Confronting Rising Waters In Copenhagen

The City of Copenhagen aims to be a front runner in climate adaptation, cloudburst management, and storm surge planning. In 2020, Copenhagen will host the International Water Association’s (IWA) World Water Congress and Exhibition, an event that attracts over 10,000 professionals and companies from across the water sector, including thought leaders from across the globe. Denmark, with a thriving water sector, is known for developing innovative partnerships in water management and urban planning. The city’s goal for the 2020 World Water Congress is to showcase excellent built projects that demonstrate the value of design and climate adaptation strategies that mitigate water challenges.

The 2018 Copenhagen Urban Lab Team’s site visit in Amager Strand with the city of Copenhagen. Photo by Arlen Stawasz

In preparation for the congress in 2020, Ramboll, HOFOR, IWA, City of Copenhagen, Vand Byer, and Kamstrup sponsored eight young international professionals to serve in the Copenhagen Urban Lab, a program developed by the IWA in 2017 as part of a vision for Water Wise Cities. Our group was tasked with co-developing a toolbox and case study for resilience planning and adaptation to tackle storm surge and sea level rise in Amager Strand, Copenhagen.

Hand Sketch Rendering of the Case Study for Amager Strand. Aerial Image courtesy of City of Copenhagen

The challenge for our team was to focus on innovation within protection measures – including building materials, multi-purpose infrastructure, financing, social equity, resilient design thinking, and planning. We aimed to develop an inspirational “Living Shoreline” concept that can be applied to other coastal communities with similar risk and vulnerabilities.

The Toolbox

As a part of our toolbox, we created a stakeholder engagement tool that serves as a guiding principle to help municipalities capture and understand present and future stakeholder values. These are things that that people relate to, care about, and want to live with now and in the future. These values were used to guide the coastal adaptation planning and design process, and develop a holistic vision for the future focused on three lenses – social, economic, and environmental – through which to view sustainable development. This process was influenced by our ResilientSEE initiative at Perkins+Will, which uses the “S-E-E” framework to design and rebuild a sustainable Puerto Rico.

Systems Thinking Process

The Lens Process: Core values from the three pillars are selected to develop a site specific solutions.

We re-conceptualized the “S-E-E” framework as a “Lens Process,” the values of which were vetted internally among the Urban Lab team. The Lens aligns with and can help contribute to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, which was a key component in reaching consensus on the issues. The Lens is visualized as a Venn diagram, which serves to aid stakeholders in application. It is essentially formless and shapeless, and is therefore able to relate to local contexts worldwide. The Lens is a conversational driver, which provides guidance for planning projects in the physical environment as well as social programs – including regulations, policies, and/or communication methods and strategies. We tested the tool in Amager Strand, and the concept influenced our design for storm surge and sea level rise protection and adaptation.

Site Design + Program Approach: Testing the Lens
Southern Section of the Site: Isolated area – Social Lens Emphasized.
Northern Section of the Site: Busy Commercial Area – Economic Lens Emphasized.
Middle Section of the Site: Quiet Residential Area – Environmental Lens Emphasized.

Case Study: Living Shoreline

In addition to the toolbox, we also designed a case study for resilience planning and adaptation that tackles storm surge and sea level rise. Our design process was influenced by key stakeholders from the City of Copenhagen, as well as artists, academics, architects, landscape architects, engineers, and many consultants building upon our nine day intensive program. We concluded our findings in a presentation and executive summary that was well-received by the stakeholders and generated deep interest from members of the International Water Association.

The executive summary is now finalized, and the program and experience will be shared worldwide to influence climate adaptation and resilience planning for coastal communities. You can download the executive summary in the link below:

I look forward to attending the World Water Congress and Exhibition in 2020 in Copenhagen which will allow me to re-unite with my colleagues who are now friends and climate adaptation partners; these connections will last a lifetime in this era of climate change challenges.

The 2018 Copenhagen Urban Lab Team: Photo by Lars Angantyr

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