New York is covered by over 20,000 kilometers of sidewalk; Los Angeles: 17,300 kilometers; Seattle: 3,700 kilometers; Copenhagen: 700 kilometers. Specific measurements change with each city, but collectively they all add up to the fact that there is a lot of hard, passive surfaces in cities whose only function is to support foot traffic.
Danish studio Tredje Natur (Third Nature) wants to increase the functionality of these vast amounts of hard urban surfaces. Their Climate Tile system makes sidewalks an active participant to mitigate climate change by harnessing and handling rainwater more efficiently, easing problems with urban flooding during severe weather, and using the water to benefit urban nature at all other times.
Climate Tile is a modular system that allows water to be channeled through the sidewalk and fed into an integrated underground water handling system.
The subsurface water management system can plug in to a series of other systems and storage units to mitigate climate change. The water can nurture vegetation and trees, be retained for future use, or be efficiently channeled away during cloudbursts. With Climate Tiles in place, the sidewalk retains its fundamental function while providing a secondary vital services for the city and urban nature.
“We wish to show the world that climate proofing isn’t just hidden technology,” says Jeppe Ecklon, project manager for Third Nature, “but also a chance for everybody to understand the city’s hidden connections and offer greater life quality. The Climate Tile is a solution that can ease the problems with rainwater that cannot get away, whilst creating more urban nature in our grey streets.”
Initially funded by a grant from Realdania to support commercial development of new solutions for handling rainwater in dense urban areas, the project sees urban sidewalks as a universal element of the city’s infrastructure; a common asset to enable many potential solutions through the city.
Adapting to climate change, says the group, “is not secured with one solution, but through a range of many solutions. The project is seen largely as an inclusive solution to attain synergy across roads, bike paths, city squares and urban nature.”