Situated along the south side of Tucson, the STAR Academic High School (STAR), is one of four high schools in Sunny Unified School District. STAR is located in a relatively low-income neighborhood that is comprised of sparse vegetation and high impermeable surface cover. Green infrastructure has the potential to mitigate these impacts and further provide benefits for the overall community.
University of Arizona (UA) Master in Landscape Architecture students recently presented a landscape design for STAR Academic High School to a jury composed of school representatives, Rene Corrales (Star Academic High School), and members of the team Tucson Verde para Todos, including Andrea Gerlak (UA School of Geography & Development and Udall Center), Joaquin Murrieta (Watershed Management Group), Claudio Rodriguez (TYLO), and Adriana Zuniga (UA CAPLA and Udall Center). The UA students presented in two teams (for the east and west parts of the school campus) that worked to stitch together a master plan.
Landscape designers seek to create landscapes that entail sustainability and ecological and socioeconomic resiliency. However, in a rapidly urbanizing world, creating such spaces has become cumbersome. Economic and social complexities in addition to climate change have resulted in significant risk accumulation and uncertainty for several cities across different regions. Especially in the case urban development, neighborhoods with insufficient or inadequate infrastructure in the built environment, have a higher risk of impacts during catastrophic events.
The University of Arizona (UA) Green Fund recently approved $25,025 in funding for the project “Addressing environmental injustice around green infrastructure in Tucson, Arizona.”
As the world becomes urbanized and climate change is making weather and natural resource distribution more volatile, the need for urban resilience is crucial. The expansion of urban infrastructure requires changing natural land cover from vegetated and pervious to impervious (e.g., concrete and asphalt). But as storm weather events intensify, cities become more vulnerable to floods.
Green infrastructure (GI) is being recognized around the world as an effective strategy to reduce flooding and enhance resilience and water security in cities. Peru is interested in using this type of technology to adapt to climate change and provide greater water security for its citizens.
Many cities in the world have invested in grey infrastructure for stormwater management. Grey infrastructure usually includes storm drains, sewers, and combined sewer systems (CSS) – or systems that use a single pipeline network to transport stormwater runoff and wastewater to treatment plants. Approximately 722 cities in the U.S. depend on CSS that transport stormwater runoff and wastewater to treatment plants. In the UK, 70% of the stormwater is managed using CSS.
How physically active are you may depend, in part, on the design of your neighborhood. University of Arizona researcher Adriana Zuniga-Teran is a co-PI of the Haury funded project Engaging Communities for an Equitable, Connected, and Greener Tucson, at the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy. She and her coauthors examined the effects of four different neighborhood designs on physical activity and wellbeing, including (1) traditional development, (2) suburban development, (3) enclosed communities, and (4) cluster housing.
Green infrastructure (GI) – or spaces with permeable surfaces dominated by vegetation – has been shown to have numerous positive community benefits. These include: less noise and stress that affect mental health, reduced air pollution that affect respiratory diseases, and an enhanced thermal comfort that encourage physical activity and social interaction. Below, we discuss a recently-funded project in southern Arizona that looks at how green infrastructure can involve low-income communities and in so doing, enhance the quality of life of residents. In cities, one of the GI techniques that yields well-recognized benefits is stormwater management, which can reduce floods and enhance resilience. Where such techniques are employed, GI has a basin-like form and the surrounding areas need to have sufficient slope to direct stormwater to the GI, allowing its infiltration into the aquifers. This way, GI not only reduces floods and their subsequent damages to urban infrastructure, but it also replenishes aquifers enhancing water security. This is particularly the case in arid cities that depend on groundwater as their main water source.