The Geotechnical Implications of Urban Greening

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School of Civil Engineering

Geotechnical Implications of Urban Greening

March 2013
Geotechnical Implications of Urban Greening

March 2013
Report prepared by
(Joshua Webb)

As part of the MEng research project 2012/13

The material in this report was prepared as part of the M.Eng. course in Civil Engineering and should not be published without the permission of The University of Birmingham. The University of Birmingham accepts no responsibility for the statements made in this document.

Executive Summary
Green infrastructure permeates throughout our towns and cities, streets and parks, providing social, economic and environmental benefits to the community. This report identifies large species trees as a major provider of these benefits within urban greening. Large species trees are unique in their ability to provide these benefits whilst allowing the functionality of the urban environment to continue unhindered. Research from around the world supports the fact that large species trees are the single most significant mechanism within urban greening in terms of environmental benefits.

However, large species trees are also responsible for the majority of geotechnical problems in the urban environment. This is a result of the interaction between their large root structures and the surrounding grey infrastructure. Urban environments are challenging places to plant large species trees due to the competition for subterranean space with utilities and foundations. Where roots and grey infrastructure do interact a variety of implications can be seen.

The main geotechnical issues within the urban environment are subsidence and root penetration. These can have significant maintenance and cost implications. In the UK, this real and perceived risk results in the felling of thousands of large species urban trees per year. This is completely avoidable if the correct solutions are implemented in the creation of green spaces.

Acknowledgements
This report was produced as part of a 4th year MEng Civil Engineering degree. I would like to acknowledge the following people for their help and guidance.

Professor C.D.F. Rodgers (Project supervisor)
Birmingham Centre for Resilience Research and Education,
School of Civil Engineering,
University of Birmingham.

Joanne Leach (Project assistant supervisor)
Researcher and Project Manager,
School of Civil Engineering,
University of Birmingham.
Contents

1.0 Introduction
2.1 Structure of the Report
2.0 Scope of Report
3.0 Project Background
4.0 Current Practise and Strategy
5.2 Urban Greening Strategies
5.3 Current Strategies
5.4.1 London, UK
5.4.2 New York. USA
5.4.3 Singapore City, Singapore
5.0 Trees in the Dense Urban Environment
6.4 Benefits of Utilising Trees in the Urban Environment 6.5 Non-geotechnical Drivers Against Green Spaces 6.6.4 Ownership, Management and Liability
6.6.5 Leaf Litter
6.6.6 CCTV and Security
6.6.7 Structural Integrity of Trees
6.6 Interaction of Trees and Grey Infrastructure 6.7.8 Damage to Grey Infrastructure
6.7.9.1 Direct Damage
6.7.9.2 Root Incursion
6.7.9 Damage to Tree Roots
6.0 Identification of Geotechnical Issues Due to Urban Trees 7.7 Subsidence in the urban environment
7.8.10 Understanding the Risks
7.8.11 Results of Subsidence
7.8.12 Investigation
7.8 Root Penetration
7.9.13 Understanding the Risks...
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