Urban trends for 2023: transforming wasted space into sustainable and greener zones

The days of wasted space in residential environments are over. As sensibilities change towards the environment, homeowners and architects alike find themselves looking to create sustainable solutions.

And, with rising inflation coupled with a stagnating property market, people may agree that enhancing the space you have might, for the time being, be the best and most cost-effective option.

With more and more of us living in busy places, we all gravitate towards natural surroundings and are more eco-aware than ever before. Tired of being surrounded by concrete, people want to beautify their spaces rather than waste them, turning outside areas into refreshed and sustainable green zones.

Whether it’s a rooftop garden or something that requires a more thoughtful design like a ‘green roof’, the modern trend is to lovingly transform rather than lose space. 

A roof garden in full bloom.

Sustainable outdoor designs 

We are all aware of climate change, whether that is conserving energy resources or opting to build sustainable solutions in the fabric of our homes. The time has come for architects and inspired homeowners to reinvigorate a bond with nature through creative and often exciting architectural decisions. 

In urban and densely populated residential areas, however, architects and designers are well placed to reconnect buildings, cities, and people to nature and their natural surroundings in transformative ways. A green roof, for example, is one great solution to make a home or property more sustainable. Thanks to the layer of soil, green roofs provide an additional layer of insulation, meaning that their buildings consume less energy for heating and cooling. 

Green roofs.

Designers, urban planners, and homeowners opt to install green roofs for their biodiversity and numerous sustainable qualities. Created through a layer of vegetation, green roofs have a layer of soil that promotes plant growth, with some deeper than others – to provide an irrigation system and more favourable growing conditions.

Green roofs encourage a richly biodiverse ecosystem, retain rainwater and help cool busy environments. They can absorb CO2, helping to make our air quality healthier while also regulating temperature and insulating against noise pollution. In terms of longevity, green roofs help protect the lifespan of roofing materials and help people living nearby promote cleaner air by reducing and converting carbon dioxide. 

The positive impact of green areas

Green areas outside properties, whether domestic or commercial, have more than just aesthetic appeal; they can make our properties and communities more sustainable. In homes, rooftop gardens create a rainwater buffer that delays the discharge of rainwater into the sewer system, preventing floods and overloads while also purifying water and further evaporation through plants.

Being close to nature provides mental and physical wellness boosts, increasing feelings of relaxation and busting stress to create a healing environment for those living and working in them. As well as purifying the air, green areas help to reduce the ambient temperature by absorbing 50% of the sunlight and reflecting 30%. Indoors, in the winter green rooftop gardens act as a protective insulation layer, retaining heat to reduce energy consumption.

A rooftop garden in London.

When sustainable zones can be negative

Of course, the benefits of creating green zones, uplifting your outdoor spaces, and adapting neglected areas within a home must be celebrated as they look to reduce the impact of climate change. While the benefits are great, people must be aware that they come at greater expense than traditional structures, which may force a project over budget. There may be additional maintenance required or the new solutions might use additional resources. 

Adapting architecture for future sustainability

The trend of adapting buildings for sustainability isn’t new, but green roofs are taking things to another level. Today we are seeing clients requesting solar panels, ground source heat pumps, smart technology, and sustainable insulation to be incorporated into their designs.

The cost of solar panels has reduced significantly over the past couple of years making them an even better investment, so many architects, designers, and homeowners are installing and suggesting them. Amazingly, green roofs can even help solar panels run more efficiently as they reduce the immediate temperature to help the panels operate more effectively. Those who adopt a green roof can enjoy a more natural-looking home while reaping the extra benefits of its insulating layer and the knowledge that their home is helping reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere and support biodiversity. Not bad for a roof.

Although there are some drawbacks to creating green outdoor spaces, the positives overwhelm the negatives, and they are an impactful design feature of a home or building. From their back-to-nature aesthetics to their restorative and purifying qualities, designer green zones that are able to rejuvenate a once discarded bleak and dead space are a sustainable design element that looks set to grow in popularity.

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