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Seven experiments were conducted to develop solutions for promoting a pleasant and healthy green environment

Publication date 10.6.2021 10.27
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In summer 2020 seven experimental and development projects were launched under the Sustainable City programme to promote a pleasant and healthy green environment. In these experiments urban developers tried to find answers to how the health impacts of green environments can be utilised and strengthened.

The five municipalities and 13 other organisations involved developed green spaces for social welfare and healthcare services as a community effort and a model for the coordination of different perspectives in the planning of green spaces, and tested a wooden outdoor green wall suitable for urban cultivation and improvement of occupational wellbeing by making use of the green environment.

“A green nearby environment that is both pleasant and healthy is an important part of a sustainable city. Besides our physical and mental wellbeing, a green environment has positive impacts on matters such as the sense of community. Green spaces promote climate change adaptation, the management of urban runoff water and biodiversity. The experiments have developed new solutions to strengthening and coordinating the benefits associated with these,” Programme Manager Virve Hokkanen says.

Everybody benefits from the impacts of a green nearby environment on wellbeing, which is why equal access to it is very important. In the Liuhtari district of Lapua in South Ostrobothnia where the town’s basic social security services are located outdoor spaces were developed through creative workshops and community-led activities. This also increased the interaction and sense of community among the special groups and other urban residents and actors. In Central Finland in Jämsä the residents produced ideas for an accessible Path of Senses to be built next summer which caters for all senses: sight, taste, smell, hearing and touch. Art and technology will be used to enrich the sensory experiences based on the natural environment.

At the University of Oulu a model for workplace community development was tested where the natural environment enhances wellbeing at work. In the municipality of Ii in North Ostrobothnia art and the natural environment came together in an art garden created in the Lähde Park in Suvantola. In Kera, Espoo in southern Finland green spaces were integrated into the built environment in a test conducted by InnoGreen and the city of Espoo, where a wooden outdoor green wall was used in urban cultivation.

As many as 72% of the Finns already live in urban areas. In the increasingly densely built cities green spaces are expected to respond to many different needs that may be difficult to reconcile with each other. For example, green spaces should promote climate change adaptation, support the management of urban runoff water, strengthen biodiversity, serve as recreation areas and enhance landscape values.

The diversity of the goals and expectations should be recognised already in the planning stage. The assessment framework developed in Espoo helps to design green spaces in a way that produces wellbeing and positive experiences to the residents while also taking biodiversity into account. Pointscene Oy tested the use of methods based on artificial intelligence to identify surfaces that are important for the management of urban runoff water from aerial image and remote sensing data. With the available data this did not work as had been hoped for, but the experiment produced important lessons for future development.

The role of nature and the ways we use our nearby environments vary in different life situations and age categories. This is why it is important to take different kinds of needs into account and give the residents the opportunity to participate in the planning process. Many different kinds of green environments are needed to make sure that their positive impacts on health and wellbeing are truly accessible to all.

Check out all descriptions of the green experiments.

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