Neighbourhood that adapts to climate change

  • Living
  • Monday, 27 Apr 2015

Flood prevention: Tasinge Square is not just a park; its also a water retention basin, designed to hold back stormwater. It is part of Copenhagens climate adaptation plan to counter flooding. Photo: GHB Landskabsarkitekter

Once an expanse of asphalt, Tasinge Square in a suburb of Copenhagen, Denmark is now an oasis of green. Grassy lawns have taken over tarred surfaces and trees have taken root, creating a refreshing space that is drawing families to gather there.

The square, however, is not just a patch of green haven; it is also an ecological feature as in the ground is a storage tank to hold stormwater in times of downpours, to prevent flooding there and in downstream neighbourhoods.

The pocket of greenery was developed with “climate adaptation” in mind. As global weather patterns shift into uncertain grounds, nations and neighbourhoods have had to adapt to the changes.

In the future, summers in Denmark will be hot with heavy rains and winters, wetter and warmer. The changes will initially be gradual but will then speed up. The most dramatic changes will occur after 2050.

Lindsay explains that overflows from the underground storage tank will go into the two ponds behind hims. Photo: The Star/Tan Cheng Li

Copenhagen is already seeing cloudbursts, showers so severe that they cause flooding. In response, the city council has drawn up a climate adaptation plan which includes flood and risk maps.

The strategy is to store as much rainwater upstream as possible, and to build three big sewers to channel stormwater to the harbour.

As the second option is costly, the first one is preferred whenever feasible. Managing stormwater locally can be as simple as keeping a garden grass- or tree-covered instead of paved with concrete and tiles, to help retain stormwater. Runoffs can also be diverted to car parks, playing fields and parks.

These eco-friendly methods are being implemented in Tasinge Square in the neighbourhood of St Kjeld. In 2012, St Kjeld was selected as a showcase for the climate adaptation project. Now dubbed the Climate Quarter, it will be the model of a climate-resilient neighbourhood.

The 16mil kroner (RM8.8mil) project at Tasinge Square, completed in November, depicts a local solution to lead rainwater away from sewers. Roof runoffs which used to flow into the sewerage system now go into underground storage tanks first. The streets are also sloped so that rainwater collects in the park and seeps underground. If the tank overflows, it will be into two depressions in the ground.

Two other squares in St Kjeld will also be made climate-resilient. They will have rain gardens and ponds to store rainwater temporarily so as not to overwhelm sewers. Some wide streets will be narrowed, thus freeing 50,000 sq m of land which will then be transformed into green corridors.

These vegetated paths will be built lower than the road, to double up as channels that will lead runoffs from the neighbourhood to the harbour during downpours.

Project leader Rene Sommer Lindsay says Climate Quarter shows how climate adaptation measures can be integrated with urban improvements that benefit people and raise their quality of life.

“We’re storing the water so it doesn’t take up space in the sewerage system. We didn’t want to just put in bigger ponds … it is better to create solutions with better values, and which will bring something new to the community.”

The scheme will certainly brace Copenhagen for the erratic weather that is to come. Lindsay says the city experienced a 100-year rain event in August 2010. The next year, it was a 400-year event and last year, another 100-year event. “There is definitely not 100 years in between these cloudbursts.”

More green spaces such as parks will help Copenhagen dwellers handle future heat waves. Photo: The Star/Tan Cheng Li

Not leaving anything to chance, Copenhagen is also protecting itself from rising sea levels and warmer climates.

As global temperatures rise, sea water will warm up too and expand, causing sea levels to surge. The sea around Copenhagen is projected to rise by a metre over the next 100 years.

To shield the city from storm surges, dykes are being built and coastlines will be raised. To counter future heat waves, the plan is to have more green and blue areas, in the form of parks, green roofs and facades, lakes and streams.

Climate adaptation measures are also being conducted elsewhere in Denmark. In the city of Roskilde, streets, canals and even a skating park double up as water storage facilities to mitigate flooding.

In Odense, a permeable road, paved with porous asphalt, allows runoffs to seep to an underground reservoir and then slowly infiltrates into the soil.

The city also has a 430 sq m parking lot with permeable pavement. Combined with a flowerbed, it prevents overflows and retains rainwater on-site.

READ ALSO: Copenhagen to be world’s first carbon-neutral capital

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