Urban France and its methods of merging with nature

The media is launching a special project. Its essence lies in the publication of information on improving the approaches of different countries in relation to the natural environment. This article focuses on the ongoing changes in habitat views in France.

The penetration of nature in cities

The country is trying to replace the policy used in the past, which included dense settlement development. Now such projects that will work for the protection of nature (or natural solutions) are considered more correct and interests. These solutions help to preserve the environment, provide an opportunity to prepare for climate change and even deal with its consequences. They also ensure food security and access to clean drinking water.

This approach to ecology opens up new opportunities for the prevention of unexpected natural hazards, for the care of people and their health, and for the protection of the diversity of living conditions in all their manifestations. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) of France offers such solutions not only in its own country, but all over the world.

But this is just a theory, but what does reality look like?

If you reach the town of Prades-les-Lez, you will see the following image: it is several tens of kilometers from the sea on one side and the Cévennes massif on the other. Masses of clouds form above the sea and the wind leads them to the mountains, over which the clouds pour a short but heavy rain. For the city and its inhabitants, this turns into casualties, some parts of the city are subject to floods, infrastructure is degraded or completely destroyed. In the area, this phenomenon is called “Karavens Cevennes”, and every year it becomes more and more frequent and stronger.

And the main reason lies not only in the changing climatic conditions, but also in the increase of the population of the city, which started at the end of the last century, because this leads to the development of new areas. Prades-les-Lez is located in the Occitania region and about 50,000 new residents come there each year. Of course, they can not do without infrastructure in the form of houses, roads, shops, educational institutions, etc.

In this part of the country, an area of ​​about 2.7 million parking spaces is filled with buildings every year. And this is 5 parking spaces per minute!

The surface of the earth with such a growth rate can not absorb a large amount of rainfall and from this the damage from the reported Cevennes storms increases significantly.

To solve this problem, in one of the districts of the city, for the sake of experimentation, a project called “green” amphitheater was implemented. It has large green plantations throughout the area, where the low buildings are connected to each other. This solution is called physiocentric. According to Mark Lanson, an architect and construction partner, the idea was not only to solve an existing problem, but also to use water to improve biodiversity in the central part of the region. He owned the development of the project, which has been around for about 15 years, called Viala-Vostok, for which he was awarded the Eco-Quarter label.

To receive this signal, you must perform a series of specific actions: the signing of the Charter of the same name, which contains 20 obligations in four categories related to the results of the work performed in relation to the inhabitants, the environment, the schedule and quality of implementation. This type of award is given only to projects that focus on the protection and preservation of the environment that are in line with the goals of sustainable development. Their meaning is to improve the quality of human life and at the same time minimize the negative effects on the world around us.

The aim of the project was to offer the residents of the area green spaces near the house. For the Viala-Vostok area, we have selected plant species that adapt easily to different soil types, weather conditions and do not require careful maintenance. However, Mark Lanson argues that although these plants require less maintenance, these areas still cost more than concrete surfaces for maintenance, which is why green spaces are considered urban gardens.

Creation of the “green” project Viala-Vostok

In the middle of the last century, Prades-les-Lez was considered a village because there were only 900 people in it, there was only one town hall and one church. Visitors loved this place for its wildness, tranquility, silence. That’s why they moved there. And for the last 40 years, identical prefabricated houses have been growing here, by leaps and bounds. Most couples bought 2 cars each and families with children already bought three or four. Today, the city is inhabited by about 6 thousand people.

In the year 2000, a bill was passed for an agreement on urban planning and urban restructuring. The conclusion is that it was necessary to allocate at least 20% of the built buildings for social recruitment, otherwise the local government would face a fine. The Viala-Vostok project was developed in the same years and its aim was to cover the lack of such buildings. Rental dwellings began to coexist with private dwellings and only nature could unite the two strata of society.

According to Mark Lanson, the locals, of course, thought differently and it was difficult to agree with them, but they agreed on their desire to keep the existing stunning landscape intact, not to create a stone jungle out of it, so the height of the buildings was limited.

The nature of Viala-Vostok permeates every meter of the territory: it is the frame of the roads, the green in which, as it were, it functions as green corridors and the free space that serves as a home for the animals and insects that live in this area. All public areas and courtyards are fenced, but instead of walls and blind fences, light bar fences are placed, through which small animals can pass freely. Well, most people move on foot or in environmentally friendly transport, for example, by bicycle.

Local authorities are trying define nature as a key element in the improvement of the metropolis. Before proceeding with the development of the project documentation for the implementation of the project, a specially created office carried out a research and a complete study of the trees and the vegetation of the area. Later, during the design, it was possible to preserve and include in the project not only two large groups of trees that became parks, but also dozens of trees that stand separately.

What other projects exist in France

In the northwest of the country, in Change, there is the ecological district La Barberry. Even during its construction, feeders for birds and bats were provided for food. During the reconstruction of a former hostel in Grenoble in southeastern France, slopes were provided for the movement of amphibians and warm-blooded animals moving towards the water. In the suburbs of Paris, the so-called ecological district of the Docks, metal structures were installed for the smooth growth and life of plants, which are a kind of protection of the building from destruction due to natural phenomena, such as. such as rain, heat or wind.

New street lighting has been installed in these areas and in many others. At night, the lighting does not work, which makes the life of local animals more comfortable, because in the dark it becomes easier to navigate and reproduce. The authorities respect mother nature so much that they trust her even to take care of herself with the help of various animals. So, for example, not far from Prades-les-Lez, described earlier, the lawns in the park were left to cut and put in order a flock of sheep! And the organization from Toulouse even proposes to the local government to take care of all the meadows and glades around the city and its streets in a similar way.

The relevance of comfort to the development of cities

Ecology is multifaceted and can manifest in different ways. Therefore, it is very important for architects, when developing their original projects, to take into account many different factors – from the soil, the composition of the species of flora to the weather conditions and climate change.

During construction, it is necessary to do everything possible to create comfortable conditions for future residents of the facilities under construction, they must be able to be protected from climate change.

At the beginning of the XXI century. very strong heat was observed in the countries of Europe – it was one of the strongest cases. For a long time the thermometer showed extreme temperatures. Not all citizens could find green islands where they could hide in the shade of trees. In France alone the heat has cost the lives of 20 thousand people and in Europe this number has exceeded 70 thousand cases. In addition, plants have a positive effect on air quality, which is a major problem for many cities.

In late 2020, environmentalists made a disappointing prediction that required immediate action. According to their observations, almost one million representatives of the local flora and fauna are on the verge of extinction, which will adversely affect biodiversity and the state of the ecosystem as a whole. They called for everything possible to be done to preserve natural sites, especially cities.

Architects are now beginning to make changes to their designs in an effort to limit human impact on nature.

And yet, it is not at all easy to turn to an urban way of life with the protection and preservation of nature. For example, before the elections of the same year, already mentioned, in 2020, the mayor of the city, whose term was ending, promised to create urban forests. However, when he was re-elected, it turned out that there was nowhere to create them. There were many questions about the already built stone sites. What plant species will be able to adapt to this soil and how will existing infrastructure coexist with forests?

And most importantly, the question arose – where to find the funds to implement these ideas? Indeed, the development and implementation of such projects will require a lot of money.


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