The Role of Spatial Planning and Design

Climate change is influencing our future. A long period of climatic stabilisation lies behind us. The changes are researched and knowledge on the content of these changes is being developed. But in practice this knowledge is not yet implemented very much in spatial planning. The first examples and projects become visible around the world, but the general practice faces a major challenge.

The Chapters Summarised

• Many countries already have formulated an adaptation strategy, as described in Chapter 1. Most of the strategies are generally formulated and contain policy statements and objectives. The role spatial planning and design plays in the strategies, is mostly small.

• The way adaptation to climate change can be integrated in design is described in Chapter 2. The Dutch and Chinese examples illustrate that if the natural system of the site is taken as a base for the design the adaptive capacity of the area can be increased. The future changes in climate need to be combined with the local characteristics of the natural system: ecological, relief, soil and water. Human interference often transforms the natural system into a controlled and artificial system. This results in difficulties to adapt to unforeseen changes. If, however, the natural system functions naturally, with its own dynamics, its flexibility, its normal internal changes and succession, the adaptability of the system increases. This needs to be included in spatial designs.

• In Chapter 3 a gallery of possible solutions for the improvement of the coastal defence is presented. There are many ideas available, but in the end technical solution prevail: the technical standards, budget limitations, sectoral thinking and juridical impossibilities lead to suboptimal results. In order to increase the resilience in the coastal zone multifunctional and flexible solutions are to be preferred instead of fixed and fierce dikes.

• In Chapter 4 some tools and examples are described on the way water management can be organised. The focus in water management lies on risk management

R. Roggema, Adaptation to Climate Change: A Spatial Challenge, 353

DOI 10.1007/978-1-4020-9359-3_BM2, © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

and the protection measures to decrease the chance at a flood. The standards on strengths of dikes and the periodicity of dike breeches are more in the spotlight than the question to design the area behind the dike in a way that a flood can be dealt with and water is a profitable element instead of a threat. The fact that a flexible system is less vulnerable for the effects of a flood is not yet prominently apparent in the debate.

• The same remark can be made for ecology. It seems to be more important that general policies, like directives and the status of ecological areas, are carried out instead of the realisation of a robust and well functioning ecological system, which is capable of adapting climate changes (Chapter 5).

• The market dominance results also in standards in the energy sector. The centrally and hierarchical organised energy sector sets the standards, which are a given for local situations. It seems that the network and regulations cannot be changed, even if circumstances ask for it. This makes it very difficult to create a more flexible energy network, in which deliverance of local produced energy to the grid is easy. In Chapter 6 is described how the local energy potentials can be mapped in order to provide information on the possibilities to provide the grid with local produced and sustainable energy.

• In Chapter 7 the effects of climate change in urban environments are described. Excessive heat stress and water annoyances in dense urban areas cause major problems. The existing spatial boundaries of city patterns in combination with the high square meter prices in the city are a constraint to find space for public green and water, which is necessary to adapt the city to increased temperatures and extreme weather events. The city needs to increase its internal flexibility. Public spaces need to be able to change their function if climate circumstances ask for it and extra space needs to be generated for green in order to moderate climate changes.

• Planning for a climate proof future, as described in Chapter 8, is impossible if current processes and practices are sustained. The long-term changes are to a certain extent unpredictable and trying to define a predictable future through spatial planning leads to mismatches. A fixed and detailed image of the future layout of an area needs to be replaced by a rough image of the future, which can be adjusted anytime if needed. Here, an increased role of spatial planning and design is at stake, because the creation of these rough images needs to be done by creative people, who are capable to think out of the box. Designers are able to stimulate spatial imagination, which provides the required spatial flexibility to constantly adjust the spatial future.

Standards Are the Standard

A general conclusion can be drawn that in existing practice the standards are the standard. An existing conglomerate of standardised thinking withstands an innovative development, which is needed to anticipate on fundamental and long-term changes.

Adaptation to Climate Change: A Spatial Challenge

The spatial challenge or spatial task is to implement and initiate a shift from this sectoral standardised thinking, with higher risks, towards multifunctional and flexible thinking based on the dynamics of the natural system. Spatial planning and design should not only implement the shift, but also needs to play a leading role in the transition. The key characteristics needed in such a transition are creativity and innovative thinking without boundaries. New pathways need to be discovered and the future needs to be visualised. Cross-sectoral thinking and integrated design needs to be enhanced. The required innovative capacity is available in designers' brains. A highly adaptive, resilient and less vulnerable environment can be designed if the pressure to fulfil all kinds of standards is minimised. This will result in a new paradigm: adaptation inclusive planning.

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