Saturday, March 1, 2014

Rotterdam: designing a flood-proof city to withstand climate change

Elizabeth Braw in Guardian Sustainable Business (UK): Water plazas, green walls, floating neighbourhoods. Rotterdam, the famous Dutch university city, is building a captivating new infrastructure, but not out of vanity. If it doesn't come up with innovative solutions, the city is set to lose its battle with climate change.

"We're really planning ahead", says Alexandra van Huffelen, Rotterdam's vice mayor in charge of sustainability. "The Dutch have lived below the sea level for centuries and are used to dykes and barriers. But today we're experiencing heavier and more unpredictable rainfalls, so behind the barriers we're turning the city into a sponge."

A crucial sponge. Surrounded by water on four sides, this delta city of some 600,000 people can't flush the sudden stormwater away. Instead, it has embarked on a climate change adaptation strategy that turns every conceivable area into water storage. "We have squares that are set lower than the surrounding streets and pavements that will function as water plazas and fill themselves up with water", explains van Huffelen.

"We've also built water storage facilities, for example an underground parking garage with a basin the size of four Olympic swimming pools. And we've introduced more green areas, including green roofs and green facades, that will be able to absorb water as well."

...The city is also in the process of building a floating neighbourhood, to be completed within the next three years, that will feature homes, offices, a school, a park and even a dairy factory. More are planned in future. A floating pavilion in the inner harbour is being used as a conference centre....

A street in Rotterdam, shot by Ralf Roletschek - Fahrradtechnik und Fotografie, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

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