Garden Cities

Jul 14, 2021 | Sustainable Spotlight

Garden Cities, or 'greenbelts' are a method of urban planning that help cities reduce pollution, ensure biodiversity, and increase water storage.

Garden Cities, or ‘greenbelts’, are a method of urban planning. Organized in 1899 by Ebenezer Howard, the Garden City Association promotes the ideas of social justice, economic efficiency, beautification, health, and well-being within city planning.

This practice is beneficial in urban areas to bring rural benefits to those that live in a city environment. Garden cities can reduce pollution caused by the city, ensure biodiversity, and increase water storage. As it relates to construction, city planners can have a huge impact on the sustainability of a city by planning buildings and structures around green areas rather than on top of them.


Reducing Pollution

Large numbers of trees in urban areas can reduce local air temperatures by removing carbon dioxide and other pollutants. A greenbelt around a city can release more oxygen and improve the air quality overall.

Noise pollution is another pressing issue in many urban areas. A greenbelt can be a sound barrier, to reduce the noise from transportation systems and buildings within the city.


Ensuring Biodiversity

Concrete and asphalt increase the heat within cities but are necessary components of the urban landscape. By creating Garden Cities, populous areas can increase biodiversity by including vegetation within the city’s design. Incorporating existing forests, wetlands, and ponds into the site, cities can plan structures around these areas to complement them rather than tear them down.


Increasing Water Storage

By rethinking the way we build roadways and plan city blocks, the construction industry can use Garden Cities to help solve problems. For example, in Uptown Normal, Illinois, the Uptown Normal Circle saves $7,600 annually in potable water costs. The circle captures over 1.4 million gallons of stormwater, which the city uses for irrigation. This also prevents that stormwater from entering residential homes and commercial buildings.


Garden Cities in Michigan

In Ann Arbor, the city passed a Greenbelt Millage in 2003 that protects over 6,100 acres of land within the boundaries of the Greenbelt District. Nearly two decades later, Ann Arbor has begun to include surrounding areas and counties in this plan. Residents can enjoy natural areas, viable agriculture, and cleaner air than those in other counties.


Green buildings and Garden Cities are not new concepts. Many states, Michigan included, have made a push towards sustainability for many years. The rise of urban gardens, green roofs, and green walls in the past few years are a great start to bringing sustainability into construction.

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