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Considerable potential of urban green spaces wasted

The potential of urban green spaces is vastly underexploited. In many cities, this is due to a lack of awareness, appreciation and financial resources. Such was the conclusion of this year’s ZHAW conference on green space management, which addressed the issue of labels and certifications for urban green spaces. The newly launched label “Grünstadt Schweiz” makes a significant contribution towards better tapping the potential of a development of public green spaces which is sustainable and promotes diversity.

The “Ausgezeichnetes Grün!” conference, which was held in Wädenswil on 3 November, presented concrete examples of new and established labels and certification systems designed to promote the sustainability of urban green spaces. The conference was attended by about 230 people from municipal government and the private sector who were interested in the possibilities of green-space quality certification and in how public green spaces, parks, company premises and private gardens contribute to the biodiversity and liveability of cities.

Examples from the field
The conference speakers showed how standards, certifications and labels can help to create high-quality green spaces and to preserve them in the long term through resource-saving maintenance. Design, ecology and the needs of users all need to be considered at the same time, landscape architect Rolf Heinisch explained in his talk. Markus Allemann, who runs a Bioterra-certified company which designs natural gardens, stressed the importance of using native plant species and the fact that that all his business operations focus on continually improving the ecological balance.

Manja Van Wezemael from the quality label “Natur & Wirtschaft”, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2016, explained the added value and the positive effects of living and working environments that are designed and certified to be near-natural. She stressed that such environments can benefit a company’s image and increase employee satisfaction. Heidi Oswald, Project Manager Environment for the Federation of Migros Cooperatives, explained how the Migros sustainability programme “Generation M” has created more than 2.7 million square metres of certified near-natural habitat for plants and animals.

Untapped potential of public and private land
Gabriella Silvestri, deputy section head at the Federal Office for the Environment, remarked that although biodiversity plays an important role in residential areas and contributes significantly to the population’s quality of life, the ecological potential of green spaces in towns, cities and suburban areas on either public or on private land is nowhere near fully exploited. Labels recognising special achievements and biodiversity-friendly activities, she said, promote awareness and increase motivation, as well as highlighting the urgent need to consider biodiversity in decision-making processes.

New label: “Grünstadt Schweiz”
Pascale Haas presented the “Grünstadt Schweiz” certification system, which was developed with help from the ZHAW’s “Freiraummanagement” (open-space management) research group. This label, which is awarded by the association of Swiss city nurseries and parks departments (“Vereinigung Schweizerischer Stadtgärtnereien und Gartenbauämter”), helps municipalities ensure that the design and maintenance of urban green spaces are sustainable and promotes the implementation of measures to benefit biodiversity. In his talk, Cornel Suter, the head of Lucerne’s city nursery, showed how Lucerne is preparing to ensure a successful audit. He said that certification not only helps to make the city nursery’s achievements visible to the outside world but also serves to improve internal processes.

Exemplary project: “Greencity”
Jürgen Friedrichs from the Losinger Marazzi AG construction company presented the exemplary “Greencity” project in Zurich, which is initiated and led by the company. The aim of the project is to create a development which carries the label “2000-Watt-Areal”. Friedrichs pointed out that this label includes criteria not only to keep energy consumption low but also to promote high-quality outdoor areas with valuable green spaces. Bastiaan Frich presented various projects initiated by the Urban Agriculture network in Basel to show that the idea of an “edible city” is by no means utopian.

Form coalitions for more nature in urban spaces
In the final address, Florian Brack and Reto Locher from the ZHAW “Freiraummanagement” (open space management) research group proposed the idea of forming a coalition which would involve all the players concerned, not least with the aim of generating more financial resources to promote biodiversity. They made the provocative claim that it will take a direct payment model such as the one used in agriculture to incorporate more nature in living and working areas.

Conference documentation: (in German)

The next conference on green space management (“Fachtagung Grünflächenmanagement”) will take place on 2 November 2017.

(PDF 55,8 KB)

Specialist media contact
Florian Brack, head of “Freiraummanagement” research group, Institute of Natural Resource Sciences, School of Life Sciences and Facility Management, ZHAW/Wädenswil. 058 934 59 26,

Media Relations ZHAW, Wädenswil
Cornelia Sidler, Media Relations, School of Life Sciences and Facility Management, ZHAW/Wädenswil. 058 934 53 66,