The Grand Challengers Podcast Episode #13

Going vertical in a green horizontal world and promoting urban water and nature co-design

Guest: Veljko Prodanovic

June 20th, 2023


“…Everyone should go out and engage and try to build an implementation pathway for what they believe is right…”

Have you ever thought about renovating your building facade into a lush green garden? Or how do you design urban nature in a way that encourages local communities to take care of it?

My guest today is Dr. Veljko Prodanovic, a senior researcher at the University of New South Wales. Veljko obtained his PhD at Monash University in multi-functional vertical greenery systems, from design to their irrigation and maintenance and overall aesthetic appeal. Now, he is figuring out the social side of how we can implement such systems in local neighbourhoods.

In today’s show, we delve deeper into the design paradox of smart and culturally-inclusive urban blue-green infrastructure and viable strategies for their widespread implementation.


Dr. Veljko Prodanovic is a Senior Research Associate at the University of New South Wales’ Water Research Centre, Australia. He studied engineering in Belgrade, Serbia before venturing to Australia to obtain his PhD from Monash University in the field of urban stormwater and blue-green infrastructure in 2018. Since first joining UNSW in 2018, he has been working on modelling and validating the effectiveness of urban stormwater mitigation options (infrastructure and policies) on pollution levels, through exploratory and integrated model approach.

In his PhD research, Veljko worked on Integrated multi-functional urban water systems, focusing on the interdisciplinary challenges in delivering green sustainable urban water infrastructures capable of treating various sources of wastewater (most notably greywater and stormwater). His work involved developing and testing new green water treatment technologies such as Green walls for greywater reuse. Veljko is involved in different national and international projects on using vegetated water treatment technology to clean and reuse different sources of wastewater. He is continuously striving to find innovative ways of utilizing his diverse set of skills to improve performance of these systems and engage with stakeholders to communicate new knowledge.

His other past and present research topics include stormwater quality modelling and sensitivity analysis, design of water infrastructure, agricultural water reuse, and promoting community inclusive sustainable infrastructure. He has also recently become a managing editor of the International Water Association Journal Blue Green Systems.

Resources Related to the Episode

  • We refer to Prof. Ana Deletic who was our guest in Episode 9 – you can check out her episode.
  • The terminology trend for nature-based solutions/green infrastructure, especially from previous episodes continues, key terminology papers which provide an overview…
    • Fletcher, T.D., Shuster, W., Hunt, W.F., Ashley, R., Butler, D., Arthur, S., Trowsdale, S., Barraud, S., Semadeni-Davies, A., Bertrand-Krajewski, J.L. and Mikkelsen, P.S., 2015. SUDS, LID, BMPs, WSUD and more–The evolution and application of terminology surrounding urban drainage. Urban water journal12(7), pp.525-542. [Link]
    • Ruangpan, L., Vojinovic, Z., Di Sabatino, S., Leo, L.S., Capobianco, V., Oen, A.M., McClain, M.E. and Lopez-Gunn, E., 2020. Nature-based solutions for hydro-meteorological risk reduction: a state-of-the-art review of the research area. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences20(1), pp.243-270. [Link]
    • Matsler, A.M., Meerow, S., Mell, I.C. and Pavao-Zuckerman, M.A., 2021. A ‘green’chameleon: Exploring the many disciplinary definitions, goals, and forms of “green infrastructure”. Landscape and Urban Planning214, p.104145. [Link]
  • The restorative benefits of nature on humans, some studies:
    • Green spaces and health: De Vries, S., Verheij, R.A., Groenewegen, P.P. and Spreeuwenberg, P., 2003. Natural environments—healthy environments? An exploratory analysis of the relationship between greenspace and health. Environment and planning A35(10), pp.1717-1731. [Link]
    • People going out into green spaces during the COVID pandemic: There are a number of different studies that have been published for various cities, an example is Pouso, S., Borja, Á., Fleming, L.E., Gómez-Baggethun, E., White, M.P. and Uyarra, M.C., 2021. Contact with blue-green spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown beneficial for mental health. Science of The Total Environment756, p.143984. [Link]
  • Veljko’s Green Wall Research: a collection of papers that cover the various aspects we discussed around green wall design optimisation.
    • Prodanovic, V., Hatt, B., McCarthy, D., Zhang, K. and Deletic, A., 2017. Green walls for greywater reuse: Understanding the role of media on pollutant removal. Ecological Engineering102, pp.625-635. [Link]
    • Prodanovic, V., Zhang, K., Hatt, B., McCarthy, D. and Deletic, A., 2018. Optimisation of lightweight green wall media for greywater treatment and reuse. Building and Environment131, pp.99-107. [Link]
    • Prodanovic, V., McCarthy, D., Hatt, B. and Deletic, A., 2019. Designing green walls for greywater treatment: The role of plants and operational factors on nutrient removal. Ecological Engineering130, pp.184-195. [Link]
  • Some pictures of Veljko’s Green Wall Experiments during his PhD are shown below
  • Here’s a quick overview of the Green Wall and Living Wall research that Veljko was part of under the supervision of Prof. Ana Deletic:
  • Weird popcorn flavours from around the world, just in case you feel like having some popcorn
  • Singapore’s policy on planning greenery – GreenPlan 2030
  • Veljko’s work on culturally-inclusive Urban Water Design:
    • Coyne, T., Zurita, M.D.L.M., Reid, D. and Prodanovic, V., 2020. Culturally inclusive water urban design: a critical history of hydrosocial infrastructures in Southern Sydney, Australia. Blue-Green Systems2(1), pp.364-382. [Link]
    • Naserisafavi, N., Coyne, T., Zurita, M.D.L.M., Zhang, K. and Prodanovic, V., 2022. Community values on governing urban water nature-based solutions in Sydney, Australia. Journal of Environmental Management322, p.116063. [Link]
    • Below is a video of Veljko’s collaborative work on Culturally-Inclusive Urban Water Design

Connect with Veljko Prodanovic