Green is the new gold

Green is the new gold

Strolling in a green setting is nice, soothing. Trees, greenery, birds and water are the indispensable ingredients for this feeling. Efforts are extended to create this pleasant living environment in the Rotterdam Central District. Green leaves, blue water and the chirping of sparrows are the new gold.

The view from a small balcony on the first floor is stunning. The sloping roof of the station enchantingly reflects the morning sun. It also hints at what is lacking in the Rotterdam Central District (RCD): there is lots of stone, sleek (glass) facades, and hardly any trees or other greenery to create shady spaces.

It was a tough challenge for the RCD climate team to do something about it. Linde Elsinga of Echo urban design (the former Plein06) looks from that balcony in the Groot Handelsgebouw over the large Stationsplein to Weena. At the beginning of 2020, the climate team together with some companies, building owners from the area, and the municipality came to the conclusion that the initial vision of making climate adaptivity could become a reality. “The goal is to make the area greener, cleaner, more attractive and more climate-adaptive,” says Elsinga. “We want to achieve this with so many stakeholders, because, according to the research, such ambitious goals can only be achieved through a joint effort. If everyone stays on their island it won't work. ”

UN climate goals

Elsinga explains, occasionally looking at the Stationsplein, that by realizing the climate goals concerning water, heat, better air quality and wind, the quality of life in the area will improve automatically. “There is now a feeling of anonymity. The area does not lend itself to taking a leisure stroll during the lunch break, or to having a latte somewhere. In the coming decades it will fill up with residential buildings (The Modernist, Tree House and Schiekadeblok), keep in mind that you would want to have a chat with your neighbors or let your child play here.”

It will be quite a challenge to get all those parties involved, Elsinga knows from her own experience. The hardest nut to crack is the group of foreign building owners. They see their holdings (too often) through a spreadsheet and notice that the offices are paying off. They are rented out anyway, so why should they cooperate in making the area climate adaptive? “All that while they themselves, as well as their tenants, embrace the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is precisely these that encourage climate adaptation (SDG 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) as one of the most important challenges of the future.”

Four-step approach

Two workshops were organized in order to arrive to this plan, Elsinga explains. "In combination with the knowledge obtained in the first study, this resulted in four recommendations."

1. Use climate adaptation as a driver for an innovative central district

By promoting climate adaptation as the guiding theme for the RCD, a progressive business climate is created, making specific companies focused on sustainability consciously choose this area. In addition, a healthy and pleasant environment is what such companies desire for their employees. Elsinga gives an example of making the facades greener. “There are plans to make a number of office facades more sustainable in the RCD. Give the climate goals a boost by greening these facades. You immediately showcase the innovation imbedded in the buildings and the area. " For her, the roofs are also a part of it: “resent those green roofs as second ground level. They are the hidden pearls that you can see as an addition to your plinth. ”

2. Make the assignment concrete and achievable

Keep the scale of a project manageable. “Start small! Don't roll out your vision all at once. Success lies precisely in the local solutions that are achieved by small groups of stakeholders, ”Elsinga explains the recommendation. “Keeping it small increases the feeling of ownership of the solution and raises the chance of success. At Hofplein 19, the tenant MKB Brandstof, the founder of impact hub LaatBloisjes, has said he would like an entrance that connects directly to Luchtsingel. So let tenants play a pioneering role as the initiative takers of making their offices more sustainable. ”

3. Coordinate public and private initiatives from now on

There are many different initiatives and projects in the RCD, but there is no overview of the nature of the interventions, their duration and ambitions. They function now as separate processes, and the coordination between those projects could be better. “Dare to trust each other, work together. Link interventions in the public space to interventions in the buildings. By working together, a multiplier effect is created in terms of stakes, finances, and outcome. ”

The climate team of RCD believes that in order to achieve this an active exchange of ideas, initiatives, and processes must take place. This can be facilitated, for example, in meetings of the RCD Association, where consistency is appreciated, or through a public project coordinator. “An example of what could have been better cooperated on is the temporary climate-adaptive bicycle garage in front of the Groot Handelsgebouw,” Elsinga continues. "It is a kind of temporality that can just become permanent, so we would have preferred to look at it together, so that a solution might be found for the dangerous intersection at the that point."

Linde Elsinga has something else up her sleeve: form a "coalition of the willing". “In it, parties from the RCD would be connected as the beating heart of the area, united by high sustainability ambitions and common goals and wishes. With such a coalition pursuing a common goal, the projects may be accelerated. "

4. Dare to do!

A climate-adaptive district can be created if there is room for innovation and experiment, according to the advice of the RCD climate team. Do something, get started NOW !, the team says loudly. “Change occurs when you create “aha” moments and create win-win situations. By allowing and giving freedom to temporary initiatives, one can test what does and does not work in the area. Successful initiatives can morph into permanent solutions in the future, designed sustainably and climate-adaptively. Don't look for something that is finalized from the get-go. Take Biergarten, for example: it is only a formidable temporary booster. ”

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