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Thoughts on Copenhagen: Baca Architects

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The LifE Project aims to introduce design guidance to cope with increased flood frequencies caused by global warming, says Baca Architects

Our LifE (Long-term Initiatives for Flood-risk Environments) Project, research for Defra, undertaken with the Building Research Establishment, shows how communities can adapt to the increased flood frequency and severity, which is likely to happen with climate change.

Since the project was published last summer, we have been in discussion with the local councils of the study sites. On the agenda is the possibility of a new form of urban design guidance, which would integrate water management and climate adaptation at its core.

This would help clarify a host of design issues such as: where and how to apply Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDS); where best to locate public amenity to provide future flood attenuation; and what form of construction to use to provide the appropriate flood resilience.

LifE is a zero-carbon approach, which provides all energy needs from renewable resources on-site

The proposals represent a shift in thinking, which allows us to live comfortably with water, not fight against it. By permitting water into sites in a controlled manner, LifE promotes innovative landscape solutions where it is not possible to locate development in areas of lower flood risk. The approach creates architectural opportunities, from the design of floating and amphibious homes to the way new and existing towns are planned.

The LifE project seeks to address these needs simultaneously by working with natural processes to provide room for the river and sea to expand in times of flood and reduce reliance on defences, where possible. At the same time, LifE is a zero-carbon approach, which provides all energy needs from renewable resources on-site, such as wind, tidal and solar power.

To test the LifE approach, three desktop masterplans were developed as case studies. The sites chosen, from those submitted by local governments, varied in character, flood-risk and renewable energy potential.

Proposals for large-scale masterplans of between 1,000 and 2,000 new homes were developed for each site: Hackbridge within the upper catchment of the River Wandle; Peterborough within the middle catchment of the River Nene; and Littlehampton within the lower catchment of the River Arun.

The LifE approach has also drawn interest from Holland. In 2006, Baca won the Dordrecht flood-proof pilot for 100 floating, amphibious and flood-resilient homes, and in November 2009 its scheme for Nijmegen’s ‘Room for the River project’.

Baca Architects is a London-based practice. It was been working on the LifE project since 2005

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