#enduringcity – The enduring city starts today
Due to population growth, the demand for short-term adjustments to public space and urban planning is increasing. The choices that must be made have consequences for society, economy and the planet. In the choices that we make today, the economic and social benefits are often prioritized. As a result, options that don't contribute to the environment have a competitive advantage over sustainable projects. However, it is precisely these that cities need the most to bring benefit in both the short and long term.
Think big, start small
By considering the social and environmental impact in addition to financial costs and benefits, opportunities arise to build enduring cities that can withstand the uncertainties of the future. Achieving this resilience requires a combination of factors such as sustainability, adaptivity and diversity. A concrete example of the synergy of these factors on a small scale can be seen at the Slachthuiswijk in Antwerp. On the one hand, there is a short-term wish to build homes in a new neighborhood, on the other hand, there is a long-term need for greening the city and climate adaptation.
To connect these two needs, a new neighborhood has been designed in which nature is in the foreground. The abundance of greenery reduces heat stress in the district and a smart water system collects, stores and absorbs rainwater in the soil. In the short term, a livable neighborhood will be created with new homes in a car-free neighborhood full of parks and playgrounds, while the greening and water management ensure that the Slachthuiswijk is prepared for future climate challenges such as heavy rainfall and increasingly hot summers.
Taking steps across borders
To really contribute to resilient cities, looking only at small scale interventions is not enough: an overarching vision is needed. For example, the Port of Rotterdam and the Municipality of The Hague have developed a unique plan for a heat corridor: WarmtelinQ. The underground pipeline transports the residual heat from the port of Rotterdam to The Hague, with which homes and companies can be heated in a sustainable way. The work needed to realize the pipeline creates opportunities to make the area resilient in the long term. Instead of only supplying green heat with the heat corridor, the area through which the pipeline runs can be provided with shaded areas, greening and water. In this way, not only the energy transition, but also climate adaptation becomes part of the process.
A look into the future: dealing with unpredictability
Small changes in the short term can mean a lot in the long term for sustainability and the resilience of entire cities. The choices must be based on more than just the financial benefits that urban development can bring. The Netherlands is a good example with its fight against water. In the short term it seems sensible to invest in the expansion of the Randstad conurbation, that stretches from Utrecht to Amsterdam and Rotterdam; several large cities are located together, with more inhabitants and more social and economic capital.
However, looking further ahead and considering the uncertainty surrounding climate change, these choices become more complex and require well-considered analyzes on themes such as housing below sea level. Since the exact course of climate change is uncertain, it is important to be flexible with the possible choices and associated consequences. Visualizing extreme outcomes in future scenarios can help to provide a better insight into which choices today can lead to which outcome.
It is important to always look beyond a local need, assignment or challenge. The construction of a new neighborhood offers a unique opportunity to make a city greener in the short term and more resilient to climate change in the long term. Infrastructures that help realize the energy transition can serve as a basis for improving biodiversity and nature in the future. Instead of fighting against water, we can work with water so that we move towards the desired future perspectives.
By designing sustainable frameworks within which different initiatives can thrive, designers can contribute to enduring cities that meet short-term needs while enabling long-term change. More on this in our next blog!
Curious to hear more about flexible cities? Stefano Agliati can tell you all about it.