built on every available space creating “heat islands” of trapped heat from the available sunlight and escaping heat from buildings.
This article looks at how we can use our creativity, as environmental and sustainability professionals, to bring back some of the lost biodiversity within our major cities and towns.
One installation that caught my eye during a business trip to Washington DC in the United States was an Urban Rain Garden, which contains many novel and well-thought out features to bring back nature to this small area of the US capital.
Where is the Urban Rain Garden?
The Urban Rain Garden is located on the intersection of 19th Street North-West & Lower Street North West and is situated on both sides of the 19th Street North-West.
On a busy day, you might cross over the street without giving the gardens much thought. However, a short glance over your shoulder will reward you with a glimpse of this small “green” oasis within the ever-growing US capital.
Why install an Urban Rain Garden?
The key benefit of the Urban Rain Garden is that it can be easily retrofitted within the built concrete and asphalt environment of any city or town & that it can make an immediate contribution to the beauty of the urban environment and the environmental sustainability of the area.
Let’s look at the four key features of this Urban Rain Garden, which carefully melds a natural space with functionality for managing the environmental impacts of city life as well as a green space to enjoy:
Regulation of stormwater and pollutants
In terms of its function, it has been designed to allow for any rain water that hits the hard-asphalt surface of the road to be channelled into the garden to provide water to sustain the its plants and to provide the basis for its ecosystem.
This functionality has three benefits within the otherwise hard asphalt and concrete surfaces of the city:
Firstly, by reducing stormwater flooding within the local area by using the garden as a buffer zone to store the stormwater, whilst at the same time providing life-giving water to sustain the plants within the garden
Secondly, by reducing the amount of stormwater that needs to be treated as stormwater run-off by the municipal wastewater treatment facilities
And, finally, any pollutants taken out from the air and road surface by the stormwater can be captured within the garden to reduce the environmental impact of the pollutants on local waterways.
The vibrant colours of the plants and flowers provide a haven for insects to share a space to thrive within the urban environment. The plants have been carefully chosen to invite pollinators, such as bees and other insects, to be part of the living fabric of the garden.
Additionally, a “bug hotel” has been installed to allow insects to make themselves at home and to further encourage insects to become part of the garden’s ecosystem.
Encourage bird life
The garden features a number of hanging bird boxes to encourage birds to become part of the shared ecosystem offering a home to nest in as well as access to some of the insects housed with the garden as a food source.
Encourage enjoyment of the natural space
Through the combination of the inviting environment of the plants, the shade provided by the small trees and the man-made wooden sculpture, the garden offers an opportunity for any passer-by to take time-out from the hustle and bustle of the city and to share in the natural space as a place to rest and reflect.
There are many opportunities to take some of the key features of the Urban Rain Garden for the development of similar natural spaces in other cities and towns.
Additionally, these features can be integrated in our own gardens or local green spaces to further develop the local ecosystem for the shared environment for plants, insects and birds and to encourage our own connection with nature by providing the space to enjoy a antidote to the stress of our urban environment.
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