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The aesthetic and sustainable evolution of urbanization through green infrastructure


Metropolitan cities will continue to grow and urbanize. However, the inclusion of green infrastructure in urban design can significantly enhance sustainability. "Green infrastructure" refers to the utilization of natural systems to manage stormwater, provide wildlife habitats, improve air quality, and mitigate urban heat islands. Examples of these natural systems include forests, wetlands, and green roofs, as defined by the EPA (n.d.).

  • Green Roofs: Green roofs incorporate plants, such as flowers, into urban environments to establish an urban ecosystem. They mitigate the urban heat island effect by providing shade, cooling through evapotranspiration, reducing stormwater runoff, enhancing water retention, improving air quality by removing pollutants, and promoting healthier air.

  • Urban Parks: Urban parks offer numerous benefits, including improved public health, reduced air pollution, and a decrease in the urban heat island effect. They also provide spaces for walking, recreational activities, wildlife habitats, and social interactions.

  • Rain Gardens and Bioswales: These landscaping elements are designed to capture and purify stormwater runoff. Typically covered with native flora, they effectively filter pollutants and reduce the volume of water entering stormwater systems.

  • Permeable Pavements: Water can permeate the surface of permeable pavements and seep into the ground, reducing the risk of flooding and soil erosion by decreasing stormwater runoff.

  • Green Infrastructure Networks: Establishing an extensive network of green infrastructure components throughout a city can enhance the well-being of urban populations, strengthen urban ecosystem resilience, and minimize the risk of erosion and flooding.

( Source- FreePik, October 16, 2023)

Integrating green infrastructure into urban planning is a valuable approach to enhance the sustainability of urbanization. By employing natural systems to manage stormwater, provide wildlife habitats, improve air quality, and mitigate urban heat islands, cities can enhance livability, resilience, and sustainability for future generations.

Green roofs, often recognized as one of the most popular and reasonably priced sustainable green infrastructure elements in metropolitan areas, offer the following benefits (EPA, n.d.):

  • Reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect: Cities, with their heat-absorbing surfaces like pavement and buildings, often experience significantly higher temperatures than their surroundings. Green infrastructure, including trees, green roofs, and other green spaces, can reduce this effect, making cities cooler and more comfortable.

  • Manage Stormwater: Green infrastructure effectively manages stormwater runoff, reducing the risk of floods and preventing contaminated water from entering rivers and streams. Elements like rain gardens, bioswales, and green roofs reduce the volume of stormwater that needs treatment by the city's wastewater system.

  • Increase Biodiversity: Cities can be challenging environments for wildlife, but green infrastructure provides habitats for birds, insects, and other species. Integrating green spaces in city planning and cultivating native plants can improve urban biodiversity and provide food and shelter for animals.

  • Improve Air Quality: Trees and green areas absorb pollutants and produce oxygen, contributing to better air quality, which is particularly essential in urban areas with poor air quality due to vehicle emissions and other sources.

  • Enhance Access to Nature: Green infrastructure offers opportunities for people to connect with nature, improving their physical and mental well-being. Parks, greenways, and other green spaces provide places for exercise, socializing, and relaxation.

( Source- FreePik, October 16, 2023)

Implementing green roof installations within community projects involves various aspects, including plant selection, budgeting, stakeholder engagement, and timeline planning. The sustainability enhancement of green roofs for stormwater management can be briefly summarized.

The fundamental design starts by outlining the components required to create a basic yet essential green roof. Factors like building construction and design, as well as weight, slope, and other elements impacting the green roof's construction, are essential considerations. This influences the green roof's innovation and modifications. The primary purpose of a typical green roof is to support plant growth, store water for plant use, and prevent water from accumulating on the roof surface (DOEE, 2020). It comprises multiple layers, with a green roof and bioretention cell designed to allow vertical water drainage before it flows horizontally towards an exit. While an extensive green roof is designed to require minimal maintenance, plant species selection and roofing materials should be discussed after data collection and design. The decision between an extensive or intensive green roof, determined by its dimensions, weight, and bioretention cell width, depends on its cost-effectiveness. A study based on an EPA case study of a green roof will be conducted to collect project management resources, upkeep requirements, human resources, and components for both the green roof and bioretention cell. The final green roof model for stormwater management can be achieved based on the fundamental steps, although a specific timeline for each step is still under research. Once critical phases, such as building visualization, measurement, preliminary reporting, cost consideration, and project reporting, are completed, the project's course of action time frame can be established, with flexibility for necessary additional steps.

Common Green Roof Layers EPA, June 28, 2023 https://www.epa.gov/heatislands/using-green-roofs-reduce-heat-islands

Traditionally, sustainability marketing initiatives have heavily focused on informing participants about promoting sustainable behavior. To foster habit adjustments, these initiatives use printed materials and media advertising, employing one of two behavior modification strategies. The first strategy provides homeowners with comprehensive information on household energy conservation to enhance energy efficiency. However, even when knowledge and attitudes change significantly, behavior may remain unchanged. According to the second strategy, economic factors significantly influence behavior, assuming that the general public acts in their best financial interests. Thus, initiatives emphasizing the financial benefits of specific actions, like installing compact fluorescent bulbs, are favored. The ease of distributing printed materials or airing radio or television ads can significantly influence the popularity of information campaigns.


Recycling, despite its potential to relieve pressure on the city's waste disposal system and save costs, is sometimes discouraged because of higher collection costs for private haulers. Privatized systems, due to competition, can lead to cost savings for both the city and its residents in trash collection. Programs that utilize a combination of intervention strategies often outperform single-cause-focused initiatives due to the various barriers to pro-environmental activities. The Hood River Conservation Program uses community management, financial incentives, and information dissemination as behavior change strategies, proving to be effective in environmental programs. While lacking certain prerequisites for community management, such as local control over limited resources, the program succeeded in community engagement and word-of-mouth marketing. To enhance the program's reputation and public trust, it increased the size of incentives and utilized data from various sources to connect with consumers across diverse media platforms and demographics. Hence, it is vital to explore how a community-based economy can support a city's sustainability in light of the increasing need for green infrastructure.

The value of green infrastructure as a public or private investment partly depends on its consequences beyond water management. Municipalities often lack the resources to fully evaluate the myriad benefits of green infrastructure without comprehensive assessments.

 ( Source- FreePik, October 16, 2023)

Quantifying non-market ecosystem services remains challenging, despite ongoing efforts to establish standardized frameworks. Wetlands, rain gardens, and bioswales are just a few examples of the various forms and sizes that bioretention and infiltration systems can take. Standard analytical units are essential to compare the benefits of different stormwater management strategies. Assessing the value of such assets typically relies on financial terms, as many of the services provided by green infrastructure cannot be bought or sold. Several methods for calculating the economic value of non-market ecosystem services have been developed. Sustainability, with its numerous goals and actions, has a wide-reaching impact on the responsibilities of many city departments. Per capita energy use reduction can enhance the efficiency of various city services, such as waste management, water use, transportation, and building maintenance. Urban residents' ease of access to parks and amenities, as well as the energy consumption required for their daily lives and commutes, are crucial factors to consider.

( Source- FreePik, October 16, 2023)

Urban residents might encounter challenges in participating in local government activities. There is a lack of advice in the planning, economics, and community development literature regarding the concept of "right-sizing" in relation to the closure of military sites. Right-sizing approaches need to address social justice concerns, especially in locations with high unoccupied dwelling rates and predominantly low-income and minority populations. Right-sizing stabilizes failed neighborhoods and markets by aligning a city's economic goals more closely. Benefits and lessons from urban green infrastructure programs can inform sustainability. 

( Source- FreePik, October 16, 2013)

The concept of "safe to fail" systems, which can restructure and recover from change and disturbance without shifting into other states, lies at the core of resilience science. Despite being a compelling philosophical concept, modern urban planning and architecture often overlook resilience. Landscape ecology, based on the non-equilibrium viewpoint, offers insights into resource management and ecology. Urban green infrastructure can combine green and gray infrastructure approaches to enhance climate adaptation. Innovative technologies like permeable pavement bridge the gap between green and gray infrastructure. "Soft" approaches, such as law and market incentives, offer institutional methods of behavior change.

The term "green infrastructure" has various interpretations across environmental, political, social, and economic disciplines, causing a lack of consensus. Landscape ecologists, integrating science, research, planning, and design, can help address this issue. Promoting cross-disciplinary collaboration and resilience can benefit from considering five aspects: variety, urban ecological networks, multifunctionality, redundancy and modularization, and adaptive design. Urban greening initiatives sometimes lack post-implementation monitoring and empirical assessments of ecosystem services and functions. Since cities play a crucial role in global sustainability, urban ecology can contribute significantly to the transition to sustainability. It has evolved into an interdisciplinary field over the past 90 years, encompassing the social, geographic, ecological, and planning sciences.

( Source- FreePik, October 16, 2023)

Planning sustainable green infrastructure using a multifunctional landscape approach can maximize the use of urban green space. However, there are few examples of how to plan urban ecosystems using this approach. The multifunctional landscape approach engages land users and owners and includes cultural activities that enhance environmental education and public enjoyment. EPA (n.d.) suggests that landscape ecology is increasingly investigated concerning sustainability because of its ability to address complex relationships between humans and their environment. Cities, by accommodating a large population on limited land, can offer a cost-effective solution to providing transportation, clean water, sanitation, energy, and other social services. Sustainable urbanization often raises the question of whether there are barriers to constructing green infrastructure on private property other than cost. Integrating green infrastructure into city planning and development can promote sustainable urbanization by reducing the adverse impacts of urbanization and offering numerous benefits to people and the environment. It's also essential to consider any additional obstacles to green infrastructure development on private land besides cost.


“Benefits of Green Infrastructure.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. 


“Green Infrastructure for Climate Resiliency.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. 


“EPA Facility Stormwater Management.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. 


“Using Green Roofs to Reduce Heat Islands.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency. 


“Hood River Soil & Water Conservation District.” Hood River Soil Water Conservation District. 


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