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Berlin (Germany) and China are working with nature to create sponge cities that absorb rainwater and cool the city. Even without the challenges of climate change, cities would do well to consider the benefits of imitating natural ecosystems to cool down and store rainwater, a precious resource. With problems from climate change in urban areas, such as increased flooding and more extreme heatwaves, the need to develop “sponge cities” is essential.

Agriculture

Berlin & China Creating “Sponge Cities” — Landscape Architects Help Cities Absorb Water, Cool Down

Berlin (Germany) and China are working with nature to create sponge cities that absorb rainwater and cool the city. Even without the challenges of climate change, cities would do well to consider the benefits of imitating natural ecosystems to cool down and store rainwater, a precious resource. With problems from climate change in urban areas, such as increased flooding and more extreme heatwaves, the need to develop “sponge cities” is essential.

Berlin (Germany) and China are working with nature to create sponge cities that absorb rainwater and cool the city. Even without the challenges of climate change, cities would do well to consider the benefits of imitating natural ecosystems to cool down and store rainwater, a precious resource. With problems from climate change in urban areas, such as increased flooding and more extreme heatwaves, the need to develop “sponge cities” is essential.

Creating a “sponge” deals with the two issues that cement and asphalt-laden urban centers create and thus contend with — more heat risk and flooding risk. Imitating nature in the concrete jungle is a key solution.

Flash floods, heatwaves, more massive hurricanes, and life-threatening droughts are increasingly common. The climate adaptation strategy emerging in Berlin and China is a practical step to mitigating these problems. Incorporating the green space, catching the rainwater in the city-made wetlands and bioswales, helps to limit the risk presented by these things. And that rainwater will evaporate and cool the city, which can just help with overall quality of life.

I think the idea to plant greenery on rooftops could only be improved if they were also community gardens.

A Bloomberg video demonstrating Berlin’s development explains: “Rainwater is a resource that should not be carried away. Keep rainwater where it lands. …

“On hot summer days, you can really feel the coolness here. it is much cooler compared to other parts of the city.”

Landscape architects help a city absorb water so it can behave more like nature. The creative climate adaptation strategy needs to be examined and manifest more around the globe to solve drainage and heat problems as climate change accelerates:

China is tackling the same issue in several cities. Business Insider’s Leanna Garfield reports that China is building 30 “sponge cities” to soak up floodwater and prevent disaster. “In early 2016, Shanghai announced the construction of 4.3 million square feet of rooftop gardens throughout the entire city.

“Launched in 2015, the Sponge City Initiative invests in projects that aim to soak up floodwater. The projects are being built in 30 cities, including Shanghai, Wuhan, and Xiamen. By 2020, China hopes that 80% of its urban areas will absorb and re-use at least 70% of rainwater.”

Yanweizhou Park in Jinhua, eastern China — via Turenscape.

Nature is individualistic, and the same holds true for each sponge city project. The individual plan is customized to its region. Previous ventures and techniques may guide and inform each new sponge project, but each city will have its own difficult issues with which to work.

More plans in China feature a series of winding pedestrian paths. “It’s designed to exist with floodwater during heavy rainfall. The images below show what the park looks like before and after monsoons, respectively.”

Yanweizhou Park in Jinhua, eastern China — via Turenscape.

Related to the sponge city are vertical forests. Stefano Boeri speaks about designing the world’s first vertical forest city. The astounding building goes far beyond architecture to become a planetary solution to climate change.

Futurism relates how the 2,000 plants are more than that: “Incorporating thousands of plant-life species into the White Forest’s design wasn’t simply a stylistic choice. The firm explains in its announcement post that it wants to go beyond using trees and shrubs to improve the aesthetic of their structures — it also wants to contribute to the fight against climate change and promote biodiversity in urban settings.”

For each undoing, there seems to be an active community of doing to undo the failure. Perhaps it is not too late. Jonny Tiernan explained in an earlier CleanTechnica story how to combat air pollution in one of the most polluted cities in Europe: “By building vertical forests of trees and plants attached to apartment tower blocks, of course.”

Image by Stefano Boeri

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Written By

Cynthia Shahan started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. (Several unrelated publications) She is a licensed health care provider. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education, mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)

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