A key aspect of a livable, sustainable community is melding of the built and natural environments. Robert Northrup, Urban and Community Extension Forester with the University of Florida, examines integration of architecture with the urban forest. Robert discusses how trees create a sense of place and provide a comfortable environment to seek respite in our day-to-day lives. Additionally, a well-designed urban forest can lead to notable energy savings by casting shade onto buildings and moderating the urban heat island effect. Using less energy to cool buildings keeps money in our pockets and reduces air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Urban forestry, the planning and care of trees in the built environment, relies on a community of engaged citizens for its success. Citizens are sometimes reluctant to plant a tree or get involved with urban forestry due to concerns about time, cost, or risk. Robert Northrup discusses community interest in planting and maintaining trees and how education and financial resources can impact citizen attitudes and behaviors. In his discussion, Robert points out that “there are costs to the urban forest, but the benefits outweigh those costs, particularly through good, sound management and use of science to guide planning…to produce a multitude of benefits.”
Cities can be hot, noisy, and crowded environments, all of which affect our physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. Disadvantaged communities often find themselves living in harsh physical environments with limited access to nature and its restorative benefits. Fortunately, urban forests can provide a refuge from the heat and chaos of the city. Robert Northrup reflects on the features of urban forests – shade, solitude, and wildlife – and explains how this environment affects park visitors both physically and mentally. Robert contends that urban forests are indispensable for the well-being of city dwellers.
Living in a hot, humid climate like Tampa, Florida, can make urban areas feel uninviting in the summer. People avoid venturing outside in the heat of the day, which deters the physical activity and mental release that so many desire. Robert Northrup discusses how the city of Tampa has intentionally planned green space in its business districts to encourage people to get outside, which increases shopper foot traffic and boosts worker productivity. Robert also shows off a pocket park where the soil and hardscape has been specially engineered to boost tree growth and longevity, which maximizes shade and comfort.
Urban areas tend to be hotter than outlying natural environments, which can impact air quality and human health. Fortunately, urban forests buffer the heat of the sun and cool the urban environment. In this video, Robert Northrup describes the urban heating phenomenon and its consequences for people and the environment. Heat from the sun warms structural elements, like brick, stone, concrete, and asphalt, which then reradiate the heat overnight, making for uncomfortable temperatures and increased air conditioning demands. Robert also explains how the sun heats cars and asphalt, which then release chemicals that contribute to respiratory disease and damage the atmosphere.