As lockdown measures are lifted and a new normal begins to emerge, it is clear that the economy and the health of the nation have never been so important. Although the physical threat from Covid-19 is lessening as infection numbers continue to drop, the mental health impacts from elevated rates of stress and anxiety, as well as loneliness and depression during the lockdown, are only just becoming clear.

‘At least half a million more people in the UK may experience mental ill health as a result of Covid-19,’ says first forecast from Centre for Mental Health

In addition to the anxiety that occupiers may have at returning to their workplace, there is mounting evidence of economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. How can landscape assist in ensuring Science Parks attract and retain the best and the brightest occupiers whilst supporting their wellbeing?

The Importance of Access to Green Space

At least part of the answer to this question can be found by ensuring access to quality green spaces, which have proved to be incredibly important to all of us.

There is extensive evidence which demonstrates the link between access to green space and both physical and mental health benefits. How we plan, design and manage our landscapes should be guided as much by their importance for health, as for all of their other functions.

These benefits include, but are not limited to:

  • Reduced levels of obesity.
  • Higher levels of physical activity.
  • Improved mental health.
  • Increased levels of companionship, sense of identity and belonging.

A 2015 UK study, specifically looking at the value of greenspace at science park workplaces, found that both their use and visual access from indoors, support employee wellbeing.

‘Landscaping should not be addressed as an afterthought since its functions clearly go beyond the aesthetic…

Countless studies have also highlighted the correlation between job satisfaction and business success. These factors are not only linked to job roles and salaries, but also to the quality and design of spaces within the workplace together with access to activities that promote well-being and a healthy work-life balance.

Delivering Multi-Functional Landscapes.

So how can we incorporate or retro-fit well designed, multi-functional landscapes into our science parks in order to maximise these benefits to occupiers? A few of the potential solutions available, which we have sought to implement across a number of sites, are outlined below.

Improve sustainable transport routes:

  • Encourage cycling / scooting / walking into work both through implementing upgraded infrastructure and initiatives ie. bike-to-work.
  • Prioritise at junctions/crossings walking and cycling over vehicles and improve campus permeability and connectivity.
  • Provide supportive infrastructure ie. secure bike shelters, electric charge points, shower and changing facilities.

Outdoor Working Spaces:

  • Integrate outdoor office spaces into the existing landscape.
  • Incorporate street furniture with power and WIFI capabilities.
  • Promote outside working and social distancing.

Outdoor Gyms:

  • Create ‘lunchtime’ running/walking/cycling routes as above.
  • Install outdoor gyms with sanitising stations.
  • Create areas where equipment can be taken out for fitness classes ie. spinning /
  • yoga, or where non-contact team sports can be played ie. badminton / tennis.
  • Provide changing facilities.

Temporary Landscapes:

  • Take advantage of under-used /short-term space ie. carparks.
  • Introduce temporary landscape interventions or ‘parklets’ which can be lifted and moved to elsewhere.
  • Temporary tree installations in moveable containers to create short term enclosure and enhance amenity.
  • Public art ie. temporary installations in conjunction with local art colleges or artists
  • All these interventions can be low-cost / high impact, and are useful tools to ‘test’ the re-use of a space.

   Vertical Landscapes:

  • High impact ‘Green Walls’ for immediate wow factor.
  • Climbers ie. on tensile structures; slower to establish but generally cheaper and more sustainable than hydroponic systems.
  • Useful where space is at a premium whilst bringing a host of benefits ie. improved building performance, biodiversity, biophilia for occupiers.

Low input / High impact planting

  • Create landscapes that spark joy and a real ‘wow’ moment; a sense of place.
  • Biodiversity benefits.
  • Very low maintenance once established.
  • Provide ‘cues to care’ to support occupier appreciation of these spaces (particularly during the winter months/establishment period).

For further details go to:

Author: Veronica Flemming, Senior Landscape Architect CMLI, ASA Landscape Architects