Society of Garden Designers Conference: Social equality 'more important'

Green places in cities do not need to be the "most fantastic designs", as long as they are contributing to the "environmental and social revolution".

According to the University of Sheffield's reader in urban horticulture, Nigel Dunnett, landscape architects and garden designers need to push themselves to the forefront of development in order to ensure that places meet climate change challenges.

"It doesn't matter that we don't have the most high design all over the place, it is about social equity," he explained. "Why should this just be available to people with lots of money to spend?"

Dunnett was speaking at the Society of Garden Designers (SGD) autumn conference — Heavenly Gardens in Hellish Places — on Saturday 3 October in London.

He argued that landscape architects and designers need to promote the notion that using green infrastructure to tackle issues including flooding and the urban heat island effect is the most cost-effective and sustainable way for cities to proceed.

"In terms of hellish places, we create them ourselves because landscape architects and garden designers are not in there [during development]," he said. "We need to become leaders and push for greening in our neighbourhoods."

Dunnett explained that in the US, landscape architects are leading the way on schemes that involve water management and flood alleviation.

"We need to get people into those leadership positions," he added.

Dunnett showed examples of projects where sustainability through the use of horticulture has been key. Examples included a Coventry factory that was plagued by flooding. By designing rain gardens and soakaways, Dunnett helped the owners save money that was going to be spent on an expensive new drainage system.

In addition, he explained how the use of green roofs at the new-build Sharrock School in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, has resulted in the site being designated this week by Natural England as a Local Nature Reserve.

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