On the 7th April every year, World Health Day seeks to raise awareness of subjects that are of major importance to global health. In 2018, the World Health Organisation will use the occasion to call for universal healthcare for all, estimating that half the world still lacks access to essential health services.
As a stimulus to push for change on a global basis, World Health Day is a valuable initiative. Healthy populations drive economic performance and prosperity, supporting the success of future generations.
And with more people than ever choosing to live in cities, improving the well-being of our urban populations is crucial. This focus on natural capital was one of the key themes at MIPIM 2018. As a creator of new urban spaces, Bruntwood is keenly aware of the need to harness the power of place-making when it comes to enhancing the well-being of city dwellers.
But with urban populations booming and property developments becoming ever-taller and denser, how do we prevent cities from being bad for our health?
Much benefit can be derived from the inclusion of green space in urban development. A recent report 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.’
Today in Manchester there are a number of civic initiatives aiming to capitalise and improve the city’s natural assets, including Mayor Andy Burnham’s recent Green Summit and its pledge to phase out the use of single use plastics in Greater Manchester by 2020, as well as dozens of great community initiatives such as the City of Trees.
Natural capital is central to Bruntwood’s new Circle Square neighbourhood in Manchester’s innovation district, which it is creating in partnership with Select Property Group. Aiming to attract technology-focused businesses and exciting, quirky or disruptive 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, plant over 180 semi-mature trees and over 1000 plants, shrubs and bushes. When it comes to addressing pollution alone, the trees we are planting at Circle Square will create over 48,000 pounds of extra oxygen per year.
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, as developers, a means of getting people up on their feet and active.
Certainly, as a nation, we need to be more active. According to Public Health England, physical inactivity is responsible for one in six UK deaths (equal to smoking) and is estimated to cost the UK £7.4 billion annually, so 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 bicycle spaces.
Psychological as well as physical well-being can be impacted by green space too, with communal outdoor areas encouraging social interaction in urban communities, helping to tackle loneliness and isolation, while providing a calming, open environment for people to relax in.
Incorporating green spaces and pedestrian/cyclist friendly infrastructure into urban planning and development design will help to generate the vibrant and vital urban communities of the future.
At Circle Square, we have worked closely with our architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and landscape consultancy Planit-IE to create an extraordinary place which will offer not only engaging workspaces, but a stimulating, green environment to inspire creative thinking.
Population migration to cities is happening across the world, so by making our cities greener and healthier places to be, we help to make the world a greener and healthier place to be – something for all of us to bear in mind on World Health Day.
Ciara Keeling, Bruntwood’s Director of Asset Management