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Green Up Campaign: Interview with GreenBlue Urban

One of the Green Up Campaign’s sponsors, GreenBlue Urban, talks about some of the biggest benefits supermarkets could gain from greening up their car parks and offers some tips.

Why do you feel the Green Up Campaign is needed? 

Supermarkets, retail parks and other “sheds” are typically noted for large areas of impermeable car parking for customers, often devoid of trees or other green infrastructure. There are financial reasons for this – maintenance, liabilities, etc., but this short-term approach is, in fact, losing retailers potential revenue. For retailers themselves, there are many benefits trees offer to contribute towards improving the environment of shopping areas:

Clients, landowners and developers are learning that multi-functional green infrastructure can be installed to deal with some of the challenges that we are facing.

1. Aesthetics – Visual preference ratings were higher for shopping areas with trees and much lower when trees were not present. This was particularly the case when large mature trees provide canopy cover over the pavement and/or car park.

2. Distance perception – People are willing to travel further and more frequently to visit retail environments with mature tree cover. Shoppers have also indicated that upon arriving, they will spend more time with trees.

3. Product pricing – Shoppers surveyed were willing to pay 9% to 12% more for goods and services in shopping areas with large, well-cared for, mature trees.  

Clients, landowners and developers are learning that multi-functional green infrastructure can be installed to deal with some of the challenges that we are facing – whether it is sustainable drainage benefits, heat reduction benefits or just trying to create a better ambience, healthy trees are part of the answer to our urban issues. Working with industry specialists, GreenBlue Urban has pioneered solutions to allow trees in hard paving to thrive, to the benefit of all that work, live, play and shop in these areas.

GreenBlue Urban and Treeconomics have published the Street Tree Cost Benefit Analysis – the most comprehensive “return on investment” guide for urban tree planting. Further research shows that by using industry-leading pavement support/soil cell system, long-term canopy growth can be guaranteed.

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What good and bad experiences have you had with landscaping in supermarket car parks? 

All retail outlets have good and poor landscaped stores. Some retailers such as Waitrose and M&S generally have better landscaping, but it often depends on whether there is a ‘landscape champion’ in the local authority who insists on high quality planting and maintenance.

What would you like to see change? 

Greater collaboration between the client, specifier and contractor is needed, not just to ensure that early plans are met but to guarantee that maintenance programmes are in place, particularly for the early establishment of trees. It’s safe to say that thereafter the trees will look after themselves – just a general prune and tidy would be needed. The landscape professionals need to be involved in these projects as early as possible, as there will sometimes be constraints that cannot be altered, and thus must be designed around.

Shoppers surveyed were willing to pay 9% to 12% more for goods and services in shopping areas with large, well-cared for mature trees.

It’s all too easy when designing an urban space to begin with what we want above ground. However, GreenBlue Urban believes that good design starts below ground. In our experience, the best results come where below-ground constraints are considered first; ground-penetrating radar surveys, utility mapping and historical knowledge often can guide initial designs without costly changes needing to be made later in the project.

In conclusion, when considering the benefits and return-on-investment needed on a retail project, remember what healthy trees can offer and what it takes to create them.

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