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Green Infrastructure or blue-green infrastructure is a network providing the “ingredients” for solving urban and climatic challenges by building with nature. The main components of this approach include stormwater management, climate adaptation, less heat stress, more biodiversity, food production, better air quality, sustainable energy production, clean water and healthy soils, as well as the more anthropocentric functions such as increased quality of life through recreation and providing shade and shelter in and around towns and cities. Green infrastructure also serves to provide an ecological framework for social, economic and environmental health of the surroundings.
Nature can be used to provide important services for communities by protecting them against flooding or excessive heat, or helping to improve air, soil and water quality. When nature is harnessed by people and used as an infrastructural system it is called “green infrastructure”. Green infrastructure occurs at all scales. It is most often associated with storm water management systems, which are smart and cost-effective. However, green infrastructure is really a bigger concept and is closely associated with many other things. Green infrastructure also serves to provide an ecological framework for social, economic and environmental health of the surroundings.
"Blue" or Water infrastructure is commonly associated with green infrastructure and referred to as "blue-green" when there is a combination of the two in the design.
Some people might expect that green spaces are excessive to maintain and extravagant in nature, but high-performing green spaces can provide real economic, ecological and social benefits. For example:
In result, high performing green spaces work to create a balance between built and natural environments.
A study in 2012 that focused on 479 green infrastructure projects across the United States, found that 44% of green infrastructure projects reduced costs compared to the 31% that increased the costs. The most notable cost savings were due to reduced stormwater runoff and decreased heating and cooling costs.
Ideas for green urban structures began in the 1870s, with concepts of urban farming and garden allotments. Alternative terminology includes stormwater best management practices (BMPs), source controls, and low impact development (LID) practices.
Green infrastructure concepts originated in mid-1980s proposals for best management practices that would achieve more holistic stormwater quantity management goals for runoff volume reduction, erosion prevention, and aquifer recharge. In 1987, amendments to the U.S. Clean Water Act introduced new provisions for management of diffuse pollutant sources from urban land uses, establishing the regulatory need for practices that unlike conventional drainage infrastructure managed runoff "at source." Under the Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published regulations for municipalities in 1990, requiring the development of storm water pollution prevention plans and the implementation of "source control practices". EPA's 1993 handbook, Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention and Control Planning, identified BMPs to consider in such plans, including vegetative controls, filtration practices and infiltration practices (trenches, porous pavement).
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