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The economy of green spaces

Sometimes I find that the articles I am most excited about come from heated arguments, and this one is no exception.

Carson Arthur – www.carsonarthur.com

I had a well-known landscape designer approach me to be part of a pitch to a large building developer about adding landscaping and community beautification to all of his projects. While this may seem like a wonderful idea from the eco and esthetic side of things, my practical side took over and I asked the landscaper what is in it for the builder?

Unfortunately, money really does make the world go round and when it comes to doing things for the warm fuzzy feelings at the end, it’s hard to convince competent business owners to jump onboard.

You see, this builder sells a home before it is even constructed, and with the uncertainty of the housing market, will not even start a project before there is money and a signed contract in play. To him, investing in landscaping that looks great before the house is sold is a risk. What if he spends thousands of dollars to create a park-like setting and then can’t increase the costs of his homes in order to pay for his investment?

Thankfully for the environmentalists and the every day people who would like to see this attitude change, there is some hope in a few different areas.

We are seeing an increased push around the world to include green spaces into our urban environmental programs. As builders take on larger projects, more parks, trees and green spaces are becoming mandatory in the builds based on a percentage of total construction.

Part of this push comes from the understanding of the Urban Heat Island studies, which have proven the collation of increased temperatures in urban settings due to the decrease of parks and plant life. Through these studies we see a concerted push toward green being incorporated into design. Unfortunately, this is predominantly on a big scale and hasn’t really translated to projects that are just a few homes.

There is also a swelling of interest in the buyers of homes. More and more of the representatives in the real estate market are placing emphasis on where you live and how it impacts the quality of your life. They are selling this idea of living better as a reason to either buy outside of the downtown urban centres or to pay more for specific areas that are more expensive.

Neighbourhoods that have established trees are the simplest example of how home values are impacted by nature. According to several online studies, houses on streets with mature trees are worth up to 8 per cent more then similar houses on streets without trees.

The designers and architects are also creating a change in the way we live by adding actual living elements into the structures of the buildings. Full-sized trees in the sky on condos and balconies have become commonplace in progressive urban centres. Living walls, atriums, and shared spaces are expectations in current urban design because buyers are choosing to have them as part of their homes and are willing to pay for them.

Ultimately, if we want more green and more nature in our neighbourhoods, it is up to us as homeowners to support builders and initiatives that invest in it. As for the landscaper that started this whole article, I told him to go after the existing homeowners and skip the builder. When the homeowners start demanding environmental choices, the market will soon follow.

Prince Edward County resident Carson Arthur is an international landscape designer with a focus on environmentally friendly design. He is part of the Cityline team with many other credits including host of HGTV’s Green Force and Critical Listing and the Room to Grow show. He is author of ‘Garden Designs for Outdoor Living’ and has a new book scheduled to hit the shelves this season! More tips at carsonarthur.com
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