The Siren’s Call of Urban Stormwater
October 19, 2013
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by Sarah Stevens

With damages exceeding $68 billion from one storm (Sandy) we need cities which are more resilient and sustainable. And as storm frequency and sea levels are predicted to increase we have to rethink and redesign our cities for the future, today. The City of Copenhagen is leading the way, with an innovative master plan to address various climate change challenges, especially increased storm frequency.

Currently, the coastal city’s infrastructure can handle stormwater, however as storm frequency is predicted to increase by 30% the city and infrastructure will be pushed beyond capacity, causing flooding and other damages. Copenhagen’s largest storm to date in 2011 caused approximately $11 million in damages. To plan for the future, an interdisciplinary team created the Climate Change Adaption Plan which redesigns the city to be more sustainable and resilient by recalibrating the city’s perspective on stormwater as a resource instead of a problem.

The comprehensive plan, rethinks the city as a whole from the sewer system to public spaces. Most importantly, it uses excess water as a vital resource and innovative design solutions to reduce construction saving the city money. The city will use blue and green infrastructure to guide the water to places where it will have the least impact. Creating more green spaces, such as green roofs and public parks, will help absorb excess water. In addition, water boulevards in streets combined with underground pipes will steer the water out of the city, without impacting the sewers. Furthermore, this combination of blue and green infrastructure will help keep urban temperatures down, combating the heat island effect as the urban area continues to grow.

Planners believe the climate adaption plan allows the city to increase the quality of life for its residents by choosing solutions that improve the physical environment, are aesthetically pleasing, and add local jobs.

The Copenhagen Climate Adaptation Plan has gained worldwide attention and recently won one of the five prestigious Index Awards. Already one of the leading cities for sustainability and green design, Copenhagen’s plan creates a reusable framework for cities worldwide.