Thursday, April 6, 2017

French cities going green ....literally!

French cities are vying with each other to create more wide open, green spaces, as part of their effort to combat air pollution and help reduce excessively high temperatures such as those  of the 40 degree heatwave in 2003, responsible for the deaths of over 15,000 people.

Not surprisingly one of the pioneers of this movement is the city of Paris, with a mixture of tree planting, opening up more green spaces and encouraging the installation of 'green roofs' - the use of grass and other vegetation on the roofs of schools, office blocks and other public buildings.

Although the city is well blessed with open spaces, the two largest being the bois de Boulogne and the bois de Vincennes, both located far from the city centre,  Paris lacks a variety of smaller open spaces, easily reachable by the public, for examples during a lunch break.  The two famous bois alone account for 70% of the city's open spaces.

Paris's norther outskirts are particularly short of open spaces and the city also suffers from suburban blight due to the apparently unrestrained development of huge out of town shopping centers which ring the capital, and increasing demands for more transport infrastructure such as roads and rail.

As a result during a typical summer heatwave there can be a difference of 8 degrees or more (higher) between parts of the inner city centre and a typical built-up sector. Cooling these spaces is not cheap and uses large amounts of energy - for example for refrigeration and air conditioning - and to provide insulation and double glazing increases construction costs.

With 75% of French now living in urban areas (compared to the countryside) inner-city pollution is becoming an increasing threat and a drain on healthcare costs. However some successes are already being reported including a reduction of the incidence of asthma.

Another encouraing sign is the growth of healthy eating and organic food production* and the development of small urban 'grow your own' allotments managed by the local community.

Finally it goes without saying that greener cities make more pleasant places to live in and can add to the value of your property investment.

* For more information see my recent post here about France's 'organic revolution' and my article in 'French Property News' issue 314, April 2017, pp 50-52.
And also Alternatives Economiques No. 367, Aptril 2017, pp 58-60 by Bénédice Weiss, who offers further sources.

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