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Awakening the sleeping giant of urban green in times of crisis—coverage, co-creation and practical guidelines for optimizing biodiversity-friendly and health-promoting residential greenery

Mohr-Stockinger, Sonja; Sanft, Simone J.; Büttner, Frederike; Butenschön, Sylvia; Rennert, Rhea; Säumel, Ina

As multiple crises deepen existing inequalities in urban societies within and between neighborhoods, strategically integrating nature-based solutions into the living environment can help reduce negative impacts and improve public health, social cohesion, and well-being. Compared to public green such as parks, semi-public residential greenery is rarely studied, is regularly overlooked by planners, and often receives step-motherly treatment from architects and housing companies. We approximated the area of residential greenery of modernist multi-story apartment complexes in Berlin, Germany. We surveyed residents’ suggestions for improving their living environments in vulnerable neighborhoods, report on co-creation experiences, and provide a practical guideline for optimizing health-promoting residential green spaces. The semi-public open space on the doorstep of two-thirds of Berlin’s population is highly fragmented and, in total, has a similar area as the public green spaces and a great potential for qualitative development. Just as the suitability of different nature-based solutions to be integrated into the residential greenery depends on building types, resident demands differ between neighborhoods. Residents called for more involvement in design, implementation, and maintenance, frequently proposing that biodiversity-friendly measures be included. As there is no universal solution even for neighborhoods sharing similar structural and socioeconomic parameters, we propose, and have tested, an optimization loop for health-promoting residential greening that involves exploring residents’ needs and co-creating local solutions for urban regeneration processes that can be initiated by different actors using bottom-up and/or top-down approaches in order to unlock this potential for healthy, livable and biodiversity friendly cities.
Published in: Frontiers in Public Health, 10.3389/fpubh.2023.1175605, Frontiers