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Barcelona in Spain has delivered an amazing 8-storey green wall outside an already standing building, proving that green walls do not need to be the domain of new developments.
As the world heats up, this kind of initiative will need to become more commonplace. We cannot continue to create urban environments that are essentially a mix of hard surfaces on different levels – from streets to walls & roofs on high-rise buildings. We will bake unless we make changes to the way we build.
A green wall is not only a living entity; it is also a working entity cleaning up air pollution. Green walls have many benefits. They cool down the building & the local area. They add beauty to the streetscape & have a positive impact on the health & happiness of people who live or work in the building & also those who pass by. They also add to biodiversity. Green walls make sense, especially as the population increases & land becomes scarcer.
What is terrific about this particular green wall in Barcelona is that what was once a large 8-storey blank wall has now been transformed into a living green wall. A scaffold-like structure was built in the air space outside the building. Therefore the plants & the water that is used to keep the plants alive will not impact on the structure of the building, something that concerns many. A staircase & floors have been created between the wall & the building to allow maintenance. The planted boxes are modular & can be removed & replaced. So can plants, making it easy to remove any that may have died.
The designing Architect Juli Capella says they have identified seven species of birds that use this particular green wall as well as flying foxes & geckos. These are shown as an interpretive sign near the green wall to educate the public. The green wall has turned into an attraction with a monocular installed so people can zoom in to have a close look at the plants. Initially the locals were worried about the birds & insects & the ‘evils of nature,’ but now are happy with the wall.
This could be done here in Marrickville municipality if the owners of buildings were willing & if Marrickville Council encouraged it. Green walls like this one would certainly significantly add to the value of their properties as well as provide the community major inspirational beauty to the streetscape & make it a healthier place to live.
If I had my way, all new developments would include green walls in some way because they are so beneficial. In time it will happen, as I believe Architects will not want to be viewed as out of date & out of touch with the community’s desires when other Architects design more people & environmentally friendly office & residential buildings. Until then we can look at what is happening overseas as well as in the City of Sydney Council area, as they are embracing green walls with a passion to make Sydney a very livable city.
You can watch a short video of the green wall in Barcelona here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oC_ghwmBV4
I came across something rather wonderful today called Tree Tape invented by Thai designer Nitipak Samsen.
Tree Tape is a downloadable tape measure that you print, cut out & stick together so that it becomes a tape measure. With this tape measure you measure the girth of the tree in question & it will tell you how much CO2 this tree sequesters in comparison with air travel, pints of lager, cheese burgers & oxygen production.
Tree Tape is an excellent resource for teachers. Apart from being free! it also allows the kids to actively learn by getting outside & measuring the trees themselves. Instead of measuring a number denoting the CO2 sequestered, it measures the CO2 in terms of activities. How many cheese burgers have to be cooked, how many pints of lager poured, how much breathing is returned to a person. Tree Tape will make the impact of CO2 sequestration far more understandable. You can download Tree Tape here – http://www.dotmancando.info/index.php?/ongoing/tree-tape-for-kids/
Nitipak Samsen’s website is an interesting place showcasing a few of his projects. One I particularly like is Natural Fuse. It’s a system of plants that sequester CO2 for an area. Those that live in the designated area can only use power to the amount of the CO2 sequestered by their plants. Reach the limit & all power cuts off until the plants have sequestered more CO2. Brilliant! His website explains the concept better than I do. http://www.dotmancando.info/index.php?/ongoing/natural-fuse/
Street trees have always posed a problem for Councils because they usually have poor growing conditions; wall-to-kerb concrete, very little area for rainwater collection, compaction due to heavy foot traffic or from vehicles, overhead power lines,
renegade roots, threats to sue for cracking to walls & fences, wobbly footpaths, falling leaves, complaints about falling leaves, side branches, dropping branches, threats to sue because of dropping branches, falling flower petals, slippery footpaths from fallen fruit, leaves or petals, labour & costs for cleaning the trees of fallen tree litter, noisy birds & feeding flying-foxes & other animals, cultural dislike of non-fruit trees, illegal tree removal & vandalism …. have I covered everything?
Suffice to say that trees often divide the community & cause problems for Councils. With the climate getting hotter it’s getting much harder to grow street & park trees. They require regular & deep water every couple of days while they are young & need watering for 1-2 years until they are established. Marrickville Council doesn’t do this. They water weekly for 12 weeks, then the tree has to survive on its own. Their own report said there has been a very high loss of new tree plantings due to death usually caused by lack of water & sometimes vandalism.
Trees also take many years to grow depending on the species. I’ve been meaning to document the growth of a newly planted street tree to demonstrate this. A whole street of mature Melaleucas was removed in my area around 7 years ago. Council did plant replacement trees & those trees still look like sticks. They provide little greenery, no canopy & no shade. In winter they completely lose their leaves looking more like sticks. This isn’t Council’s fault. They cannot make a canopy replace itself in a short time.
Council staff once told me that street trees are only expected to live between 7-15 years because of the poor growing conditions & because of pruning required for overhead cables. If you think about it, it would be almost impossible to get a canopy & trees on the skyline if this was adhered to. That street trees live longer is a miracle in many cases.
Now to get to the meat of this post…. The City of Boston asked for designs for a synthetic tree as part of their SHIFTboston Urban Intervention contest. This tree needed to provide the benefits of a real tree of carbon sequestration & oxygen production, but must not require soil or need watering to function. (Solves many of the tree problems Councils currently face). Paris designers Mario Caceres & Cristian Canonico of Influx Studio came up with Treepods. They look similar to the Dragon Blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari) & fulfill the specifications of removing CO2 from the air & releasing oxygen. Treepods sit on top of the ground so there is no problem with underground installation & certainly no problems with tree roots. Treepods are constructed from recycled plastic drinking bottles & run on solar power & kinetic energy. They also light up at night adding an extra dimension by creating safely lit areas.
I am of two minds about Treepods. I love the sheer creativity of the design & that they could be employed if the climate changes so much that it becomes difficult to grow trees. Treepods fit the design criteria for SHIFTboston perfectly. However, I imagine that this technology could well be used on building walls & roofs without having to be in the form of a tree. I also think Treepods would do well as art in public spaces right now purely for art’s sake & for the added benefit of community education as the kinetic part of its function requires interaction with people. But to replace street or park trees with Treepods, well, I’d rather not. Just imagine the impact on birds, insects, other urban wildlife as well as human health & wellbeing.
More information & 14 photos containing design specs of Treepods can be found here. Photo 9 shows Treepods used extensively as street & park trees. Is this the future? – http://www.gizmag.com/treepods-air-scrubbing-structures-could-be-heading-to-boston/18085/
Marrickville Council is planning an overhaul of historic Petersham Park in Petersham. I’ve done my best to translate the plans. There is a Legend on the side of the plans offering a range of symbols in various shades of green & one has to scroll around the map trying to find the symbols. It would be so much easier if there was list of what will be removed, replaced etc & any trees to be removed coloured red. Perhaps that would look too imposing, especially on this map. I apologize in advance if I have made a mistake translating the plans.
The Petersham Park Masterplan recommends –
- removing 8 of the 26 large Camphor laurel trees from the magnificent memorial avenue of trees that make the Brighton Street entrance.
- removing 4 of the 10 large Camphor laurels along Wentworth Street.
- removing 5 of the 7 large trees near the entry to the Fanny Durak Pool & the playground. That will mean another shadecloth structure. Council are removing these trees because the soil is compacted. Soil compaction can be treated without removing trees. Axing these trees is simply the most expedient option.
- removing 4 of the 12 large trees along Station Street.
- removing 2 other large trees inside the park.
- removing 7 of the 14 large trees from the boundary of West Street. Apart from
1 tree with significant dieback, I cannot see why these trees need to be removed. They have been badly pruned, but so have the majority of the trees in the park. Most look like champagne glasses because of Council’s long-standing policy of pruning all side branches. The plans recommend not replacing trees along West Street to offer unrestricted visual access into the park. Unrestricted for who? The third storey across the road? Whether on foot or in a car you can easily see into Petersham Park. No substantial trees will also ensure that the traffic noise from ultra-busy West Street would fully infiltrate the park.
- If I understand the Legend correctly, the ultimate recommendation is to remove all the trees along West Street. If that is correct, the remaining side of the once glorious avenue of trees will be lost. (Last January 2011 St Vincent de Paul Society completed the removal of 31 trees that formed the other side of the avenue of trees. See – http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/the-lost-trees-of-lewisham/ )
- All up 30 very large trees are to be removed.
- 38 new trees are to be planted. Sounds great, except they will be small stature ornamental Crepe myrtle & Cape Chestnut trees. Many new tree plantings fail so even whether these 38 trees survive remains to be seen. Figs & large Eucalypts have been suggested for the Brighton & Wentworth Street as replacement for the trees removed in these sections.
- Cape Chestnuts & Crepe Myrtles are to be planted in the space between West Street & the oval to offer colour. I am rather horrified that Crepe myrtle trees are popping up across Marrickville LGA when there are many better choices of small native trees that offer colour as well as food for wildlife.
- Very small spaces will be planted with groundcover for Bandicoot habitat where trees have been removed on West Street. Although habitat for the critically endangered Long-nosed Bandicoot is of paramount importance, especially now that their habitat across the road at St Vincent de Paul Society has been destroyed, the size of the proposed habitat is tokenistic at best & keeps the Bandicoots near the very busy road.
- Council also plans to upgrade the playground, repair the stonework, repair the paths, add some lighting, add some garden beds, replant the existing garden beds & add a decorative picket fence to part of the Brighton Street entry – all good.
There are many wonderful things about Petersham Park. It is remarkably different from most parks in Marrickville LGA in that it has many very large trees as well as large shade-producing trees throughout the park itself, not just around the perimeter. Removing so many large trees at one time would be devastating. To remove half of the trees on West Street only to replace with groundcover & add some Crepe myrtles further in would to my mind, reduce this side of the park to ‘ordinary.’
I know parks have to be maintained & Petersham Park, even for its beauty is showing signs of neglect, but in my opinion, the bulk of the large mature trees are doing well. The paths, the playground & the garden beds are what needs work & yes, some trees need to be removed, but I wonder about the choices of trees. The Prunus looks scraggly & a couple of Fig trees look quite weird & unhealthy. I could have removed 20 trees, however, only 1 of those trees matched the trees Council is recommending for removal.
It’s obvious that some trees are to be removed simply because they are mature or that removing the trees will allow for the new fashion of having clear unobstructed views deep into parks. To me, that’s not a good enough reason to remove healthy mature trees which are doing great work in sequestering large amounts of CO2, removing particulate matter, improving air quality as well as providing shade & beauty to the area. Mature doesn’t mean dying.
There are dead street trees all over Marrickville LGA, some that have been sitting there for 18 months or more. Then there is the borer infestation of Mahoney Reserve & the 6 dead
Poplar trees that are still standing. These things make me wonder why so much money will be spent removing so many trees in Petersham Park when very few of them are showing obvious signs of deterioration. They are mature trees & for that very reason, quite spectacular. I’d rather the dead & dying trees elsewhere be removed than 30 mature beautiful trees from the one park. Council needs to start to grow replacement trees (further in the park if they are to be Fig trees to allow for the canopy) & when they have grown to a decent size, only then do a graduated removal of the other trees.
I recognize that Marrickville Council wants to do the best thing for the park & it is good that community consultation was offered. However, the plans for Petersham Park remind me of the intention in the draft tree strategy policy that was so poorly received by Councillors in early 2010 & which has been redrafted. That report spoke negatively about mature trees & proposed cutting down 1,000 trees per year for 5 years. Is Council still pursuing this kind of goal?
Any written feedback to Marrickville Council from the community is due by 28th February 2011. The plan can be downloaded here (5MB) – http://www.marrickville.nsw.gov.au/getinvolved/consultations/petershamparkmasterplan.html?s=2122293019
I made a video of Petersham Park here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIKH59R7BnE
I had been hearing reports that devastation had happened in front of the St Vincent de Paul Society in Lewisham so we went to have a look for ourselves. The visual impact to the area is phenomenal. What once was a beautiful stretch of trees along both sides of busy West Street is now a wide gaping hole that looks like a scar.
The lovely historical buildings of St Vincent de Paul Society that front West Street are for the most part brick & sandstone. In recent years, St Vincent de Paul Society erected a grey glass & steel edifice that is not sympathetic to the surrounding buildings. Things like this are personal taste & I am sure they are happy with the result. The 31 trees that once fronted this site softened this new building & matched the older buildings. Together with the trees on the periphery of Petersham Park they created a green corridor along West Street as you came off Parramatta Road.
It is not just the local people who treasure the St Vincent de Paul Society site. I remember when I first saw it in the early 80s when it was still Lewisham Hospital. My reaction was one of stunned, “Wow! This place is gorgeous!” The many magnificent trees that made up front garden combined with the obviously historical buildings made a strong impression on me.
Buildings can be beautiful on their own, but most of the time it is the trees that create an atmosphere of wellbeing. As an example I give the ‘Prayer Garden’ within the St Vincent de Paul Society grounds. I don’t know what this area is called, but it is certainly meant for prayer & contemplation because of the life-size-statue of Jesus, the trees, the landscaping & even the graves tucked into a corner. If you removed all the trees from this area, it would no longer be a place of contemplation & peace. It would simply be open space between buildings. This is precisely what has happened at the front of the St Vincent de Paul Society site on West Street.
31 large & mature trees, many with massive trunks, have been removed. This has exposed the buildings, which now look slightly foreboding, especially the newest grey/glass building. I acknowledge that this is a matter of personal perception & this is mine.
In place of the trees is a black bitumen driveway & parking spaces. This choice of surface will increase the heat island effect making the area & the buildings hotter in summer. At the far right there were a grove of Melaleucas & some very big & beautiful Eucalypts that framed the stone arch entrance. They too have gone. The car park does not come to this area so removing these trees appears to have been done simply to facilitate the rebuilding of the fence. If St Vincent de Paul Society had wanted to, engineers could have easily replaced the fence & kept the trees.
Instead, the place has been cleared. Nice little Banksias & Crepe Myrtles have now been planted at wide intervals with other low landscaping plants in a garden bed along the completed section of the new fence.
In my opinion, Marrickville Council let the community down when they passed this DA. Even though the trees were on private property, the type of property it is means that it has had a long & active history with the community. The trees were part of the fabric of this Lewisham street & were part of what made Lewisham special. Most people know of this complex, even if they do not know of its new name & purpose. What they remember is the beautiful old buildings & the trees. Question is, are trees valuable enough to be classified part of a community’s history? I think so, but I am not so naïve to not think that others would disagree with me.
The St Vincent de Paul Society complex is on a main thoroughfare, one block from Parramatta Road. The tall trees with their wide trunks & significant canopy captured & stored much CO2 & particulate matter from passing traffic, preventing this from going into the complex itself, but also further afield into the local community.
Then there are the Long-nosed Bandicoots, those small little animals that are classified as ‘endangered species’ & that call this particular patch home. The presence of Bandicoots is another reason why Marrickville Council should not have passed this DA. Endangered Species rely on our Councils to preserve & manage their habitat.
The Department of Climate Change, Environment & Water were aghast when I spoke to them last year about the removal of the Long-nosed Bandicoots’ habitat. I last heard that WIRES was negotiating with St Vincent de Paul Society to retain some habitat so the Bandicoots could continue to survive. I will contact WIRES to ask what happened.
Marrickville Council now needs to plant street trees on the footpath outside the St Vincent de Paul Society complex. What is left is a 100 metre long desolate space that is hot, very
windy & not good to look at. It is also noisy as the traffic sounds now bounce back from the buildings. whereas before it was much quieter because the trees muffled the traffic noise. There are no overhead cables & the footpath is 3 metres wide so tall-growing large canopy trees can be planted. It would be good if sections of cement could be removed to make long patches of garden greenspace.
It’s difficult to comment about tree removal on private property, though in this case the trees were an integral part of the streetscape & provided habitat for an Australian native animal that has been classified as an endangered species.
There were many in the community who sincerely thought that St Vincent de Paul Society would keep the trees on the far right of the front of the complex for the Bandicoots, especially as they knew the community were very concerned about the loss of their habitat.
I know of a few people who are devastated by the loss of these trees & by how desolate the streetscape of their neighbourhood now looks. A great chunk of our urban forest has gone & there may be more as I understand St Vincent de Paul Society intend to remove other large Eucalypts throughout the complex.
I have put up a 1.27-minute YouTube of the front of the St Vincent de Paul Society & the streetscape here if you are interested – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJeDogZyHyM
I last wrote about this DA here – http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/02/08/lewisham-is-about-to-lose-32-mature-healthy-trees/
On 25 January 2010 Marrickville Council put up a Notification of Removal on their website saying they will be removing a Camphor Laurel (Cinnamonum camphora) street tree outside 2-12 Metropolitan Road Enmore.
On 26 January 2010 I went to have a look at this tree & after a search, found the stump in-between 2-parked cars.
Some residents said the tree had been chopped down a few days ago. This is one more instance of Council’s inconsistent tree removal processes. I have written about this issue before. This is a pointless notification when the tree was already gone for a few days. This process engenders distrust because it is only a pretend attempt to engage the community.
The reason Marrickville Council gave for the tree’s removal was “Conditioned for removal as part of an approved Development Application DA200900354.01.”
This is cryptic language that doesn’t inform of the real reason for the tree’s removal & makes it impossible for the community to make an assessment whether the removal is reasonable. As I understand it, the Notification of Removal notices are posted principally for the benefit of the community. If this is the case, I can see no reason why they shouldn’t be written in plain language. Jargon excludes people.
By inspecting the site (which is the old school being revamped), I can only suppose that the tree was removed to allow driveway access at the front of the property. If this is correct, it is such a shame to lose a tree described by local residents as “gorgeous,” when there is access of equal width & equal utility at the rear of the property. All the properties in the neighbourhood have rear access only.
I could not find the reason for the tree’s removal because the DA cannot be found on Council’s website nor elsewhere on the net.
Council says the tree will be replaced with “4 x Super advanced amenity tree specimens.” They do not indicate which species of tree or say when they will be planted. Dr Kim D. Coder, Professor of Community Forestry & Arboriculture at Warnell School of Forest Resources said amenity trees can be summarized as having 3 qualities; “charming, satisfaction & utility.” I would say that the Camphor laurel also had these qualities.
The Camphor laurel had a girth of 2.5 metres & therefore would have sequestrated a significant amount of Co2 annually. I hope that the “4 x Super advanced amenity tree specimens” are of the kind that also grow large trunks.
Not only do I wish Marrickville Council had a standardized process regarding tree removal & honoured it, but I wish that they would also fight to protect & keep our street trees when there is a DA, especially when there are alternatives available. This tree was a huge loss to the community.
“Deforestation releases more Co2 than all the world’s cars, trucks, ships & planes combined. The destruction of the forests in Australia have led to the worst droughts in Australia in the last 10,000 years.”
This 5-minute video explains the relationship between climate change & deforestation. Standing forests were not included in Kyoto Protocol. http://www.conservation.org/fmg/pages/videoplayer.aspx?videoid=67
This week I counted the following trees around the current Marrickville Metro & the block where they intend to expand.
67 Fig trees, 9 Brush Box trees, 3 Camphor laurel trees, 8 Eucalypts, 4 Palm trees, 1 Canary Island Palm, 2 Melaleuca trees, 8 Bottlebrush trees, 4 Peppercorn trees, 10 Wattle trees & 26 unidentified species of trees.
TOTAL POTENTIAL TREE LOSS = 142 trees
There are another 24 medium trees on site that may be included in the development bringing the potential total tree loss to 166 trees.
AMP Capital say the Fig trees only have an average 5-15 years left to live. In ideal conditions, Figs live 150-200 years. Although these trees are not in ideal conditions they are very healthy. To replace the trees they plan to plant 28 Eucalyptus paniculata (Grey Ironbark) along Murray Street & low level accent, grass & groundcovers “to ensure that general safety, sightlines & CPTED principals are maintained.” – meaning all signs & the building will be very visible as if the height of the new buildings is not enough.
I think losing these trees will be a huge loss for the community, for air quality, for beauty of the area & for urban wildlife. Currently most of Marrickville Metro is hidden behind large beautiful, healthy trees. I cannot imagine the area without them. Most of these trees are mature & took decades to grow.
The Metro expansion will also result in a 65-68% increase in traffic from an estimated extra 4 million customers a year. It will destroy our local shopping strips & remove much of the individual kind of shop that make the Inner West unique.
I asked a taxi driver standing outside Metro what he thought, thinking he would be for the expansion as it would bring him more business. He replied, “It will kill the local shops in Marrickville, Enmore & Newtown. I don’t think it will be good for us.”
AMP Capital also want to purchase Smidmore Street from Marrickville Council. I think there is a big chance that Council will sell Smidmore Street to help with their financial situation. In last Wednesday’s Sydney Morning Herald –
Council sources said a figure of $8 million has been discussed for the purchase of Smidmore Street, along the shopping centre’s southern boundary, but that no formal offer has yet been made. Several councillors told the Herald the council is united in refusing to sell Smidmore Street ”on principle”, but would not comment on whether that position would change if the project gained approval. http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/mall-goes-a-street-too-far-opponents-say-20100811-11zqg.html
In return for traffic gridlocked streets, parking problems, much more noise, air pollution, visual pollution & the potential loss of at least 142 beautiful trees, AMP Capital will give us many more shops like we can get at close-by Roselands, Eastgardens or Broadway shopping malls. They are also offering a small library & a community education board.
We already have a number of fabulous & free-to-use libraries courtesy of Marrickville Council & a public education board is nothing to get excited about.
The expansion to double the size of the current Metro makes me wonder where the customers are going to come from. Around 2-3 years ago, all the shops in Metro were required to do a specific renovation as part of sprucing up Metro & their rents were raised. A number of shops were struggling to meet this cost & some moved out to set up shop elsewhere. Since then, there have always been vacant shops in Marrickville Metro.
I am of the belief that AMP Capital would not be investing millions to do the expansion if they weren’t absolutely sure they will make bucket-loads of money.
Right now the area is classified as a village, but if the expansion goes ahead, the Department of Planning may be within their rights to reclassify the area as a ‘Town Centre’ simply because of the size of Marrickville Metro. This will mean that development in the league of Bondi Junction & Hurstville will be allowed.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see the industrial-zoned areas around Metro being rezoned residential. Once that is done, a ‘unit city’ can be built very close to Metro. Then, to cope with the massive increase in traffic, the M6, an arterial road that is planned for Edgeware Road may one day be built. Edgeware Road is already often bumper-to-bumper. The Marrickville Transport Action Group say – Cardigan St, Edgeware Rd, Liberty St & Kingston Rd are key to the F6 plan.
Who knows if my theories have any weight, but it does make more sense as to why such a huge shopping mall is being planned when there are not enough current customers & it constantly has a number of empty shops.
The proposed Metro expansion is going to have a massive impact on Marrickville & surrounding suburbs in terms of traffic & pollution. To my mind, it is not just an issue for residents who live nearby & shop owners, although it is an appalling prospect for them. The expansion is an issue that will affect many of us because:
- it will choke many of the roads that are at capacity now
- it will likely weaken our shopping strips reducing choice & this often negatively affects variety of products & price
- it will reduce competition
- it will bring more 19-metre long semi-trailers to our narrow suburban streets &
- it will take away the community feeling that shopping strips help create, because these are public spaces where we retain all our rights as citizens, whereas shopping malls are private spaces under the control of developers/corporations.
Unless the community come out in great numbers & say they do not want the Metro expansion, it will happen.
If you are against any aspect of the planned expansion, please send in a submission to the Department of Planning by Friday 27th August 2010. Their e-mail is – Plan_comment@planning.nsw.gov.au
It is called Major Project – MP_0191 – 34 Victoria Road Marrickville. If you would like a draft submission please send me an e-mail.