Liveable Green Cities: Integrating Climate Adaptive Solutions and Circular Economy into the Built Environment

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The increased number of people living in urban areas requires rethinking what liveable citiesLiveable cities are about. Within the next decade both climate change and the shortage of resources on water, energy and nutrients will have strong impacts on the urban environment. The big challenge is to create ‘healthy citiesHealthy cities’. Bringing landscapeLandscapes to the citiesCities can strongly contribute to making citiesCities healthier, more resilientResilient, and more vibrant to accommodate all their citizens. The key to this new perspective is how to create healthy citiesHealthy cities in densely built areas and strengthen the urban metabolismUrban metabolism, while also addressing externalities, such as the urban heat island effect, increased storm events and sea-level rise. The objective of this chapter is to gain insight in the new complexity that arises from the increasing relevance of landscapeLandscapes and planting in dense urban environments in order to set a contemporary agenda for urban green spaceUrban green spaces designDesigns. The increasing need to develop healthy, circular and climate adaptiveClimate adaptivecitiesCities leads to new demands on urban green spacesUrban green spaces. By rebalancing traffic in citiesCities, a vibrant and green public realm can be realised. Rebalancing transportation and shifting to multimodal mobility has a large impact on the spatial qualitySpatial quality of citiesCities and provides access to all. The public realm can be transformed into a green and blue network and set the scene for vibrant cityCities centres. The complexity that arises from the new demands on green space in dense urban environments is explained through the analyses of four case studies in Rotterdam, Athens, London and Utrecht, combined with literature reviews. These four ‘research by designDesigns’ projectsProjects are discussed and evaluated to reveal the increasing (societal) relevance of urban green spaceUrban green spaces. These projectsProjects offer new perspectives on the integration of climate adaptiveClimate adaptive designDesigns and circularity. Toolboxes for heat mitigationHeat mitigation and water-sensitive designDesigns are developed and applied in these designsDesigns. Today’s imminent need to increase the degree of self-sufficiency within cityCities limits and regions, as well as climate adaptationClimate adaptation, requires continuous monitoring of the level of incorporation of the different aspects of ‘healthy living’ into the realized development and assessment of the standards each year. Adding today’s aspirations for including biodiversityBiodiversity, calls for the idea of ‘urban biotopesUrban biotopes’, turning the green into an urban ecosystem that can evolve over time. It requires careful considerations about how to balance energy generation and green, and how to integrate underground infrastructure, to make sure that proper conditions for urban green are set.

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For designing the sustainable city the question should be asked what real sustainability knowledge is and how we can be certain the claimed sustainable outcomes are really sustainable? Do we really know if the exact or highest achievable level of an insulation factor for a building delivers a sustainable outcome, for instance for the happiness of the people that live or work in that building? Does it also tell us if we are, by insulating this way enrich biodiversity or have a positive impact on clean water resources? How can we know we are right when we have ‘proven’ only one aspect of the entire spectrum? At the same time, when we keep on investigating only smallest additions to former research, it not only brings us path-dependency, it also leads to apathy in an endless wait for the final truth. It prevents us from learning from mistakes, trying out solutions that have never before been tried out, but which might deliver the required way out of the complex and unprecedented future problems we do not even know of. This requires execution of solutions, which might fail, we then learn from them and subsequently increase our understanding how integrated approaches to sustainability can be successful, and even more so anticipate a radical changing future ahead of us. Instead, by constantly repeating previous research, we have now ended up in a stand-still, waiting for final judgements the solution being sustainable or not……
The present paper deals with the application of 4500 m2 of reflective pavements in an urban park in the greater Athens area. The aim was to improve thermal comfort conditions, reduce the intensity of heat island and improve the global environmental quality in the considered area. To our knowledge, this has been the largest application of cool pavements in urban areas in the world. To evaluate the thermal impact of cool paving materials, specific and detailed measurements of the climatic conditions in the park have been performed before and after the installation of the new materials. Validated computerized fluid dynamics techniques have been used to homogenize the boundary conditions occurring during the two experiments and to perform direct comparisons of the climatic quality in the park. It was estimated that the use of cool paving materials contributes to the reduction of the peak ambient temperature during a typical summer day, by up to 1.9 K. At the same time, the surface temperature in the park was decreased by 12 K, while comfort conditions have been improved considerably. It is concluded that the use of reflective paving materials is a very efficient mitigation technique to improve thermal conditions in urban areas.
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