Preferences and perceptions of green infrastructure: Blueprint Columbus

In 2015, Columbus, Ohio submitted a Wet Weather Management Plan to the Ohio EPA entitled “Blueprint Columbus,” which would eliminate 28 miles of sanitary sewer overflow tunnels in favor of green infrastructure (GI) improvements including rain gardens. The mayor of Columbus has argued Blueprint Columbus would not only bring the city into EPA compliance, but would be cheaper, faster, greener, and more innovative than a plan based on gray infrastructure, and the plan’s website argues it will improve water quality, provide critical habitat, improve property values and stabilize neighborhoods.

Few if any of these goals have been well quantified however, particularly those involving the potential social, psychological and physical benefits of GI. While contact with nature has been shown to reduce stress, and increase activity, pro-social behavior and place attachment, natural areas that are overgrown or aesthetically unpleasing may decrease social interaction, community pride and subjective well-being.

Dr. Jeremy Brooks and I are currently working on, i.e., distributing and analyzing the data from,  the first of three surveys distributed before–during and eventually after the–installation of specific GI projects in Blueprint-targeted areas. The surveys are intended to measure changes in residents’ pro-environmental and pro-social behavior, as well as residents’ preferences and perceptions regarding anticipated and completed GI projects, as well as the quality and quantity of outreach and information provided by the city.

I will be presenting results from this work at the Sustainability and Social Science Research Symposium at the University of Michigan May 17th-19th.

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