An easy way to mitigate carbon emissions and reduce air pollution in cities is to have more green space. Scientists, engineers, the private sector, local government and city residents were aware of the benefits of having green spaces. Yet the economic case still had to be made.
Green infrastructure, ie trees, urban gardens, green space, allotments etc was implemented in a way that maximised all its benefits. Ways to plan and pay for it also had to be innovative to get it in the ground.
The answer: using green space to mitigate flooding and adapt to a changing climate.
Annual rainfall increased from the 2020s onwards with extreme flooding occurring more than usual. This was a taste of what was in store for not only Newcastle, but for the whole of England. Summer rains were at least 22% higher than average.
An alternative approach was needed that understood the many benefits of green infrastructure. Green spaces:
- reduced floods in the city
- provided a cooling service during heat waves
- improved people's sense of well-being as an indirect health benefit
As everyone valued green space in different ways this was not always an easy task, but it was essential for creating public forums that otherwise would not have come to fruition. And people did agree on actions, especially when their homes or livelihoods were threatened.
Community residents and local businesses faced high risk of flooding. Together they learned that to mitigate flooding in the city it required cooperation. This was at a scale that was perhaps never done before, or at least not for a long time.
Using data from the Urban Observatory they located a patchwork of small unused sites that covered a large area. If these were returned to green space they could act as a buffer for reducing future flooding. The Cloud Computing Lab provided ways to store and analyse this data on green space and rainfall in an affordable and flexible way. This was to model and test potential solutions for green flood mitigation.
Residents, the council, businesses and researchers could come together in Decision Theatre to share and test ideas about where green infrastructure could be best placed to reduce flooding.
Models developed with the Cyber Physical Lab allowed exploration of alternative designs under different assumptions. These were valuable in getting the right balance between the loss of economically useful space and flood risks.
This approach to flood reduction was inclusive of both community groups and local businesses who were interested in adding more green space, both for flood reduction and to attract customers.
These kinds of initiatives led to more businesses staying in Newcastle. This was because it reduced costs associated with damages caused by flooding and because they were innovative and something they wanted to be a part of. This helped grow the local economy.
It created new ways for the private sector to engage with local communities.
The combination of public decision making and green infrastructure solutions for mitigating floods became commonplace throughout Newcastle.
There are number of ways you can get involved in the project, including using data from the Urban Observatory in Decision Theatre to identify ways to reduce surface flooding in the city that affects local businesses. Other examples include:
- visualising the multiple benefits of green space including biodiversity and flood reduction in Decision Theatre
- exploring the role of green space for reducing the impacts of climate change using the Cloud Computing Lab
- developing an urban planning model using Decision Theatre that includes green space benefits in development appraisal
- comparing different sustainable urban drainage technologies in emulated and real flood conditions on Science Central
For further information contact us.
All illustrations copyright 2015 Katie Chappell.