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Climate adaptation solutions developed for cities

A research network involving industrial partners has led to a number of innovative ideas that could help cities adapt to climate change.

Climate Change and Environment icon Climate Change and Environment

Urban areas are engines of our economy, driving innovation and continually attracting new workers. In order to thrive and remain attractive and healthy places to live however, cities need to find better ways of adapting to climate change. “When it comes to climate adaptation, a lot of attention has been placed on dealing with issues such as flooding,” notes SOLOCLIM project coordinator Sanda Lenzholzer from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. “We really saw the need to better address challenges in the urban environment.” Heat islands for example – urban areas that experience higher temperatures than the surrounding environment – can be dangerous and make city living very challenging. Lenzholzer and her colleagues wanted to find ways of enabling urban planners, designers and engineers to more fully prioritise climate adaptation in their strategic thinking.

Need for urban climate solutions

The SOLOCLIM project, supported by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme, launched an industrial doctorate programme, designed specifically to deal with climate adaptation in cities. The project created a network of six PhD researchers, embedded in three universities in Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. After beginning their studies in the universities, the researchers then spent a couple of years in industry, before returning back to academia to complete their theses. Industry partners were specialised in areas such as architecture, urban design and environmental consultancy. “The programme was subdivided into three solution groups,” says Lenzholzer. “These focused on: applying green interventions such as trees and parks; using water as a coolant in the city; and responsive systems that change to suit the environment. A parasol for example is a responsive system, as it opens when it is sunny, and closes when it is not.”

Successful adaptation strategies for cities

The research projects resulted in a number of interesting innovations. “One researcher developed a new type of green modular facade for buildings, which is not very expensive, is easy to construct and dismantle, and can be reused,” remarks Lenzholzer. “This innovation received a lot of attention from the design community and was presented at the world-famous Dutch Design Week.” Another research project looked at the role of tree planting in heat-prone urban areas in order to reduce street-level temperatures. The researcher looked at how trees were distributed, and tried to work out the best configurations for specific types of neighbourhoods. “This knowledge is highly applicable for urban planners,” adds Lenzholzer. Another looked at how water can be used to cool the urban area at a smaller scale. A prototype cooling mechanism that can be installed on the front of building facades was developed, to produce a water mist.

Networking and industrial partnership

Lenzholzer believes that the research network has been successful. The researchers were able to design and develop effective climate adaptation measures, and have gone on to build their careers in this important field. The inclusion of an industrial component in their doctoral programmes also provided a more practice-oriented perspective, and encouraged the students to develop solutions that meet market demand. “An evaluation was carried out at the end of the programme,” she says. “Everyone really cherished the network, and looked forward to getting together to exchange ideas. I’m sure that the industrial and academic partners involved would be open to collaborating again.”


SOLOCLIM, climate, cities, urban, architecture, cooling, trees

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