‘GBDX for Sustainability Challenge’
WHERE IT ALL STARTED…
Green City Watch’s new approach to urban green space management won first place in the Maxar and Amazon Web Services’ GBDX for Sustainability Challenge out of 70+ submissions. The challenge gave finalist teams access to Maxar’s Geospatial Big Data platform (GBDX) and its 100+ petabyte optical imagery library to develop a machine learning solution for one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
For our very first project, we conducted a comprehensive literature review to explore the use of geospatial big data to assist in quality assessments of urban green space. The results included a holistic indicator framework called the ‘Urban Nature Index’. The Index, amongst other variables, includes the measuring of water bodies, composition of greenery, riparian (read: riverbank) vegetation, and the quantification and classification of recreational facilities. The indicators are scored from 1 (poor-quality) to 5 (high-quality) with respect to a specific green space. Access to DigitalGlobe’s GBDX platform and 100+ petabyte imagery library enabled this process in an innovative way. With access to the data and OpenStreetMap, we were able to view, classify, and measure previously “invisible” objects, such playgrounds, benches, and riparian vegetation, which are essential for quality assessments.
TOOLS & SERVICES:
Green City Watch Index
Very High Resolution (VHR) satellite imagery
Ecosystem service valuation
Nature-based solution impact monitoring
Demo test cases
We continue to test our methodology for assessing the quality of green space, to ensure it can be utilised and upscaled across varying landscapes. The chosen test cases listed below differ with respect to political, social, and environmental pressures and are subject to such pressures across both hemispheres. The social, ecological, and economic scores are out of five.
The urban fabric of Amsterdam is highly regarded. The city is mostly under sea level and as such, built largely on wooden poles. Having dealt with flood risk since its conception, Amsterdam has become a global leader in sustainable water management. Despite being the capital of Europe's densest country, Amsterdam hosts less than a million residents. Often touted as one of Europe's greenest cities, Green City Watch will validate this claim using the urban green classification index and analysis tool.
RIO DE JANEIRO
The Amazon rainforest, located mainly in Brazil, is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and famed for its biodiversity. And even though Rio de Janeiro is still 3000 km from Amazonia, one might assume the city hosts some of the world's most biodiverse urban green spaces. Unfortunately, most were demolished in Rio's rapid urban development. Today the city is home to six million people, with nearly 25% of its population living in favelas (Brazilian slums). Green City Watch hopes to reveal where urban green space restoration is most desperately needed in Rio.
Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States and the biggest without a formal zoning code. Experts believe the lack of regulation, building in the federally designated flood area, and paving over wetlands are partly to blame for the severity of last summer's Hurricane Harvey. Had Houston preserved more of its green space, perhaps there would have been less damage. Green City Watch is curious to assess the current quality of the city's green space, especially in light of the recent flooding events.
When measured up against other large cities, Tokyo comes up short when it comes to green space. The amount of green space per capita in this city is drastically lower than what is suggested by the World Health Organization. Japan, on the other hand, is famous for its national public health program called forest bathing—basically just being in the presence of trees—which has been proven to boost health and wellbeing. Now, Green City Watch wants to bring high quality urban green space back into Tokyo's dense core for the benefit of all its citizens.