Big city life can mean a lack of green living spaces, especially in more crowded, less affluent urban areas. TURAS, an EU-funded project, demonstrated ways to add green to the grey - transforming stressful urban areas into more liveable and sustainable spaces where local communities can thrive.
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With over half of the global population living in an urban area, concerns are rising over the impact such dense concentrations of people have on climate change, environmental health and human well-being.
TURAS demonstrated functional examples of nature-based solutions that aim to offset and reduce the negative effects of urbanisation. The project's 20 partners worked with 12 cities on pilot projects demonstrating concepts for ecological sustainability.
One of the project's high-profile designs is an open wire frame structure with living plants that form walls and a roof. The project developed a demonstration of the concept, called a 'green living room', at a 140 m2 site on top of Ludwigsburg's town hall carpark in Germany. It opened in April 2014. The space has 7 000 shrubs and 128 plane trees and provides a self-contained urban oasis where people can stand, sit and meet in the shade.
A mobile version, about the size of a transport container, fits on a truck and can be moved to any city street. An onboard water tank and an irrigation system keep the plants alive, and a modular cube form allows the structure to be easily expanded on-site. The structure has been displayed in Zagreb (Croatia), Bonn and Frankfurt (Germany), London (UK), Brussels and Antwerp (Belgium), Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Krems (Austria).
"Green Living Rooms are an example of how a green comfort zone solution can be realised in high-density urban areas on heavily sealed surfaces where competition for usable space is at a premium," says project manager Marcus Collier.
The project also implemented other nature-based solutions involving local communities in partner cities in Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, and the UK.
These demonstration projects included concepts for green spaces, disused urban sites, the circular economy, urban sprawl, ecosystem services, air and noise pollution, sustainable buildings, climate change adaptation, biodiversity, energy efficiency, flood management and urban agriculture.
TURAS has led to a new company, Osmos, which is taking up the initiatives pioneered by TURAS. Osmos aims to engage local communities in developing a sustainable urban economy. Another outcome has been the Reusing Dublin programme in Ireland. The programme identifies vacant and derelict sites in Dublin as part of a campaign to transform them into affordable housing, among other uses.