Urban design and green infrastructure relationships: IEEM conference

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Diarmaid Lawlor facilitated two workshops at the recent Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM) Conference in Stirling Management Centre in October. The workshops, part of the wider IEEM Conference on Green infrastructure, explored the relationships between green infrastructure and urban design. How does green infrastructure integrate with built development to create places that deliver a range of outcomes, health, social, environmental and economic to shape choice: places that people want to be? The objective of the workshops was to investigate what a green infrastructure means in a place context, helping move discussion from broad principles about what green infrastructure might be to what it could be in this place, with these contexts and these ambitions.

The format of the workshop was a simulation of the Sustainable Placemaking scenario planning game, based on the model developed for Riverside Inverclyde. Each session began with a short participative session with delegates to explore what a healthy and sustainable place which maximises existing infrastructure looks like. The purpose of this session was to identify a series of performance criteria against which the scenarios would be evaluated.

The scenarios divided the group into different roles: politicians, developers, community and environmentalists. Each participant was asked to play tiles from their perspective around two scenarios: market led development based on easiest development at cheapest cost and maximum return, and a proposition based on leading the form of development through a green infrastructure spatial structure. Each of the roles were invited to bring in their perspective, conflicts and opportunism to simulate some of the dynamic of shaping the principles for how an area might develop.

The outcome of the scenarios were evaluated against the performance criteria, enabling a discussion about the form and character of green infrastructure, the relationship with the spatial policy for development, the relationship at a fine grain with the design of buildings and spaces. These discussions generated further debate about accountability in decision making: if principles for change in an area are agreed, what happens if people change, or if administrations change or if promises don’t follow through. The discussions in this respect moved from a broad understanding of the environmental and ecological of the green infrastructure concept into hard discussion about implementation, actual impact and the role of both the masterplan and robust governance over time.

The full day conference concluded with a celebration of the 21st anniversary of the Institute and a commitment to further develop the ecology and environmental management agendas.

Headline Image: Copyright Steve Tiesdell

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Place and leadership

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