Urban locations, such as city squares, are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to more severe heat island effects and flooding following storms, for example. There is a need for innovative and integrated climate adaptive design for urban locations, whilst improving the living environment. To pursue this, research and awareness raising are essential. Damsterplein is located on the roof of a subterranean parking garage, in a city centre environment in Groningen, the Netherlands. While investigating climate change effects, Groningen municipality (using a ‘stress testing’ approach) observed the Damsterplein location to be subjected to high temperatures and at risk of flooding after heavy rainfall. The specific location further exacerbates negative climatic effects, making the location unattractive and unsafe, as well as busy with traffic. LIFE COOL SQUARE is an initiative to pro-actively and collectively tackle the negative climate change effects and to enhance the quality of life on and around the square itself.
LIFE COOL SQUARE aims at transforming the Damsterplein into a climate-adaptive, resilient, flexible and multifunctional urban location. The project team will pursue activities to give the location and municipality of Groningen a “sponge city” effect to prevent extreme drought and flooding. The project aims at reducing urban heat island effects and negative health effects on inhabitants in the immediate and surrounding areas through extensive greening of the location. Project activities also target awareness-raising to involve and motivate local residents and political stakeholders. Furthermore, project activities plan to build knowledge to aid replication of the approach in other cities. LIFE COOL SQUARE activities aim at making better use of urban spaces, improve quality of life and the health of inhabitants, and generate private sector opportunities.
- Contribution to the “sponge city“ concept, by means of (i) removing at least 6 000 m2 of paving, (ii) disconnecting 2 700 m2 of roof surface from the sewer system, (iii) separating at least 643 m3 of water from the sewer for practical reuse, and (iv) planting indigenous urban greenery to absorb water and enhance biodiversity;
- Counteracting heat islands by (i) installing at least 1 800 m2 of vegetation and 50 trees (450 m2 of tree crown surface), (ii) aiming at lowering the average Physiologically Equivalent Temperature (PET) by 4°C to 5°C during a warm day, when greenery is fully matured, and (iii) lowering asphalt temperature on hot days by 10°C;
- Generating stakeholder awareness, involvement and self-motivation by means of 2 interactive stakeholder meetings, the installation of 15 anti-flooding façade gardens around Damsterplein location, and annual green island clean-ups by Groningen inhabitants;
- Building knowledge by means of 3 heat island studies performed by project partner HUAS, each with baseline references; and
- Improved quality of life and a better use of space, by targeting a 50% increase in use of Damsterplein by Groningen residents and a traffic speed reduction of 15%, also lowering air pollutant (NOx, PM) and sound emissions.