Category:

Climate Change Adaptation

THE CITY WITHIN A GARDEN: “Human beings need contact with nature and the natural environment. They need it to be healthy, happy, and productive and to lead meaningful lives. Nature is not optional, but an absolutely essential quality of modern urban life.” – Tim Beatley, Biophilic Cities Network


Tim Beatley is an internationally recognized sustainable city researcher and author. His writings have focused on creative strategies cities can use to reduce their ecological footprints and become more livable and equitable places. He coined the term green urbanism. “Biophilic cities are cities of abundant nature in close proximity to large numbers of urbanites. Biophilic cities value residents innate connection and access to nature through abundant opportunities to be outside and to enjoy nature,” states Tim Beatley.

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REPORT ON CLIMATE ADAPTATION & LIABILITY: How can green industry professionals such as landscape architects and designers be subject to legal liability because they fail to account for and adapt to climate impacts?


Co-authored by Deanna Moran, a report by the US-based Conservation and Law Foundation identifies three factors that contribute to climate liability risk for design professionals. “The more we talk about risks publicly, the greater the foreseeability of climate impacts, increasing potential exposure to liability,” stated Deanna Moran. “The failure of previous litigation against major greenhouse gas emitters could lead to a shift in focus on the design community as defendants when talking about the realm of climate change litigation. Standard of care is a key concept in negligence litigation.”

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TOO SMALL TO FAIL: Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation reports that smaller scale, agile efforts to limit flood risk using green infrastructure can collectively contribute to ensuring the resiliency of communities (November 2018)


“Partnerships and community engagement can significantly contribute to the success of a project. There are many ways in which a partner can add value to a project, such as through providing scientific expertise or having a significant level of influence and leadership in a community,” stated Dana Decent. “Engaging local stakeholders is critical, as they are the ones who are directly impacted by floods in an area. Continual engagement of stakeholders can result in greater widespread support.”

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“The mottos of the sponge city are: Retain, adapt, slow down and reuse,” stated Kongjian Yu, the landscape architect who has transformed some of China’s most industrialized cities into standard bearers of green architecture


“One thing I learned is to slow down the process of drainage. All the modern industrial techniques and engineering solution is to drain water away after the flood as fast of possible. So, modern tech is to speed up the drainage but ancient wisdom, which has adapted in the monsoonal season, was to slow down the drainage so the water will not be destructive anymore. By slowing the water it can nurture the habitat and biodiversity,” stated Konjian Yu.

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DESIGNING WITH NATURE IN NEW YORK CITY: “For better resiliency, don’t just try to defeat nature—work with it,” says Carter Strickland, New York state director of The Trust for Public Land


“Before Hurricane Sandy, most New Yorkers felt immune from natural disasters. We don’t experience frequent tornadoes like parts of the Midwest, earthquakes like California, or droughts and wildfires that have scorched much of the west. Sandy was our wakeup call for how climate change will have significant and widespread affects,” wrote Carter Strickland. “By including innovative parks and playgrounds in our long-term planning, New York City can serve as a model for American coastal cities looking for ways to mitigate the effects of climate change.”

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MIMIC NATURE, RESTORE THE WATER BALANCE, ADAPT TO A CHANGING CLIMATE: “The cumulative investment in sponge city projects in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Wuhan and other areas could reach $US300 billion by the end of 2020,” wrote Michael Standaert


“It’s a recognition that in arid areas of northern China, cities didn’t factor in heavy rains as they rapidly expanded and added roadways. That left sewer systems inadequate to deal with sudden storms or to capture rainfall for times of need. Huge storms have caused major damage and death in Beijing, Tianjin, Wuhan and Nanjing in recent years,” wrote Michael Standaert. “Chinese cities join a growing number of communities around the world creating green infrastructure.”

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CASE FOR GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE: “Revitalizing the natural hydrological system can also aid the absorption of floodwaters,” notes Dr. John Jacob, Texas A&M University


US cities situated next to large bodies of water, including Boston, Houston, and Milwaukee, are making plans to build water-absorbent green spaces that also serve as recreational spots – instead of installing more industrial concrete walls – to stem rising floodwaters. “The focus of Community Engagement and Risk Communication is to help Texas coastal communities go beyond emergency response to achieve long-term resilience to hazards,” said Dr. John Jacob.

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Coping with Heat and Rising Water Levels: “The Pacific Northwest is the best region in the United States for escaping the brunt of climate change,” stated Vivek Shandas, Portland State University


Places with newer infrastructure, with Climate Change Action Plans, that seek to build community across socioeconomic barriers, and are close to rivers or lakes are more likely to be prepared for the worst aspects of climate change. “When evaluating how prepared cities are for climate change, look at a handful of factors, including policy and politics, community organization, and infrastructure,” said Professor Vivek Shandas.

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“Sponge Cities” – a catchy way to describe the goal in restoring the capacity of the urban landscape to absorb water and release it naturally


In 2013, President Xi Jinping injected a new term into the global urban design vocabulary when he launched China’s Sponge City program. And then in August 2017, the Senate of Berlin released its Sponge City Strategy. The common guiding philosophy for both? Mimic nature, restore the water balance, adapt to a changing climate. The ‘sponge city’ imagery resonates. People intuitively get it.

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Adapting to Climate Change in Hong Kong: “To cope with stormwater flooding, the Government could adopt the ‘Sponge City’ concept,” urges Dr. Jeffrey Hung, Friends of the Earth


“Climate change is already happening and affecting all of us. Recent extreme weather highlight the concrete impact of climate change. It requires immediate action to improve the city’s resilience,” wrote Dr. Jeffrey Hung. “The Hong Kong Government should identify the risks, reinforce the infrastructure, establish recovery programmes, educate the public, and finance the reinforcements and adaptation measures to make Hong Kong truly climate change ready.”

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