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Taking Care To Incorporate Trees Into Modern Urban Design

Paris is the latest major city to make a pledge to plant more trees, and the local council would like to see 50% of the French capital covered by planted areas by 2030. In the same time frame, Sydney and Milan hope to plant at least 3 million trees each. Nature is already being brought into the urban home with the use of greenery in architectural features. Now, due to their benefits to the environment, trees are featuring heavily in urban planning. However, as trees constantly grow and change, their planting and continued care needs to be carefully planned in order for them to flourish safely.

Balancing Benefits With Practicality

Incorporating new trees into urban design is an increasingly popular trend. Beyond the addition of natural beauty, trees bring many benefits to a modern city, including the creation of shade, a reduction in storm water runoff, and improved air quality. However, safety and practicality must always be a priority when planning the inclusion of trees in a street or housing complex. Trees should ideally be incorporated into a design right from the start, otherwise they will not grow as desired. According to, the possibility of a damaged tree falling on a property is a serious hazard, and the tree will need to be safely removed before causing any harm. Trying to tame the unpredictable nature of an organic structure to match the unchanging fabric of a building complex can be problematic. So, even when trees are successfully planted into city designs, they will still need to be regularly clipped and maintained in order to preserve their beauty and safety. 

Preserving Tree-Lined Sidewalks

In increasingly built up cities, established trees provide glorious shady canopies and add to a sense of place. However, they too can cause problems, as their roots break through sidewalks or damage underground pipes. Fortunately, these issues have been largely avoided in London, where forward thinking Victorian planners planted lines of trees such as Plane and Lime along major streets. They created underground vaults for tree roots to expand, and placed open grates around the base of the trees to allow rain and air to reach the soil and prevent it from compacting. In Portland Oregon, steps are now being taken to preserve older trees in the city. Here, planners are using structures that perform the same role as the Victorian frameworks, allowing roots to flourish in trenches, causing minimum disruption to sidewalks and the established trees.

Embracing Established Trees

Now, when mature trees are causing an obstruction to new building projects, they are just as likely to be incorporated into the design as removed altogether. Architects have found creative ways to build around established trees, making them a living part of the property. This merging of clean lines of concrete and glass with natural organic growth produces unique and inspirational buildings, and means that old trees are not only preserved, but are embraced and admired.

The benefits of planting trees has long been recognized by town and city planners. Although trees are highly beneficial, they are still unpredictable organic structures, and need proper planning and maintenance in order to thrive in an urban environment.


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