The value of green space in our cities

The preservation of the environment is a growing concern for people all over the world, with issues surrounding the loss of urban green spaces, rising pollution and the ongoing wellbeing of citizens now at the forefront of the global debate. A study by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences concluded: “The loss of urban green space in compact city environments during the densification of cities is now a major challenge. The loss of urban green space is rarely matched by the addition of more green space, potentially damaging the social value of these areas for decades to come.”

Yet, from New York to Singapore, the world’s great cities are now placing heightened importance on new and existing green spaces with sustainable urban planning, with the hope of protecting their futures.

The first municipal parks were established in Europe in the late 1840s. Ever since, there has been an emphasis on preserving these important communal areas that, in most cases, are open to the public free of charge. For example, New York’s Central Park was established in 1857, and it has become an iconic landmark and tourist destination that attracts over 40 million visitors each year .

How does green space benefit us?

The benefits of green urban spaces are far-reaching, and they offer excellent opportunities for social and recreational activities, helping us embrace mindfulness while benefiting the health of entire communities.

In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded: “While details of urban green space design and management have to be sensitive to local geographical and cultural conditions, the need for green space and its value for health and well‐being is universal. ”

In the same report, the WHO listed numerous benefits of promoting these spaces:

  • Enhanced physical activity
  • Reduced exposure to air pollution
  • Reduced obesity
  • Improved functioning of the immune system
  • Reduced mortality

The governments of other, younger cities such as the sprawling Beijing and Tokyo are now retroactively placing more emphasis on their urban planning and development – promoting proper use of precious urban green spaces, like those outlined by the WHO, to benefit their citizens.

What is our green space worth?

Of course, with parks and green spaces situated in densely populated cities, there will be other parties, such as commercial developers, who might want to build over this public space at the first opportunity.

To work out the hypothetical land value of some of the most iconic urban parks in the most desirable cities around the world, we used the current cost of living data from Numbeo and this simple formula:

Average Price per sq/m of an Apartment (City) x Size sq/m (Park)
= Price of Park in Billions (£)

 

By taking the average square meter cost of an apartment in a city and multiplying it by the size of any green space in that same city, we can work out a suggested minimum value of these parks from around the world.

 

At £8,770.51 per square meter and 4,046,856 square miles in size, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park would fetch £35.5 billion if the land was sold off. On the East Coast, if authorities in New York sold Central Park to developers, they would recoup at least £35 billion.

While these locations come out on top, they wouldn’t be the most expensive place to buy land. For example, if Hong Kong’s Kowloon Park were 30 times larger, a similar size to Golden Gate Park, that land would be worth over £70 billion.

Moreover, once you consider that most of the world’s most densely populated cities, New York for instance, are full of high-rise skyscrapers made up of many floors, the potential sale value of a ten-story apartment block would be much higher than what’s outlined in the infographic below.

Value of green space infographic

The future of green space

Authorities in modern metropolises are emphasising the benefits of urban planning and encouraging the benefits of green spaces. For example, Singapore, the self-proclaimed ‘Garden City’, has experienced significant economic growth and expansion in recent decades. Since 2008, new developments there are required to be ‘green buildings’, meaning they must incorporate modern technologies that limit emissions and integrate air purifying plant life.

No development showcases this more than Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, where over a million sq/m has been dedicated to new green spaces full of opportunities for both nature and the city’s citizens to thrive.

This designated public space is arguably more valuable than the estimated £14 billion if the land was sold off for property investment. The Gardens of the Bay and others like it in cities across the world will be there for future generations to use and experience, improving a city’s aesthetic and desirability as well as reducing its environmental footprint.

Green spaces are priceless and must be preserved

Artists and revolutionaries are often commemorated in these precious public spaces. A society willing to remove recreational spaces used by families for generations or exchange them for their billions in monetary value for economic gain, would be much poorer for it.

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