Green around the Corner

Green around the Corner

PhD candidate Robert van Dongen (ABEL) does not send us into the forest in droves. He conducts research into how ‘green’ can be optimised in cities.

Now that we cannot go to the forest in droves and go for a walk at regular intervals, we have started to show greater appreciation of green spaces in our direct surroundings. This ‘green’ is important because it appears from research that it positively influences our well-being. PhD candidate Robert van Dongen is conducting research into how this ‘green’ can be optimised in our cities.

‘People are often too busily engaged to go for a walk in a park or a forest,’ says Robert, ‘and at the moment they’re even being discouraged to do so because of corona. So it’s important to take nature to those places where people are. As a result of more nature being offered in our daily living and working environment, people will come across it – even without making a conscious choice.’

Optimising design of urban green

In the doctoral research that Robert is doing at Eindhoven University of Technology he is conducting research into how we could better integrate natural elements into our daily living environment.

‘The city is mainly a functional environmental space and that puts extra pressure on ‘green’. Houses are never moved a few metres backwards to make way for trees, but trees do have to make way for houses. The latter could be looked at critically. Would it really be necessary to cut down such a tree for the sake of urban development? The argument is often put forward that new trees will be planted. However, don’t forget that new plantings need at least 50 years to become trees of importance. There will be far less green all that time, and this period of 50 years will often not be reached because new reasons will be presented to cut them down.’

The question is of course – on the basis of the fact there is limited space - how to make sure that more nature is taken to urban residents.

‘You could choose to limit space for car traffic and parking facilities in a city, and instead, lay out green strips. This is evidently in line with the broader discussion to curb down car use in the city, and in this way, encourage people to have a healthier lifestyle. A good example of this would be the reconstruction of Vestdijk in Eindhoven.’

That’s wonderful, of course, but municipalities are not always sensitive to it. Green does not bring in a lot of hard cash, and real estate does. And it brings along parking places.

‘It’s a persistent idea. That’s what I also noticed during my talks with the four big cities in North Brabant. Evidently, Green policy officers are really in favour and eager to hear scientific insights and arguments. The Real Estate department has less interest. Fortunately, more and more cities understand that there are other creative ways of laying out and maintaining green. Just let this ‘green’ develop or make sure there’s regulated wild overgrowth. This keeps maintenance costs low, needs little space, and it’s often appreciated by residents because it’s wild and natural green and regulated (and so, meant to be like that) at the same time.’

Our own campus is naturally a wonderful example of how green can be integrated into a work environment, which is a residential environment at the same time. The people living in this neighbourhood enjoy our green every day when taking a ‘corona’ stroll.

If you are curious to read about other studies conducted by PhD candidates, have a look at our corporate website under Research