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25 JUNE 2018 URBAN



Green urban spaces, green infrastructure,

and urban resilience

The ADB established the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund KEY THEMES:
(UCCRTF) in 2013 to support climate change resilience through the Green urban spaces, green
infrastructure, urban resilience,
delivery of infrastructure and institutional interventions in medium-sized
nature-based solutions
cities in Asia. The UCCRTF provides an important opportunity for the ADB
to demonstrate leadership and scale-up global investment in building LENGTH:
resilience to the effects of climate variability and climate change, particularly 12 pages
for the urban poor.
This note is recommended
Green infrastructure and other ‘nature based solutions’ are included in
reading for Project Officers and
the portfolio of interventions supported by the UCCRTF to support urban
those working within the ADB to
climate change resilience. This document provides concise definitions of prepare and implement projects
green urban spaces, green infrastructure, and nature-based solutions. A relating to green infrastructure,
series of examples are provided to demonstrate how practitioners may nature based solutions, urban
adopt green infrastructure alongside traditional ‘grey’ infrastructure solutions resilience, climate change, or
disaster risk reduction.
to strengthen urban resilience, climate change mitigation and adaptation,
and disaster risk reduction.

What is green infrastructure? What is green urban space?

Green infrastructure is a nature based, systems approach to the design of Green urban space is an area of vegetated land within an urban or
infrastructure. Green infrastructure is both an integrated network of natural suburban area that is accessible to the public for (predominantly)
and semi-natural assets, and a strategic planning approach using natural recreational use and to provide visual amenity.1
processes to manage water, temperature and air quality.2 These outcomes
can help to support city resilience and sustainability. Green urban spaces can range from urban parks and
sports fields and other highly maintained environments
to natural landscapes. Green urban spaces may be
Green infrastructure assets are the natural, semi- designed to serve a single function or multiple functions
natural or engineered systems that incorporate or mimic as part of a green infrastructure network - for example,
natural processes to deliver ‘ecosystem services’ and a recreational space that has also been designed to
their associated benefits to human well-being.1 These reduce stormwater runoff.
assets are functionally and structurally interconnected
and perform multiple functions.

Green infrastructure assets are diverse in terms of

© Daniel Imade_Isabel Heinmann_Arup

scale, ownership, purpose and users. They include
individual street trees as well as urban forests, public
parks, and private gardens.

Green infrastructure assets may exist independently or

in combination with ‘grey’ and ‘blue’ infrastructure (refer
overleaf). Examples include bioretention treatment
systems, permeable pavements, constructed wetlands,
and green building elements such as green roofs or
green walls.

Green infrastructure planning is a integrated

approach to land use and infrastructure planning
that promotes nature as a key driver for design of GREEN, GREY Green Infrastructure: natural, semi-natural or
sustainable infrastructure and buildings at all scales engineered systems that incorporate or mimic natural
within and beyond cities. Green infrastructure planning processes to deliver ecosystem services and support
requires close collaboration between communities, INFRASTRUCTURE
human wellbeing. For example, rain gardens and
landowners and institutions to prioritise and incorporate vegetated swales can help manage stormwater runoff
green space and green infrastructure in uban and provide water filtration while also supporting
environments. amenity and traffic segregation.

Grey Infrastructure: conventional engineered

infrastructure that is often constructed to provide
a single function or service. For example, a waste
treatment plant.
While all these types of
! infrastructure can support city
resilience, finding ways to Blue infrastructure: engineered natural and semi-
incorporate all three elements natural water features that are usually integrated with
into the urban landscape in an other (grey or green) city infrastructure systems to
integrated way may provide provide multiple functions. For example, a constructed
greater benefits. wetland..

(1) European Environmental Agency (EEA). 2017. Glossary for urban green infrastructure.
environment/urban-green-infrastructure/glossary-for-urban-green-infrastructure | (2) ADB. 2016. Nature-based solutions for building resilience in towns and cities.

What are ‘nature based solutions?’ What is the contribution of green infrastructure
to climate mitigation, climate change adaptation,
Nature based solutions is a broad term which refers to infrastructure disaster risk reduction, and urban resilience?
approaches that are inspired or supported by nature.

Green infrastructure, along with other nature-based solutions, can

This includes infrastructure which incorporates green engineered infrastructure. :Long-term savings
and blue elements. Nature based solutions are a means can also be achieved by retaining protective contribute to reduced greenhouse emissions, minimise future disruptions
to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or ecosystem functions which avoid or reduce and damage caused by climate change, reduce the risk of damage from
semi-natural ecosystems to cope with urban challenges financial losses when hazard events occur
such as climate change, water security, food security, (for example: riparian zones can reduce the disasters, and ensure that urban residents are able to survive and thrive in
or natural disasters.3 Nature based solutions are often impacts of flooding and wind). the face of a changing environment.
inherently energy and resource-efficient.

Nature based solutions can be implemented alone or

in combination with grey infrastructure. For example, CLIMATE Green infrastructure contributes to climate gases as vegetation absorbs carbon and sequesters CO2
restoring a peri-urban watershed to mitigate flooding CHANGE change mitigation by reducing greenhouse emissions. Green infrastructure can also contribute to the
reduction of emissions-generating activities. For example,
might be achieved through mangrove replanting and MITIGATION gas emissions. by shading a building’s façade and reducing demand
wetland restoration alongside conventional measures for energy for cooling. Green infrastructure assets are
such as concrete flood barriers. Many types of green infrastructure are ‘passive’, also often constructed using fewer carbon-intensive
requiring minimal or no energy source. As such, green construction materials such as concrete and steel.
infrastructure is often a low-carbon solution. Green
Green and blue infrastructure can provide a cost- infrastructure can also target the sources of greenhouse
effective and resource-efficient nature based solution
by reducing the need for capital investment in highly
CLIMATE Green infrastructure can contribute to climate Green infrastructure planning can support the
CHANGE change adaptation by enabling a city to adjust conservation and restoration of existing ecosystem
services, as well as creating new ecosystem services
ADAPTATION to, and learn from climate change related to improve adaptive capacity. Green infrastructure
shocks and stresses, minimising future assets and other nature based solutions can help urban
disruption and damage. environments respond to changing circumstances by
E C O S YS T E M Ecosystem services are the benefits people gain from minimising disruption and damage arising from climate
natural systems. These benefits contribute to human Best-practice green infrastructure planning considers change-related shocks and stresses. For example, green
SERVICES future changes associated with climate change roofs and walls can allow a building to adapt to warmer
health and well-being both directly (for example, clean temperatures without relying on air conditioning.
and identifies green infrastructure solutions to help
air and water) and indirectly (for example, productive manage these challenges.
soils and recreational enjoyment). Ecosystems services
can be grouped into four categories:4
© Bing Thom Architects Inc

DISASTER Green infrastructure contributes to disaster minimising risk of disruption to urban communities and
Supporting services such as habitats for species. RISK risk reduction (DRR) by avoiding (preventing) preventing damage of infrastructure and property.. For
example, restoring vegetation along steep slopes may
REDUCTION or limiting (mitigating and preparing for) the reduce risk of landslide and erosion. Green infrastructure
Provisioning services such as provision of food and adverse impacts of climate change and other assets such as constructed wetlands and vegetated
water. shocks and stresses. spaces can also mitigate flood risk by improving water
storage and retention, and by delaying or reducing peak
Regulating services such as carbon storage and Green infrastructure planning can help to identify the stormwater runoff.
sequestration, wastewater treatment, and runoff opportunity for green space and assets that help to avoid
or limit the adverse impacts of shocks and stresses by

Cultural services such as recreation and aesthetic

benefits. URBAN Green infrastructure contributes to urban providing wayfinding benefits, and by helping to mitigate
RESILIENCE resilience both directly and indirectly through the long-term stress of air pollution. Green infrastructure
may help to improve a city’s flexibility to deal with
delivery of ecosystem services in the city. This uncertainties such as climate change, population and
supports the ability of residents to survive and asset growth.5 For example - urban vegetation can help
thrive regardless of stresses and shocks. to mitigate the impacts of urban heat island effect, which
is typically driven by urban growth and climate change..
Green infrastructure planning can contribute to urban
resilience by supporting community and city recovery
and transformation when shocks and stresses occur.
For example, by managing and reducing flood risk, by

(3) Cohen-Shacham, E., Walters, G., Janzen, C., & Maginnis, S. 2016. Nature-based solutions to address global societal challenges. International Union for (5) World Bank. 2012. Vietnam Urban Briefs—Disaster Risks in the Urban Environment. World Bank. Washington, DC.
Conservation of Nature and Natural Recourses (IUCN). | (4) Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. (2005). Ecosystems and human well-being: synthesis. Washington,
DC: Island Press.

Why implement green infrastructure to

Images by CRC for Water Sensitive Cities

build resilience?

Urban resilience is defined as the ability of the city to support its

residents - particularly its poor and vulnerable - to survive and thrive
no matter what kinds of stresses and shocks they encounter. The
resilience of a city is determined in part by the infrastructure choices
made over time, which can either support or undermine a city’s

Green infrastructure is a cost-effective and efficient

means of improving the relationship between people
and the ecosystems on which they rely. Green
infrastructure also has the potential to reduce the capital
cost of infrastructure and buildings, reduce operational
and maintenance costs, and reduce land acquisition
In Indonesia many communities suffer from a variety costs through smaller environmental footprints.
C A S E S T U DY 1
REVITALIZING INFORMAL of water related stresses including poor water quality
and access, inadequate sanitation and pollution. These A balance of integrated green, blue, and grey
issues are being further exacerbated by climate change. infrastructure is crucial to providing flexibility and
Traditional trunk infrastructure or Water, Sanitation and diversity, which supports urban resilience by enabling
Hygiene (WASH) solutions are not always fit for purpose the city to function under a wide range of conditions.
in urban informal settlements.

To address these issues the Urban Climate Change

Resilience Trust Fund is supporting innovative water
sensitive urban development approaches though
the Revitalization of Informal Settlements and their
Environments (RISE) project in Makassar. The pilot
is adopting green and blue infrastructure such as
multifunctional green spaces, rainwater harvesting
catchments, restored natural waterways to support flood
resilience, and ecosystems approaches to wastewater

© Arup, Thomas Balsley Associates and Weiss/Manfredi

recycling. This integrated approach targets multiple
benefits including improved water quality, reduced
external contamination, improved domestic sanitation
and water security.

The project is being delivered through participatory

co-design of nature based solutions with communities
and local partners, including extensive outreach and
community engagement. This is helping to ensure that
the project solutions are appropriate, achieve high
levels of up-take, and are managed and sustained by
the community in the long-term.
Lessons from the pilot project will be shared across
ADB, with the hope that these new approaches may
more widely contribute to the resilience of communities,
now and in the future.6

(6) ADB, 2018. Revitalization of Informal Settlements and their Environments TA Concept Paper.

How is green infrastructure integrated into city

Image by ADB 2017

development plans, sector specific plans, and

physical interventions?

▪▪ Supporting services such as habitats for
▪▪ Provisioning services such as provision of
food and water
▪▪ Regulating services such as carbon storage
and sequestration, wastewater treatment,
and runoff reduction
▪▪ Cultural services such as recreation and
Developed by the Philippines’ Bases Conversion aesthetic benefits
C A S E S T U DY 2
and Development Authority (BCDA), ‘New Clark City’
GREEN URBAN PLANNING is a greenfield development on a former airbase
site designed for 1.2 million residents and 800,000
employees. ADB’s Office of Public-Private Partnership BLUE-GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE
(OPPP) and the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust
Fund are supporting BCDA to achieve its vision of being ▪▪ Urban forestry
an environmentally sustainable and disaster-resilient ▪▪ Riparian corridor
city. Initial support includes review of the New Clark City ▪▪ Green roofs and walls
Master Plan, development of a Resilience Framework ▪▪ Bioretention systems
and River Study to inform site development. ▪▪ Street tree
▪▪ Permeable pavements
The River Study analysed physical planning, economic
feasibility, and infrastructure engineering for a ▪▪ Urban farming
river which transects the site. The study found that
maintaining the natural river corridor and floodplain
instead of a planned walled, highly-engineered river
channel would minimize flood risk and yield significant GREY INFRASTRUCTURE
cost savings due to reduced earthworks and ecological
modification. Reducing the number of highly-engineered ▪▪ Transport network
river crossings and instead electing for smaller-footprint ▪▪ Utilities and services
crossings integrated with natural environmental features
and open space would reduce capital expenditure
and long-term maintenance costs. Integrating a River
Park Corridor would also provide recreational value,
biodiversity protection, health and wellbeing benefits,
and land value capture.7.

(7) ADM. Bouw and B Stigge. 2017. New Clark City River Study. ADB, November 2017.

How is is green infrastructure integrated into city FURTHER INFORMATION

development plans, sector specific plans,

and physical interventions? Frameworks, guidelines, and international Organisations
▪▪ The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, developed ▪▪ The International Union for Conservation of Nature
The examples below demonstrate how green infrastructure can support by the UN, provides a global framework for assessing and Natural Resources (IUCN) works across a
climate change mitigation efforts, improve wellbeing, reduce costs, and how changes in ecosystem services affect human wide range of themes related to conservation, and
create opportunities for a city’s residents to survive and thrive. well-being, and what types of responses, including sustainable use of natural resources. IUCN developed
green infrastructure, can be adopted to improve guidelines and principles for green infrastructure
ecosystem management and thereby contribute to planning in collaboration with UNEP.
human well-being and poverty alleviation. ▪▪ GREEN SURGE is a collaborative research and
CLIMATE CHANGE LANDSLIDE SLOPE BIODIVERSITY URBAN NOISE ▪▪ The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity policy initiative supported by the EU to advance urban
MITIGATION AND STABILISATION AND ENHANCEMENT, REDUCTION (TEEB) is a global initiative focused on making green infrastructure planning and implementation, and
COOLING EROSION CONTROL CORRIDORS AND The US EPA found that trees nature’s values visible. Its principal objective is to support more resilient and low-impact European cities.
A mature street tree can absorb Green Infrastructure elements HABITAT LINKAGES and shrubs can reduce urban mainstream the values of biodiversity and ecosystem ▪▪ The US EPA operates the Green Streets, Green
more than 22 kg of carbon such as brush mattress noise (such as traffic) by 3 to
Selecting appropriate native
5 decibels, while wide, dense services into decision-making at all levels, including in Jobs, Green Towns (G3) Program, which supports
dioxide annually from the and vegetated gabions can green infrastructure can provide
atmosphere and release oxygen produce better results for slope significant biodiversity benefits. mature trees can reduce noise urban planning. communities that are using green infrastructure to
by half. 9
in exchange. One 2016 example stabilisation with 48% less cost For example, the incorporation ▪▪ Agenda 21, developed by the UN, is a comprehensive reduce stormwater.
calculated the value of absorbed than compared with conventional of 200 ha constructed wetlands
carbon at $24.80 AUD per metric or ‘grey’ engineering solutions. plan of action that sets out sustainability expectations ▪▪ Nature 2000 is an environmental conservation
into the Putrajaya Lakesystem
tonne.8 These solutions may also provide in Malaysia resulted in an WATER QUALITY AND across a range of areas impacted by humans. Urban developed by EU and applied across 28 EU countries
additional benefits such as increase in the number of FLOOD MANAGEMENT areas and the built environment present important to ensure the long-term survival of Europe’s most
Trees can reduce surface and improved water quality, increased birds in the area by more than
air temperature by providing wildlife habitat, and improved 400%, from 10 to 167 species.
▪ Green roofs, permeable challenges, and green infrastructure provides a key valuable and threatened species and habitats.
pavement and bioretention
shade and cooling through aesthetics.10 This project also delivered key systems can achieve annual opportunity to address the environmental impacts of ▪▪ Many other international and regional partnerships
evapotranspiration. Shaded environmental functions such as
surfaces may be 11-25°C cooler
stormwater reduction of up cities. include cities and the urban green environment as
nutrient removal performance to 45-60%, 45-75% and 80%
than surrounding areas.9 HEALTH AND (82.11% for total nitrogen, ▪▪ The EU R&I agenda on ‘Nature-Based Solutions and part of their programs. These include the Greener
PRODUCTIVITY 70.73% for nitrate-nitrogen and Re-Naturing Cities’ is focused on new and innovative Cities Partnership of UNEP and UN-Habitat, and the
84.32% for phosphate in 2004).
Providing green infrastructure
A UNESCO assessment of the
The Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park nature-based solutions to societal challenges, but also Resilient Cities initiative of Local Governments for
OTHER ECONOMIC can provide wayfinding, amenity and Kallang River Restoration
ecosystem services provided Project in Singapore incorporated builds on and supports other closely related concepts Sustainability (ICLEI).
BENEFITS and recreational benefits which
by these constructed wetlands
encourage healthy behaviours. green infrastructure elements and policies, such as the ecosystem approach,
The Australian Government aestimated the benefits at USD to increase river conveyance
identified four costs that are
For example, a $12m saving in
1,381,296,965.96.11 ecosystem services, ecosystem-based adaptation and
healthcare costs was achieved capacity by 40%, alongside
avoided when foot or cycle paths as a result of 10% more cycling biodiversity and community mitigation, and natural, green and blue infrastructure.
are used in favor of private cars, benefits.15
in Copenhagen. This may deliver
resulting in savings of $121.91 increased productivity of $31m REDUCED ENERGY
per year per kilometer.8 ▪ The Shanghai Houtan Park
and an extra 61,000 years of CONSUMPTION
life.”13 Project
Green open spaces - depending Green infrastructure can provide (which includes a constructed
on size, condition and location - a passive cooling system for wetland, ecological flood control,
Desk workers who can see a
may add 5% to 15% to the total buildings and infrastructure. reclaimed industrial structures
green environment from their
value of a property.13 One study demonstrated that and urban agriculture) cleans up
desks experience 23% less time
off sick than those that have an an individual tree can reduce to 634,000 gallons of polluted
entirely urban view. Workers also the annual cooling and heating river water daily, sequesters
report greater job satisfaction.”13 energy use of the adjacent around 242 tons of carbon The Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) is a multi-donor trust fund established in
building by almost 1% and annually, and saves around 2013 with the objective of building the resilience of 2.2 million people in 25 cities in eight countries in Asia.
2% respectively in a humid $116,800/year through water
It aims to reduce risks faced by vulnerable communities and assets from extreme weather events through
continental climate.12 recycling.16
better city planning and climate-resilient infrastructure.

The trust fund is administered by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) with contributions from the
Governments of the United Kingdom and Switzerland and the Rockefeller Foundation.
(8) Pakzad, P.2017. Cities within the gardens: An indicator-based model for assessing sustainability performance of urban green infrastructure.UNSW. | (9) The
United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). 2008. Reducing Urban Heat Islands: Compendium of strategies. | (10) ADB. 2015. Green Infrastructure
for Resilient Mekong Towns, Volume 2 of the Resource Kit for Building Resilience and Sustainability in Mekong Towns, Prepared by ICEM for the Asian Development
Bank and Nordic Development Fund. Manila (TA 8186). | (11) Roseli, Z.A. 2018. Mobilizing Science for Healthy Ecosystems. Prepared for the 8th World Water For further information on the UCCRTF, please contact:
Forum 2018, under the coordination of UNESCO Office Jakarta as Asia and the Pacific Regional Process ecosystems theme leader. (12) The United States Virinder Sharma
Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). 2014. The Economic Benefits of Green Infrastructure A Case Study of Lancaster, PA. | (13) Arup. 2016. Cities Alive:
Rethinking green infrastructure. | (14) Battiata, J. et al.2010. The runoff reduction method. Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education 146(1):11 - 21.|
(15) Atelier Dreiseitl, 2012. Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and Kallang River. |
(16) Landscape Architecture Foundation. Shanghai Houtan Park. Available at: