by Dennis Kuijk
July 29, 2019
Dennis Kuijk is a civil engineer graduated from Delft University of Technology and is responsible for the development of the field of Resilient Urban Water at Dareius. Monthly he invites us to accompany him in his advisory work to share his experiences with visitors to the Dareius website.
In my work and sometimes personal life I receive questions about climate change and the vulnerability of our cities and living environments. In my role as advisor I see the various developments in climate change mitigation and adaptation such as new policies, regulations, technology and business models. I’ve also noticed an increasingly essential collaboration with other professions, processes and communication between stakeholder groups. Since we are all in the same proverbial boat, it’s only natural that the solutions we develop come from society at large as well.
In the past, requests that came in dealt with the design of rain or groundwater systems of an area – our work field was mostly limited to the subsurface layer. The surface layer, the part actually visible to inhabitants, was in most cases already designed. The amount of green space was pre-determined, the total amount of parking spaces was specified, and so on. It’s a rather important consideration, because it’s not possible to properly incorporate water amongst other natural flows safely into our environment if the various systems above and below the surface are viewed separately.
In recent years there seems to be a collectively improved understanding or re-discovery of these issues and the connections between professions. For example, in a current project I am designing the renovation of a neighbourhood in the village Pijnacker in cooperation with landscape architects, urban planners, administrators, and inhabitants. By doing this together, we not only create a robust solution for the neighbourhood but also learn from each others’ expertise and experience during the design process.
What brought us together?
The motivation for this partnership was both technical and practical: in this case it was about the area’s sensitivity to land subsidence. Certain street levels had subsided approximately 80cm in relation to the original ground floor of the residences; something inhabitants naturally suffer from. To be able to deal with the elevation differences (aboveground) and limit the subsidence in the future (belowground), specialists need to work together. Besides, it provides the perfect opportunity to combine engineering with local (inhabitants’) knowledge and experiences. In the village of Pijnacker we are using innovative systems to make the neighborhood climate proof, known as the Urban Waterbuffer. Using this system, the storage capacity for rainwater within the village greatly improves. This stored water is also used to maintain pre-determined, safe groundwater levels (in dry periods), which in turn limits potential subsidence or settlement. This may sound easy, but in practice the water needs to be collected, purified and infiltrated into a deeper aquifer. This incorporates different disciplines, like civil engineering, hydrogeology and spatial planning/design. This project marks the first time the Urban Waterbuffer is applied in conjunction with active groundwater level management.
Inhabitants are part of the eco-solution
In order to have an holistic and inclusive solution we first spoke to the local inhabitants and collected their concerns and wishes. We were encouraged to see how their climate awareness had grown and how they deal with the problems of their subsiding environment in a pragmatic way. The next step incorporates these requests with the technical requirements into the overall design – without the residents’ input, such a system will not function optimally. With this holistic approach, we not only build a resilient neighbourhood, but we also create a realistic and sustainable solution.