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2005 04 01
Speculation Three - Green Infrastructure
imageimageIn 1993, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment issued its first smog advisory. The number of smog warnings since that time has increased rapidly: Toronto has averaged sixteen a year over the past four years. This year, for the first time, an advisory was issued in the winter.

Air pollution is as detrimental as SARS to the city’s well being. Medical care, lost tourism revenue, reduced productivity and negative media reports counter the image of the city as a place to visit or live. That equates to real financial loss.

Studies have shown that one tree close to the source of urban smog is as effective a bio-filter as fifteen trees remote from the source. This suggests that, while the current greenbelt legislation will curb sprawl and increase the density of existing urban and suburban fabric (enabling a mass transportation system and reduced car use), addition planting is still required to significantly improve air quality in the city.

Rather than considering trees as picturesque devices for city beautification, this proposal would treat them as green infrastructure and as necessary as sewers, power, water supply and roads. In the Ontario Planning Act adequate infrastructure is required for development to occur; for example - no sewer, no development.

At present, the city’s planting standards project a mere seven-year life expectancy for street trees. Current planting technology, however, can insure long duration growth. For example, isolation planting eliminates car vibrations, which compacts soil and suffocates the tree. Planted at the same time sewers and cables are placed or replaced, green infrastructure would predate building. Rather than requiring developers to spend money on the landscape after building is complete, trees would already be growing towards maturity long before the final build-out. Money would be generated through the collection of monthly service charges similar to utility fees such as gas, hydro and water.

While most infrastructure is largely invisible, planting trees - a critical machine for air improvement - also pleases the eye. A shady tree-lined road is much more desirable than a barren commercial strip. The shade of a tree reduces air conditioning costs in the summer months. As well, urban trees provide an effective wind barrier at the pedestrian level. Implementing this proposal would increase property values and therefore increase revenues for the city through property tax.
[email this story] Posted by Kevin Weiss on 04/01 at 09:27 AM

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