Urban Riverfronts: flood protection and more

The Netherlands has a long history of flood protection management and is renowned for its massive structures, such as the Maeslant barrier and the Eastern Scheldt barrier. In Dutch river cities, however, current flood protection is often insufficient. TU Delft is researching ways to improve flood protection in urban areas by creating multifunctional and adaptable flood defenses.

Flood protection
With rising sea levels and river discharges due to climate change and expansion of urban areas for economic reasons, the number of cities with unsafe flood protection will increase in the near future. Many cities are currently without flood plains, and have already expanded towards the riverfront, leaving little room for flood discharge. As a result, improving the current flood protection in urban areas is often very difficult. When flood protection is applied, it is usually a temporary solution. That is why researchers at TU Delft have been looking at new and durable ways to reduce the risks of future city flooding. The main goal of the Urban Riverfronts project is to design multifunctional waterfronts, which offer flood protection and at least meet current safety levels.

We have developed a concept called adaptable flood defenses. It integrates several functions into one multifunctional structure that can easily adapt in time. Through combining flood protection requirements with those for different urban functions (i.e. recreational space, dwellings, commercial buildings or parking space), the urban riverfront can change into a multifunctional area that is not only attractive and economically viable, but also increases flood safety. Right from the start, enough extra height and strength can be reserved for sufficient flood protection. Key element in the approach is that the multifunctional structures should be in harmony with the existing urban surroundings and should offer durable solutions.

Practical use
The adaptable flood defenses can be applied to numerous historical Dutch city centres where river profile, flood discharge, traffic and the desire for higher building densities are all causing conflict. If well designed, the multifunctional solutions offered by the concept can solve all these problems. At the same time, urban planners will no longer have to cope with the forbidden zone of the conventional flood defenses.

TU Delft’s researchers are currently working on architectural and technical designs of the adaptable flood defenses. These designs will form the basis of an Urban Flood Protection Chart (UFPC). The UFPC is a helpful tool that enables City Councils, Water Boards or companies to design adaptable flood defenses. Although current research mainly focuses on urban areas along the river Rhine in the Netherlands and in Germany, the UFPC and the adaptable flood defense concept also apply to similar areas elsewhere. In the near future, the concept will be tested and further developed in two case studies.

The Urban Riverfronts project is part of a multidisciplinary research project in which the faculties of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Architecture and Technology, Policy and Management participate and is part of the Delft Cluster Work package Natural Hazards.

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