Could an innovative 'library of greening' help transform urban communities?

A new database of science-backed tools has been developed offering resources to boost urban sustainability and public wellbeing on global scale.

In brief:

  • A specialist library has been created to support the roll-out of environmental projects which contribute to better communities
  • The reources include inspiration and practical guidance on works from canalways to living rooftops
  • While designed for small and deprived communities, it will be relevant for towns and cities worldwide.

In detail:

An innovative 'library of greening' has been launched by scientists as part of a landmark development to support urban sustainability world-wide.

The pioneering database is dedicated to promoting green spaces and sustainability projects and was developed by scientists from Surrey, UK, in collaboration with international partners. They believe it has the potential to revolutionise urban landscapes, especially deprived communities.

The library will act as a comprehensive resource for towns and cities the world over, to provide insights and support for implementing greening projects such as parks, roofing, canals, and wetlands. 

Additional funding of £250,000 will allow the network to extend its activities up to 2025. This expansion would include the launch of a new database for community leaders, policymakers, and designers, offering a rich source of inspiration and practical guidance. The network also plans to host engagement events to foster partnerships and expand its reach.

UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology co-lead of the RECLAIM Network, Professor Laurence Jones, said: "The database will provide valuable information on how green and blue spaces can tackle urban challenges like heatwaves, air pollution, and flooding, and their role in enhancing physical and mental wellbeing."

Further, the library will help the organisation to “reduce inequalities and spread opportunities across the UK”, according to UKRI Creating Opportunities, Improving Outcomes lead and deputy executive chair, ESRC, Professor Alison Park. 

Park said: “It's a vital step towards creating more equitable, healthy, and sustainable urban environments".

The initiative is intended as a model for sustainable urban development in advance of COP28. 

The groups’s research confirmed the significant impact of urban greening on poorer communities, and the potential for such initiatives to improve the health and wellbeing of populations by enhancing resilience, mental health, social cohesion and addressing health disparities.

Institute of Sustainability at Surrey University, co-director, Professor Prashant Kumar, said: "Deprived urban areas often bear the brunt of climate change effects. Our research underscores the transformative power of green spaces and urban design in making these communities more resilient."

The project was funded by UK Research and Innovation and undertaken by the RECLAIM Network Plus. With more than 500 members worldwide to date, the network is aimed at fostering collaborative efforts in mitigating the impacts of climate change and enhancing urban resilience.