Green Cover

‘Green cover’ refers to a broad range of strategies to integrate green, permeable and reflective surfaces into cities and towns, which are home to 89 per cent of our population.

Urban surface temperatures can be 10°C to 20°C higher than in the air temperatures because buildings, roads and other hard surfaces absorb and store heat. High temperatures, due to climate change, will further intensify the impacts of urban heat.

Thermal image of Melbourne Street corner

Unlike hard surfaces, trees and vegetation (sometimes called green infrastructure) reflect heat, and they cool and clean the air by evapotranspiration. Other benefits are better health and well being for urban-dwellers, more biodiversity and wildlife, and regulation of localised flooding.

Types of urban green cover include bushland, private and community gardens, parks, greenways, habitat corridors, street trees, roof gardens and plant-covered walls, as well as reflective and permeable walls, pavements and other surfaces. Protecting local green spaces, designing eco-friendly buildings and creating urban networks of green space can help to minimise the impacts of urban heat in our cities and towns.

Examples of urban green cover

Green Roof on Conservatorium of Music

Green wall on Trio Apartment

Green and cool roofs have surfaces that are vegetated, light coloured or reflective surfaces. Green walls are vegetated systems grown on the vertical walls of a building.

Green plantings at Sydney Olympic Park

Green Open Spaces

Thornley Street Rain Garden, Marrickville  (Photograph: Courtesy Marrickville Council)



Green streets include shade canopy, mass-planted understoreys, bioswales and median plantings, as well as permeable and reflective surfaces on roads, pavements and car parks. Green urban open spaces include canopy trees and shaded areas in parks, amenities and on cycleways and footpaths, as well as bioswales, rain gardens, soft-landscaped detention basins or dechannelisation of concrete culverts.

Green cover resources

  • The NSW Government has produced Technical Guidelines for Urban Green Cover in NSW to provide practical advice on best practice. The purpose of these guidelines is to increase the resilience of NSW settlements and communities to climate change, specifically to increasing temperatures in urban settings.

  • The Green Cover Demonstration Project, by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) in collaboration with the NSW Government Architect’s Office, showcases leading landscape design principles for urban green cover.

Green Cover Demonstration Project

It uses examples at Liverpool and Penrith to model the principles, which can be applied to all local government areas.

Networks and related projects

  • 202020 vision - A partnership of organisations aiming to increase urban green space by 20 per cent before 2020.
  • World Green Infrastructure Network (WGIN) - Promotes the use of green infrastructure in cities.
  • Urban Greening Masterclass - A collaboration between 202020 Vision and OEH to run a series of urban-greening masterclasses for council representatives to meet, share knowledge and increase collaboration on urban green cover projects.