Trees and Design Action Group (TDAG) is an not-for profit, open collaborative facilitating cross-sector and cross-disciplinary dialogue and projects promoting the role of the urban forest throughout the United Kingdom. I am the convenor of the group. We share the collective vision that the location of trees, and all the benefits they bring, can be secured for future generations by influencing the planning, design, construction and management of our urban infrastructure and spaces.
In June 2012, we published Trees in the Townscape, a guide for decision makers. The target audience was those in local planning authorities driving both strategic planning and delivery (development control); developers and investors undertaking development projects; the consultant team advising them and so on. This document was necessary Because research on urban trees, which we call collectively the urban forest, shows that they can deliver multiple benefits across a whole spectrum of key sustainability issues at a social, environmental and economic level. It could be said that trees can be one of the urban realm’s greatest allies.
Yet urban areas are probably the most challenging places to plant trees. Later this spring, TDAG will be releasing a companion document, Trees in Hard Landscapes, a guide for delivery. This document starts with the assumption that the decision has been made to plant trees and so it is aimed at those at the delivery end who trying to plant and maintain trees in hard landscapes. Trees in Hard Landscapes will not provide prescriptive ways of planting trees. It focuses on processes and how to make the most appropriate decisions in given circumstances which will, of course, vary.
TDAG is committed to informing decisions through verified research. To this end the group invited Anne Jaluzot, a London based Green Infrastructure Planning Consultant, to undertake the research for Trees in Hard Landscapes and to guide the writing of the document with inputs and reviews for an expert steering group representing a wide range of interests. The research has included lengthy interviews with over 120 practitioners from many different backgrounds and the development of 60 documented case studies. In addition, there have been valuable European field trips, especially to Stockholm and Lyon in France. These case studies show what can be done especially when an element of research and development is built into projects to find better ways to achieve long term results.
A key message from the research has been the importance of cross-disciplinary dialogue and collaboration. The guideline demonstrates this necessity; the partners in the document are the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), the Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT), the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) and the Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF). It will take participation and cooperation from a diverse group of stakeholders at every level to nurture policies, plans, construction, and maintenance regimens to form an urban environment in which trees can thrive.
One of the big challenges at the moment is how to both adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change and the guide also looks at the role that trees can play in terms of urban cooling and water management drawing on evidence from across the world. Many towns and cities in the UK and elsewhere would be wise to extend the urban forest and increase tree canopy cover and, hopefully, this document will offer an approach to do so successfully and, as far as possible, for long term benefits.
All TDAG documents are available as free downloadable PDFs on the TDAG website – www.tdag.org.uk.
Sue James is an architectural consultant and the Convenor of the Trees and Design Action Group.
Flickr credit of street trees in Birmingham: javajoba