— urban climate

How can vast, unmaintained green spaces, avoided overheated squares and street be utilized while preserving and improving the ecological structure and characteristics of the area? And (how) can nature act as a catalyst for social interaction?

So, finally I finished my graduation project with my final presentation at the Academie van Bouwkunst (Amsterdam Academy of Architecture) just before the end of 2013. It took me a while to create a booklet, which you can view and read with a short accompanying essay online. I would be pleased to hear your critique, to improve and learn more about urban climate.

I’m not sure what will happen with this facebook page. It’s purpose was primarily to collect articles, projects, opinions and knowledge on the topics dealing with the ecological processes of the city. Maybe you have an idea? Maybe someone would like to post / manage / maintain it so that the page stays a fruitful platform of knowledge exchange? Let me know!

Enjoy the booklet,

Veronika Kovácsová

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My work(-in-progress) was presented last week during the European Urban Summer School (EUSS) for postgraduate students and young proffessionals, hosted by San Pablo CEU University (Madrid) and organized by the International Federation for Housing and Planning, ISOCARP and the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP).

The full paper will be published by the International Federation for Housing and Planning before the end of 2013. The paper will be presented and discussed as well during the Landscape transformations of the post-communist countries, an international interdisciplinary conference organized by the Czech Technical University in Prague.

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On a hot summer day like this, the few people that decided to stay in the city, one can spot a them scattered in parks or next to fountain. With a number of measurements done previously, I have shown that grass surface and shadow under a tree canopy add to a cooling effect. Fountains are one of the few elements people seek in urban heat. It is the water they cool off with: they sit on the edge with their feet in the water, or jump in it fearlessly to cool off the whole body. However, I was always wondering whether the air temperature also differs by the effect of the fountain.

I have chosen one of the largest fountains in central Vienna, on Schwarzenbergplatz, to test this. The diameter of this fountain is about 40m, a similar size to the fountain Unity on the Freedom Square in Bratislava.


Schwarzenbergplatz / Vienna
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Freedom Square / Bratislava

The difference between these fountains is that one is working (in Vienna) and the other one not (in Bratislava, since 2007 out of order). The fountain in Vienna is a nice stop on your way from or to the city centre.  During this test, there was a number of people around the fountain. One can feel it is cooler there – because the water drops and evaporation directly cools down not only the human body, but also the air temperature.

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I measured the air temperature at two point: next to the fountain, and about 50m away from it. The air temperature was up to 6,3 degrees Celsius different, proving that fountains and public water wells / taps can be an important (design) solution for public spaces in these hot summer days.

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Dear Mr. Sijmons,

I hope you will forgive me quoting you almost through this whole post. It is not to make it easy for me here, but to make your point as visible and bold as possible. Thank you for putting the relationship between the city and nature into the spotlight and I look forward to your curatorship!

Kind regards and till May 2014 at the 6th IABR,

vk

“One evening I was reading an article about the Dutch Nobel prizewinner Paul Crutzen. He was relating how, as a matter of routine, he was speaking of the Holocene as ‘our’ era and suddenly realized: no, too much has changed in the last few centuries; we have since left the good old Holocene behind and entered a new age, in which humanity is affecting the earth like a force of nature. He named it ‘the era of the human being,’ the Anthropocene.”

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“Anthropocene is an apt and provocative term with which to describe the age and the world in which we now live. Thanks to this concept we can better place many observations about human influence on natural processes. Around the world there are more trees in parks, nurseries and other human settings than in the primeval forest. Humans are capable, in 500 years, of burning up the biomass produced in 500 million years, and of altering the climate with the greenhouse gases released.”

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“The Anthropocene postulates that human and natural processes are linked together in a complex new whole. There is no ‘initial situation’ or ‘natural equilibrium’ to fall back on, just as we cannot go back to last week’s weather. We are living in the Anthropocene, whether we like it or not. We can only go forward, and we have to find the best ways of making progress.”

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Read full text  HERE.

All photos have been taken in Bratislava, by Veronika Kovacsova.

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It was at the end of 2012 I think, when I read that about the Green City Calculator© in Green Dream, a publication by MVRDV’s The Why Factory in the Netherlands. And then I thought – oh wow, you can actually quantify how much of green space should each inhabitant of a city ‘have’? And how can you c=make something universal, when there’s so many different factors to tak into consideration and different green areas (not all are necessarily doing good to the microclimate). I got a bit disappointed, as the Green City Calculator was mentioned in a book published at the end of 2009, and three years later I could not find more information on this.

But then, a friend of mine told me about a freely and openly available publication where this measuring, comparing and quantifying has been studied! So I had was like ‘yes, a great anchor point to start with!’. This publication is called GREEN CITY GUIDELINES, has been done by Michelle de Roo (landscape & urban designer) and Niek Roozen bv landscape architects (published in September 2011) in cooperation with a number of Dutch research institutions.

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Then I thought: let’s test it! I have chosen one of the densest places in central Bratislava and came to interesting conclusions. (I have to mention, that I do not take these numbers as THE path or method to follow in my graduation project. But it is an incentive to develop and work further with).

The surface of my selected location was 785 000 m2 (a 500m radius around Kamenne Namestie, Bratislava). According to ‘The Green City Guidelines’, a pocket park (10-1000m2) should be reachable within 200m (4minutes walking) and a neighbourhood park (1000-6000m2) within 400m (6minutes walking).

(For reference, Medicka Zahrada, a very pleasant park in Bratislava, has the surface of about 3600m2.) However, as I was already a bit critical to the amount of green space in central Bratislava, I extended my distance to 500m. So the experiment was: what kind of green spaces and how much of them are reachable in a 500m radius?

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My calculations showed, that the selected area contains of approximately 94% of impervious surfaces (buidings and paving) and 6% of ‘breathable’ grass areas.

Again, according to the guidelines, a liveable neighbourhood in a compact city contains 15-20% green in the direct living environment.

PAVED BUILT

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Then, the GREEN GUIDELINES publication mentiones a the recommended 35 m2 of green space per resident. If you live in a dense part of the city and you imagine 35m2 (a size of a maisonette?), it may suddenly seem a lot. So if the selected area in Bratislava contains about 3157m2 of green space (6% of the total), then it means that every inhabitant of this area has 1,5m2 of green space (now imagine the size of a single bed). Sure, the 35m2 of green space counts for the whole city, and probably not your own neighbourhood.

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The question is, however, whether the 1.5m2 of green spaces in direct living environment is enough, for Mr. XY, or for the bees, birds and maybe your dog to run around? An intriguing topic and thought. I will let it here. Maybe you have some thoughts, ideas, or comments? I would be happy to hear them from you!

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Mr. XY, sitting on ‘Manderlar’ (the first high rise building in Bratislava), looking towards Kamenne Namestie.

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There could have been many easier and more cathy titles for this post, like: ‘The good, the bad and the very bad’, ‘Right to urban swimming’, and so on. There is however, as reason for my slightly-negatively-sounding-question title. I’ll come to that later. The last 2-3 days I have dug myself into researching a bit about water quality, more specifically the quality of European bathing waters – lakes and rivers including. Rivers are very important elements of many European cities, however often with no or very little connection to the inhabitants. Throughout the centuries we feared waters – with a reason – because of floods due to a weak or developing water management. Nowadays, rivers in many European cities are far more man-controlled machines, and hence safer than before. 

But today, there seems to be another monster image of rivers in cities. Ever since the industrial revolution, rivers have – very unfortunately – been used as draining pipes for all the waste from factories, cargo ships, households and even  agricultural fields. (Biochemical) pollution is propably what we fear of most when (thinking of) soaking our feet in waterr or taking a swim. There has been many urban water restoration programmes applied and successfully finished in many cities. Just think of Basel or Bern in Switzerland (probably the most famous and popular examples), Barcelona or Copenhagen. For instance, 26 years ago no one would have thought of taking a swim in the Rhine in Basel, it was highly polluted by the local pharmaceutical companies. And the quality of our rivers is slowly and silently improving.

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Swimming in the Rhein, Basel
Photo: Juri Weiss / Source: www.bs.ch/bilder

To find data, however, on the water quality of our rivers and lakes, and finding parameters that definine them as ‘bathing waters’, was not very easy. The last ‘Bathing Water EU Directive’ is 37 years old (from 1976!), guiding us European citizens in this rather outdated document on the safe consistency of our waters. Also, I had some problems with the classifications of waters: ‘very good, good, moderate, bad and very bad’. Nowhere I could find what those classifications mean. It is quiet difficult to find information about what (dangerous) materials are to be found in our rivers and lakes and what are the parameters to measure their quality? (If anyone of you would know of a document defining them, I would be happy to hear it!). Will this be clearer in the new bathing water directive (which should be implemented in 2015)?

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Swimming in the Rhein, Basel
Photo: Juri Weiss / Source: www.bs.ch/bilder

Also, many bathing waters in Europe were coastal waters and lakes, but no rivers.

How can we put rivers as bathing waters on the map? How and can we compare water quality parameters of coastal waters/lakes and rivers?

The data and tools that helped me to find out more about the quality of European rivers in cities (within urban areas) were interactive data maps by the European Environmental Agency (see below) and for the Danube waterways is was the Final Report of the Joint Danube Survey 2 from 2007 (see below).

Interactive data map of the European Envronmental Agency (EEA): Water quality in rivers and lakes

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Data-management tool: mapping the entire Danube waterway.

Even though I would have liked to compare the water quality of important European cities such as London (Thames), Prague (Vltava) or Amsterdam (Amstel), I have made a selection of cities and rivers I could find information of via the EPA. All the data are from 2010 (annual mean), unfortunately this means that we do not have information of the warm summer period when people seek waters for refreshment more often, and as a conflicting element – water quality is decreased during that time (as bacteria like warmer environments).

Thanks to the Basel’s classification of system of parameters defining water quality in rivers, I could start comparing the quality of European rivers to one another. If I knew what’s a good water quality, and what ingredients define it, then I could apply it to other rivers! And the outcomes were rather surprising. Our rivers are in fact clean and becoming cleaner. Here’s a small excerpt found in the Joint Danube Study 2 from 2007 on the situation in Bratislava (Slovakia):

“Bacterial parameters keep declining, showing their minimum at Bratislava … However, the inputs of the Morava River and Moson arm are characterised by high bacterial numbers, biomass and production … Nonetheless it is remarkable that bacterial parameter values from Danube samples in the vicinity of Bratislava remain low.”

(JDS2 Final Report, 2008 ;p. 99-100)

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Swimming in the Danube, Bratislava (2012): Can this rather unusual occurence become more ‘every-day’ in the summer?
Photo: Svetlana Igorievna Majstrosestrovskij

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Swimming in the Danube, Bratislava (1930’s?): Natural bathing water Lido
Source: https://www.facebook.com/StaraBratislavaNaFotografiach

Here is a small comparisom of the amount of pollutants defining the quality of our rivers. To make the results a bit more bold and concrete, I have added a small pointing system.

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Data comparisom: Veronika Kovacsova

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The quesion that still remains in my mind is: if we have a ranking system for bathing water in our lakes and seas, why can’t we have it for our rivers as well?

In the end, it might not be the water quality that is a problem, but the accessibility to the rivers in our cities. This rather negative title hopefully triggers a public discussion not really about swimming (which is wonderful!), but rather the right to the river, embracing this often tucked-away part of the city. Restoration of rivers as ecological and social incubators in our cities will be studied here further.

So hopefully more positive news, studies and stories to come soon!

 Sources and other reads:

(in English)

Towards better water quality http://www.government.nl/issues/water-management/water-quality/towards-better-water-quality

Bathing water quality remains high around the EU (Oct 03, 2011) http://www.eea.europa.eu/pressroom/newsreleases/bathing-water-quality-remains-high

Bathing water quality http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-bathing/report_2011.html

Joint Danube Survey 1 (2001, ICPDR) http://www.icpdr.org/main/activities-projects/joint-danube-survey-1

Joint Danube Survey 2 (2007, ICPDR) http://www.icpdr.org/main/activities-projects/joint-danube-survey-2 & http://www.icpdr.org/jds/files/ICPDR_Technical_Report_for_web_low_corrected.pdf

(in Slovak)

Profily vôd na kúpanie http://www.uvzsr.sk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1136:profily-vod-na-kupanie&catid=59:kupaliska&Itemid=66

Zoznam vôd vhodných na kúpanie v SR pre kúpaciu sezónu 2010 http://www.sazp.sk/public/index/go.php?id=1167&idl=1167&idf=752&lang=sk

Kvalita vody na kúpanie http://www.enviroportal.sk/agendy/obcan/kvalita-vody-na-kupanie

MŽP: Kvalita vody Dunaja sa neustále zlepšuje (29.6. 2007) http://www.sme.sk/c/3372602/mzp-kvalita-vody-dunaja-sa-neustale-zlepsuje.html

Dunajské kúpaliská v Bratislave (29. 1. 2012) http://www.bratislavskerozky.sk/sk/Cerstve-rozky/Historia/Dunajske-kupaliska-v-Bratislave.html

Julo Satinský / staré kúpalisko Lido http://romanbrna.blog.sme.sk/c/273255/Julo-Satinsky-stare-kupalisko-Lido.html

(in German)

Wasserqualität (Stadt-Basel) http://www.aue.bs.ch/fachbereiche/gewaesser/oberflaechengewaesser/wasserqualitaet.htm

Baden im Rhein http://www.wsa-koeln.wsv.de/aktuelle_informationen/baden_im_rhein.html & http://www.aue.bs.ch/bericht2008_ofg_aue-bs.pdf

Wie Basel lernte, im Fluss zu leben (11.09.2012) http://www.zeit.de/reisen/2012-08/lust-auf-stadt-basel-rhein-schwimmen

(in Czech/German)

Projekt Vltava http://www.projektvltava.com

 & mapping tools

Interactive maps by the EEA on water http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/find#c1=Interactive+data&c1=Interactive+map&c6=water&c9=all&c0=12&b_start=0

 

 

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Recently I bumped into this interesting, enlightening and critical study on the effects of bicycle transportation on the reduction of greenhouse emissions. “What is the potential of cycling when it comes to lowering EU greenhouse gas emissions ? And how does cycling compare with other modes of transport ?” are the main questions of ‘Cycle more Often 2 cool down the planet! Quantifying CO2 savings of Cycling’, a study published by the European Cyclists’ Federation in November 2011.

Source: ‘Cycle more Often 2 cool down the planet! Quantifying CO2 savings of Cycling’, p. 6, November 2011

“Transport is a source of substantial and rapidly increasing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Between 1990 and 2007, EU GHG emissions of all sectors bar transport fell by 15%, whereas transport emissions actually increased by 36% in the same period.” /p. 7/

Source: ‘Cycle more Often 2 cool down the planet! Quantifying CO2 savings of Cycling’, p. 7, November 2011

“Portraying the bicycle as the zero emission option is clearly misleading with respect to its production: GHGs are linked to the extraction and manufacturing of the raw material needed to produce a bicycle.” /p. 9/

The quantification of CO2 emissions for a cars’ production correspond to 42 g/km, however it is estimated that bicycle production and maintenance accounts for approximately 5 grams of CO2/km. The document includes other optimistic and pessimistic facts and prognoses. Definitely a MUST-READ for all – whether you use a car, bicycle, or bus to get around.

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This is just a beginning. To be honest, I’m quiet interested in collaborative data sharing and making. It basically means to be knowledge sharing and knowledge making. Eventhough I don’t know how I’ll make it, or if it will work (will people be willing to participate? Will they feel motivated? And if so – by what or who?), I have made a start. A beginning.

“People have been documenting place and advancing the science of cartography for thousands of years. Unlike early maps, today’s mapping offers the ability to display a plurality of data and information with a high level of precision. Furthermore, the role of the cartographer as a singular author has been replaced with a form of mapping that is produced through collaboration and open-source data sharing, leading to maps that can contain several layers of information in one single digital source.”22, Collaborative Urban Mapping

(100 Urban Trends: A Glossary of Ideas from the BMW Guggenheim Lab Berlin, 2012)

I was interested where do people who live, work or just visited Bratislava go on a hot summer day? Which places (with what characteristics) do they seek, and which on contrary avoid?


The map below is basically a work-in-progress product, a short-term result of a question – QUESTION 3 -I have asked my friends and fans of the Urban Climate Lab‘s facebook page on November 13,2012. And it’s specifically directed to the city of Bratislava, which in the end is the main focus of my graduation work.

In total, I received about 20 suggestions from 22 people (many of the suggested locations were the same).I would hereby like to thank to all who contributed and participated in this experiment!


Open a bigger map here.

When one looks at the types of locations, one can easily notice the correlation with QUESTION 1 and QUESTION 2 presented earlier. Most valued places in a hot summer day in the city are green and blue areas. Many places during the day in the city centre have been described as ‘deserts’ and therefore labeled as avoided, whereas they were mentioned as places to go to in the evening.

The idea of this map is that it would grow. Maybe with other information, other datasets. Would you have any suggestions for improvements or critical remarks, question – I would be pleased to hear them from you!

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Herewith a small round-up of the second question posted on the Urban Climate Lab‘s facebook page:

The results, just like in QUESTION 1, are very similar. The places that were named were mainly locations with water and greenery.

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About a month ago (07-11-2012) I started with my first question on Urban Climate Lab‘s facebook page. As I just started with my research on urban climate, I was interested to know WHAT PEOPLE APPRECIATE IN PUBLIC SPACES DURING A HOT SUMMER DAY.


In total, 37 unique voters joined the poll, resulting in a total of 44 votes. Most of the answers indicated to the importance of shadow, green spaces and presence of water. However, there were a couple of unique answers, such as ‘beer’, ‘hot girls with mini-skirts’, ‘free Club Mate’, ‘seating’ or ‘pub’.

So, how to summarize this poll with such a variety of answers? As this data forms a rather qualitative way of measuring, I have decided to  group certain answers. Apologies to all the voters with unique responces for my scientific incorrectness. So for instance ‘beer’, ‘free Club Mate’ and ‘a pub’ are regarder as refreshments, and hence joining the group ‘water (…, public drinking water tap)’. And the ‘small wind/breeze’ and ‘major wind along a river’ answers would be gropped together. The answer ‘Hot girls with mini-skirts’ I did not consider as valid, even though I really appreciate the humour! The only lone answer would be ‘seating’, which I find very interesting.

One can now easily see and conclude that the three main appreciated charecteristics of a hot summer day have to do with shadow, water and green spaces. All three justly represent the human thermal/climate comfort in cities and the question remains: Are (future) cities  adequately equipped to provide this comfort to people, so that they use public spaces even in extraordinarily warm (+ 25 degrees C) days?

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