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The Benefits of Retrofitting Homes on Housing Estates with Green Infrastructure

22 November 2023
Reading Time: 2 mins

New members the Green Infrastructure Consultancy (GIC) discuss how retrofitting green infrastructure into the existing fabric of a city is all too often overlooked. Tim Gardner from The GIC explores four ways this can be done.

The focus, by and large, is on including green infrastructure in new developments to meet planning requirements. Retrofitting, however, is possible and has the potential to deliver a range of benefits.

Green infrastructure plays a crucial role in creating sustainable and resilient communities and retrofitting green infrastructure to housing estates is essential for addressing the environmental challenges we face today. Here are reasons to implement this;

1. Mitigating Urban Heat Islands: One of the primary reasons for retrofitting green infrastructure is to address urban heat islands (the phenomenon where urban areas are hotter than the surrounding countryside). Housing estates, dominated by buildings and sealed surfaces , often suffer from excessive heat during the summer. . Adding green roofs, rain gardens and street trees can significantly reduce the temperature and create a more comfortable living environment for residents.

2. Managing Stormwater Runoff: Another important function for green infrastructure is managing stormwater runoff in housing estates. Conventional impermeable surfaces contribute to flooding and water pollution. Retrofitting with permeable pavements and rain gardens can help capture and filter rainwater, preventing it from overwhelming storm drains and improving water quality.

3. Enhancing Biodiversity: Retrofitting green infrastructure provides an opportunity to enhance biodiversity within housing estates. Planting with native species or species with a documented value for wildlife creates habitats for wildlife. This, in turn, benefits people, contributing to better air quality, reducing noise, encouraging outdoor activity and overall improving health and wellbeing..

4. Promoting Community Engagement and Social Cohesion: Green infrastructure retrofit projects offer a platform to engage and involve the community. Stakeholders, such as residents, local authorities, non-profit organisations, and businesses, should collaborate to ensure the success of these initiatives. By involving residents in planning, decision-making, and maintenance, a sense of ownership and social cohesion can be fostered, leading to more sustainable outcomes.

To make these retrofitting efforts successful, a range of stakeholders need to be involved. This could include residents, community representatives, schools, housing providers and developers, local government agencies, urban planners, landscape architects, environmental NGOs, and academic institutions. Collaboration among these stakeholders is crucial for securing funding, obtaining necessary permits, designing effective green infrastructure solutions, and ensuring long-term stewardship.You can read more about how we helped the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham in this case study.