Green Spaces Provide Great Economic Potential

Guest author Jack Lundee of Everything Left provides us with this thoughtful and thought-provoking article on green spaces, green architecture and green infrastructure.

The addition and/or substitution of green spaces have been quite controversial topics as of late. Senior resident of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Ed T. McMahon states: “Green space adds value to property.” Not only do these areas of conservation drive economic trends upward, but they also improve the overall health of the surrounding community. For example, substituting things like golf courses with conservation areas would essentially increase surrounding property value while diminishing overpriced maintenance fees. The same holds true for airports and other large acre-eating developments.

Some of these areas are already abandoned or unkempt. For instance, park and recreational areas that were once highly visited have become urban wastelands. In a recent article from the Salt Lake Tribune, Lindsay Whitehurst discusses an area that was capped with tennis courts to replace an old reservoir but that has been essentially abandoned and empty for some time now and how the University of Utah recently received a loan to fill the old reservoir and turn the land into a conservation area. Bob Sperling, manager of the water design team for Salt Lake City public utilities, infers high costs when he mentions challenging structural design. Aside from this, safety is a tremendous issue which was justified in this case when a large piece of slate gave way. This happened as Sperling was doing a routine inspection of the site in 2009. In a short time, this area should be useful and a healthy part of the city again.

Much larger metropolitan areas are also playing their role in promoting sustainability by implementing many Green Spaces within the city. In Meg Muckenhoupt’s new book, Boston’s Gardens & Green Spaces, she discusses various green spaces within the city of Boston. With very low cost maintenance fees and little liability, these areas are perfect for protecting our wildlife and the environment. They also increase tourism; which, in turn, generates revenue from ticket/tour sales.

These examples align with the implications of “economic viability” and long term sustainability, posing the question: “Would the substitution of golf courses and airports in the short term really lead to an abrupt economic downfall?” It’s true that these types of architecture provide undoubtedly high revenue. On the contrary, they both come with ridiculously high expenses and maintenance. Incorporating various elements of green architecture implies things like green roofing, which could in turn drive down electrical/gas costs dramatically.

Larger organizations are already taking a step in the right direction in Haiti. Brainchild behind the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), Doug Band, has been working closely with organizations like Architecture for Humanity (AFH) to discuss potential means of green restoration in Haiti. Combined with the additional efforts of many large collaborative units like the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), AFH hopes to bring some light to this terrible situation.

Recent findings have driven people like McMahon and fellow conservationists to conduct further investigations into upgrading and expanding green infrastructure efforts. It’s important that we as individuals follow and support these ventures. It’s equally important that we adapt greener disciplines to support both our planet and our economy.

Jack Lundee – “Taking a more progressive green approach.”

Image Credit: Seamoor via flickr/CC license

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