Green infrastructure solutions support cities in reaching climate goals. B.Green project developed a model for digital and participatory urban planning for the Baltic Sea region.
It is a commonly known fact that cities need greenery to be pleasant and liveable. Trees and plants bring balance to increasingly dense urban areas and help with climate change adaptation.
The best way to make a city or neighbourhood green is to take green infrastructure into consideration early on in the planning process, such as in land use planning. However, the effective placement of plants also requires green infrastructure to be easy to build and planners to be familiar with plants.
The B.Green project developed a model for digital and participatory urban planning to integrate green infrastructure into the early stage urban planning. Co-creational tools were designed together with urban planners, citizens, companies, and researchers of Helsinki and Tallinn.
New tools and digital solutions to support planning
The pilots of the B.Green provided valuable lessons on the different stages of planning green infrastructure in Helsinki and Tallinn. Furthermore, it demonstrated how to facilitate the planning process through interaction and digital tools.
In Tallinn, the effects of urban greenery on the local microclimate were studied by installing 18 weather sensors along Putukaväil, Pollinator Highway, as part of the ongoing study led by SEI Tallinn. The contrast between urban green and grey areas, and the closeness to the sea plays a big role in Tallinn´s microclimate. Urban green spaces help to cool down hot temperatures, provide shade, and reduce the urban heat island effect – and therefore improve the well-being of the residents.
One of the successfully piloted tools was a 3D plant library that was utilised in the planning of Hermanninranta, the northern part of Kalasatama. The pilot project involved creating a digital version of the area that showed what local trees would look like in different seasons and stages of growth. The game engine based 3D-model helps planners see what plants will look like in the urban environment and how they will shade the buildings at different ages.
Augmented reality can be used for mapping plants
Augmented reality pilots provided new dimensions to planning and resident participation. In Helsinki, an inspiring pilot carried out in collaboration with AnarkyLabs involved mapping trees with a drone and an AR headset. This collaboration resulted in an innovative mapping method that provides accurate data on the locations, species and sizes of individual plants.
Another augmented reality mapping solution piloted in Kalasatama, Helsinki, allowed residents to identify plants and mark them on a map. The Granlund’s application helped to illustrate how residents can be involved in the planning of green infrastructure.
Creating green and pleasant spaces with residents
The B.Green project concentrated on digital tools, but also brought more greenery to the cities and more citizen engagement to urban planning. In the beginning, citizens got to share their views and thoughts in a resident survey which was later used as a base for urban planning.
In Tallinn, citizens have been interested in urban gardening so the city co-created a model for allotment gardens with them using Helsinki as a benchmark. The first garden will be implemented in the summer 2023.
In addition to the allotment garden, the pilots carried out in Tallinn involved establishing urban meadows, creation of greenery catalogue and organising an installation competition called Place Buzz for seeking art installations suitable for Putukaväil, Pollinator Highway. It is a popular recreational area among the city’s residents. The area was highlighted as one of the selection criteria when Tallinn was awarded the European Green Capital 2023 award.
B.Green handbook offers guidance for urban planners
All these examples and many other great digital and participatory tools and solutions are gathered together and presented in the B.Green handbook, which was developed by SEI Tallinn in cooperation with the cities of Helsinki and Tallinn.
The comprehensive handbook is designed to increase the understanding of the benefits of green infrastructure. It was developed through a participatory process and is full of real-world examples, making it a valuable resource for anyone interested in more sustainable and participatory urban planning. The handbook is especially useful for urban planners in the Baltic Sea region.
The handbook emphasises that by considering green infrastructure in the early planning stages, cities can become more sustainable and resilient while also improving the overall well-being of residents.
Photo: Vesa Laitinen