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Arts & Environment: Study Event Review: FutureScapes

Updated: Apr 10

At the end of November a study visit was held at FutureScapes 2023 - a free two-day landscaping event held at EXCEL in London. For the past eight years, it has been a useful addition to the landscape industry with informative seminars and live debates full of practical business advice and a chance to connect, share and collaborate. Delegates are able to make valuable connections with suppliers and other professionals in the landscape, garden design and maintenance sectors.

Students booked free tickets for either day and were able to attend a range of talks and seminars on subjects such as designing a Chelsea Garden by the RHS, running a garden design business talks and talks on sustainability, biosecurity, planting trees and how to create biodiversity corridors in our cities, amongst others. For some students, having access to nurseries was a big draw and they could pick up plant lists and catalogues. With a new unit on ‘Sustainable and Biodiverse Gardens’ to plan, I headed to a seminar on sustainable lighting design by lighting designer, Simon Thorp. The lecture was titled ‘The Future of Urban Spaces: a landscape and lighting perspective’. It asked the question ‘what will our urban spaces look like in the future, during the day and night? The talk reviewed historical, evolutionary, and ecological factors influencing the human race and our planet today and looked at the appearance and lighting of tomorrow’s cities and urban spaces. Simon Thorp discussed how there needs to be a balance between safe usable spaces vs carbon footprint and nature vs humans. He explained how garden and public realm lighting increases light pollution/spill which in turn disrupts the natural environment. Linked impacts were also discussed such as:

  • Less spraying of insecticides increases the numbers of insects and improves water quality increasing foraging for bats and water species.

  • Decreases in dark skies disrupts foraging for bats and removes visual links for humans e.g. Milky Way. It has been suggested that views into space have been increase wellbeing for humans.

  • Decreases in the number of city cars by pedestrianising areas improves air quality, reduces fumes, increases walking space, provides more bike lanes which increases the number of people cycling. Thus, improved health and reduced health costs

  • If we reclaim road space - segregate humans and make more green spaces and  resting spots with trees and other vegetation, we can reduce urban heat

New lighting technology and standards on roads include:

  • LED technology is dimmable

  • Lights can be programmable to decrease lighting for low traffic times

  • Blue light causes more disruption to wildlife. Chips can be used to mix light temperature colours which can be changed across a City e.g. Tulosa USA, Tampa Bay

  • Solar power is stored in sand storage for offgrid use e.g.  in Iceland

For garden design students, we learned that for garden lighting:

  • Uplighting causes pollution/disruption to wildlife therefore:

  • Use warm lights <2700 deg kelvin

  • Use hooded lights/bollards to direct light downwards

  • Garden designers should ensure lights are focused, avoiding horizontal lighting.

  • Avoid night patches of glare

  • Balance light levels with ‘feelings of safety’

Following the event, I ran an introductory evening workshop on sustainable lighting for all garden design students. Garden Design students have yet to tackle garden lighting in detail, so this was an introduction from a sustainable viewpoint, which is embedded in all our course resources and teaching.

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