Circle Square

Tick Tick Boom – Why We Need to Focus on Making Our Cities Healthier Now

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By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. That’s according to a report from the United Nations released in May of this year, which highlights the rise of mega-cities across the globe and our continued migration into urban centres.

In the near future, our cities will be home to more people than ever. And our metropolises will need to grow bigger and taller to accommodate the population boom. As our conurbations become more densely packed and greater numbers of people choose to spend their lives in urban settings, the development of healthy cities will be crucial.

Healthy populations drive economic performance and prosperity, supporting the success of future generations. But just how do we prevent cities from being bad for our health?

The inclusion of green space in city planning and development will be hugely important and, as a place-maker, Bruntwood is keenly aware of the need to harness the power of green spaces when it comes to enhancing the well-being of city dwellers.

Evidence continues to mount in the case for bringing nature into urban environments. A recent study from the World Health Organisation on the health effects of green space in urban areas showed that green spaces offer ‘numerous public health benefits, including psychological relaxation and stress reduction, enhanced physical activity and a potential reduction in exposure to air pollution, noise and excessive heat.’ And a report released last year by researchers at the Institute for European Environmental Policy found that people living close to trees and green spaces are less likely to be obese, inactive, or dependent on anti-depressants.

We have to incorporate green space into urban development if we want to help safeguard and enhance the health of city residents; it’s as simple as that.

The inclusion of natural capital is central to Circle Square, the new urban neighbourhood in the heart of Manchester’s innovation district, being created by Bruntwood and Select Property Group. Aiming to attract technology-focused businesses and exciting, innovative retail and leisure operators, Circle Square has been designed with health-enhancing green space at its heart. It will create 5.5 acres of green space and be home to 180 semi-mature trees and more than 1000 plants, shrubs and bushes. When it comes to addressing pollution alone, the trees being planted at Circle Square will create over 48,000 pounds of extra oxygen per year.

We want the Manchester community to feel a sense of ownership in connection with this new green space. It’s important that people help to shape what we’re doing at Circle Square. And our recently launched Shape Your Green City campaign, which is canvassing the Manchester public for their ideas on how best to bring nature to the cityscape, will ensure the neighbourhood reflects what people want.

We’re also playing a key role in the City of Trees project – a movement that aims to reinvigorate Greater Manchester’s landscape by restoring 2,000 hectares of underused, unloved woodland and planting 3 million trees – one for every man, woman and child living in the city region, within a generation.

Planting trees helps us to create green, beautiful cities that people want to walk or cycle around and enjoy. And this gives us a means of getting people up on their feet and active. Urban development that is designed to lessen our dependency on cars and stimulate regular exercise is essential. We can encourage cycling to work by ensuring that buildings offer modern facilities for cyclists. Circle Square, for instance, incorporates 1000 spaces for bikes.

We’ll also be getting behind Manchester’s clean air day, on 21st June, which will encourage people to leave the car at home for one day a week; car-share when possible; work from home more regularly; walk and cycle more often; and encourage friends to do the same. It’s all moving in the right direction.

On a smaller-scale, we can help to reconnect city residents with nature by bringing the outside into their workplaces. Greenery in the workplace not only improves air quality and reduces stress, but also creates a more aesthetically pleasing atmosphere, boosting happiness and health. It’s why we’re embracing biophilic design principles in the design of the workspaces in our commercial buildings, incorporating natural materials such as timber and green walls, along with plants, artificial gardens and plenty of natural light into our schemes.

If we can get to a place where everyone working in a city can encounter nature and green space as part of their daily life, we will surely make a difference in terms of health and well-being. And that’s an aspiration we need to have as our city populations explode in the decades to come.

Circle Square

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