Climate Proofing Housing Landscapes

Climate change adaptation in the public realm seeks to make our cities more resilient to the inevitable and damaging environmental and social impacts wrought by climate change. High quality, well design and maintained Green Infrastructure is among the most widely applicable, economically viable and effective tools to combat these impacts. 

 Nature Based solutions (NBS) are an important part of the Green Infrastructure network and tool in our collective approach as community users, designers, owners and managers of open space. They provide a wide array of sustainable solutions that use and mimic natural processes to contribute to a higher quality environment, and provide multiple benefits which more traditional and engineer solutions struggle to achieve.  

 Groundwork London led a design team including EPG Ltd and the Green Infrastructure Consultancy, and the University of East London in retrofitting a multitude of NBS across three social housing estates in Hammersmith & Fulham: Queen Caroline Estate, Cheeseman’s Terrace & Cyril Thatcher, Richard Knight & Eric Macdonald Houses. The three estates were chosen in order to demonstrate how green infrastructure adaptation can be implemented in a range of typical urban housing settings. 

The aim of the project was to demonstrate how a wide range of Nature Based Solution could be used to create a better environment for residents and make the housing estates more Climate resilient. The project set out to improve and monitor the impacts across four main themes: 

  • managing stormwater; 
  • providing respite areas on hot days and thermal performance of buildings; 
  • increasing biodiversity and, thus, residents contact with nature; 
  • providing opportunities for outdoor activity and social interaction.  
    The estates were retrofitted with a series of highly replicable, affordable, Nature Based Solutions including green roofs, green walls and ground-level Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SuDS), all integrated into a wider public realm strategy of increasing landscape quality and features such as play, food growing and recreation. The evaluation confirmed, amongst other results, that; 
  • the combined SuDS features diverting approximately 1,220,900 litres of rain water away from the combined sewer system; 
  • an average of approximately 80% of rainfall being absorbed by the small-scale green roof; 
  • a swale capturing, storing and infiltrating a 1 in 100 year simulated rain event even during the winter period when the ground would be expected to be more saturated; 
  • a total of 57 species of wildflower and grasses on a single green roof; 
  • an approximately 40% reduction in temperature on a green roof compared to a control roof on a hot summer day In recognition of the project’s innovation the design team was awarded the 2015 Sustainable Water Industry Group (SWIG) award in the Urban Greening category, A 2016 High Commended project by the Landscape Institute, as well as the Landscape Institute Fellows Award  for climate change adaptation, and was Highly Commended in the retrofit category of the 2018 Susdrain awards. 

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