Making Room for Nature: Eco-villages and the Room for the River Projects, Wet Infrastructure Planning Course, Day 4

By Andrew Sgro and Christopher Yuen

Andrew Sgro and Christopher Yuen are students in their final year of Ryerson’s Master of Planning program.  Andrew is focused on feasibility, large-scale infrastructure, and real estate and their potential for improving the places we love.  Christopher’s research interests include transportation planning and multi-functional infrastructure.

Today began with the Lena Maria docked in the Dordrecht, famous for its preserved medieval city centre. We began our day by heading to Culemborg, a municipality approximately 15 minutes south of the city of Utretch.  In Culemborg, we had the opportunity to tour the EVA Lanxmeer Eco-Village, a neighbourhood built to enable closed loop ecosystem services as much as possible. As this community is situated five meters below sea level, water management is essential to the functioning of the area.

Water table meter within the community for public education purposes.

Water table meter within the community for public education purposes.

The initial concept for the eco village was developed by the EVA Foundation with the assistance of the municipality of Culemborg. It is suited within an environmentally significant location as it sits near the town of Culemborg’s drinking water supply. The design of the community was specifically created around protecting and enhancing the site’s environmental features.

Stormwater and greywater is managed internally within the neighbourhood.

Stormwater and greywater is managed internally within the neighbourhood.

The community contains schools, homes, offices, and senior housing providing for an intergenerational mix and uses. Community gardens are located throughout the development with each household contributing their up-keep and finances.

Homeowners are obliged to contribute financially laboriously to the upkeep of community gardens to a mutually agreed upon aesthetic.

Homeowners are obliged to contribute financially laboriously to the upkeep of community gardens to a mutually agreed upon aesthetic.

 

M. Shouten explains the design and function of the Nijmegen Room for the River Project.

M. Shouten explains the design and function of the Nijmegen Room for the River Project.

In the afternoon, we travelled further east to Nijmegen, a city near the Netherland’s border with Germany.  Here, Mathieu Schouten, landscape architect with the municipality, presented on Nijmegen’s Room for the River project. The Nijmegen Room for the River project is one piece of a 2.4 Billion Euro project to re-design the Rijn River system to manage flood risk in the face of climate change and the increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather.

Above, the island in the image was previously a part of the main land mass above it before the secondary channel for the Waal river was dug.

Above, the island in the image was previously a part of the main land mass above it before the secondary channel for the Waal river was dug. Image source: (http://www.ruimtevoordewaal.nl/en/visuals/panoramic-photos)

The public engagement, planning and approval of this project took 7 years and construction continues today.  The entire project, including the cost of the re-location of 50 homeowners that had to be expropriated, cost 360 Million Euros.

Water levels at the time of our visit were very low.  The channel is capable of  accommodating flows nearly to the level of the dike where a person is cycling in the photograph.

Water levels at the time of our visit were very low. The channel is capable of accommodating flows nearly to the level of the dike where a person is cycling in the photograph.

This project involved the creation of an artificial secondary channel for the Waal River to accommodate up to 1/3 of the volume of the Waal river at a time of high water flow.

Exploring De Biesbosch, Wet Infrastructure Studio Planning Course, Day 3

By: Greggory Hanson & Trevor Empey

Greggory Hanson: An Urban Planning Masters student with keen interests in urban systems and transportation. Research focus is predominantly in active transportation and stormwater management.

Trevor Empey:  Trevor is a highly engaged, Urban Planning Graduate Student who has a strong interest in environmental planning initiatives and for the development of healthy cities as urbanization continues to explode.

SURP Grads and Undergrads receiving field information from Prof. Lister

SURP Grads and Undergrads receiving field information from Prof. Lister

It isn’t all about big impressive concrete infrastructure in the Netherlands! Sometimes, a perspective and appreciation for the way nature manages water can yield just as impressive results without all the fanfare. Our studio appropriately visited De Biesbosch National Park right after visiting one of the Netherlands largest scale hard infrastructure investments, the Oosterscheldekering, or the Easter Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier. The national park, just on the outskirts of Dordrecht, is one of many ‘Room for the River’ sites aimed at managing river based flooding. We were immersed in the history of the site through a presentation in the museum on site, and a tour of the artificially natural floodplain that spans the majority of De Biesbosch. The site itself is located at the outflow of the Wall River which flows into the Rhine/ Meuse Delta. De Biesbosch National Park is a perfect example of the triple threat that the Dutch face (subsidence, increased outflow, and sea level rise) and what a fitting way to approach this triple threat than to return to natural solutions!

Map of Naturalized Biesbosch

Map of Naturalized Biesbosch

History

Originally marshlands, De Biesbosch, or a forest of rushwoods in English, was created after  a large flooding event which occurred during the early 15th century. This flooding event caused the breach of several dikes which were poorly built and maintained and after an extended period of time, an estuary system became to be known as De Biesbosch. Overtime, land reclamation occurred through the use of polders, a traditional Dutch water management technique, where a predominant agricultural land use dominated the landscape.

Paradigm Shift

After a few recent scares resulting in the National ‘Room for the River’ project, the Dutch decided to approach De Biesbosch with a different mindset, one where natural interventions and solutions to flood mitigation and water management would be incorporated. The reclaimed land was returned to an artificial natural state that would flood in situations where the rivers swelled. This represented a paradigm shift that was replicating itself all across the Netherlands. The Dutch realized that allowing the natural systems to operate the way they historically have been meant that they could guide and anticipate flooding situations as opposed to the traditional approaches of raising dikes and building large infrastructure. Because of this change in thinking, The De Biesbosch National Park is a flagship example of the Dutch new wave of water management!

Landscape Architect, Robert De Koning, with Prof. Liste discussing the use of willows as as a natural flood mitigation strategy used in De Biesbosch.

Landscape Architect, Robert De Koning, with Prof. Liste discussing the use of willows as as a natural flood mitigation strategy used in De Biesbosch.

Constant visual reminders of the high water mark shown by the defined colours of bricks.

Constant visual reminders of the high water mark shown by the defined colours of bricks.

Exploring Rotterdam: Boats, Bikes, and Basins: Wet Infrastructure Studio Planning Course, Day 2

By: Cate Flanagan and Keira Webster

Cate Flanagan and Keira Webster are in their final year of their Master’s of Planning at the Ryerson University School of Urban and Regional Planning. They are passionate about active and sustainable transportation, building urban resilience, and all things environment-related.

The Netherland’s second largest city, Rotterdam, is home to 584,000 inhabitants and the biggest and busiest port in Europe. Rotterdam, meaning “dam on the Rotte” is situated along the New Meuse river, the primary channel in the delta created by the rivers, Rhine and Meuse. On the morning of Tuesday October 4th, we enjoyed a breezy boat tour exploring the old port of the city experiencing part of what makes Rotterdam a cosmopolitan urban centre.

Not only did we have a great view of Rotterdam’s modern architecture from the boat – including de rotterdam (the tallest building in The Netherlands) designed by Rem Koolhaas and the erasmus bridge designed by Ben van Berkel – but also were able to experience some of the inner workings of the old port from the moving of shipping containers to the dredging of the channel floor (pictured below).

Dredging of the channel floor in Rotterdam (Grant Mason/2016)

Dredging of the channel floor in Rotterdam (Grant Mason/2016)

Our team was fortunate enough to meet Anna Loes Niellsen, the director of DeFacto Architecture + Urbanism and key player in the world water industry. Her firm has worked on extensive flood risk and delta plans for countries ranging from the United States of America to Bangladesh, in addition to multiple projects in climate adaptation, waterfront planning, and parks. Her informative presentation emphasized one main point: “to design, you must understand how the natural systems fundamentally work”, a key lesson for Toronto and our compromised hydrological systems.

The afternoon brought a myriad of educational moments in both green infrastructure and cycling etiquette as we explored Rotterdam’s Merwevierhavens (M4H) neighbourhood. M4H was created as a district for the fruit import industry in the early years of the 20th century. Since then, the technology and energy sectors have occupied the site followed by the recent influx of artists and designers to the area.

The bike tour focused on smaller scale urban blue and green infrastructure. Notable stops along the tour included lunch at the urban farm Uit Je Eigen Stad, the adaptive reuse of a stormwater tank for the ballet, and a rooftop park above a “big box” retail boulevard.

Multi-purpose rooftop park situated above retail street (Cate Flanagan/2016)

Multi-purpose rooftop park situated above retail street (Cate Flanagan/2016)

The bike tour concluded outside M4H at the Rotterdam water square, Benthemsquare (Benthemplein). Pictured below, the water square – designed by Dutch landscape architecture firm, De Urbanisten – makes water the primary feature of the space. The multipurpose public space serves as a school-yard and recreational space during sunny days, and an urban reservoir during storms. Runoff from the city streets are channeled into the square’s basins and is held there until it can be gradually drained into Rotterdam’s larger water management systems.

Benthemplein water square acts as a multi-functional place for stormwater management and public activity (Grant Mason/2016)

Benthemplein water square acts as a multi-functional place for stormwater management and public activity (Grant Mason/2016)

Sources:

Eupedia. (n.d.). Rotterdam Travel Guide. Retrieved from Eupedia: http://www.eupedia.com/netherlands/rotterdam.shtml

Green, J. (2014). Detours Obligatory: Rotterdam’s Water Square. Retrieved from The Dirt ASLA website: https://dirt.asla.org/2014/03/13/detours-obligatory-rotterdams-water-square/

Rotterdams Collectief & Tapan Communicatie. (2014-2015). M4H – Development Strategy. Retrieved from Dutch Urban Solutions website: http://www.dutchurbansolutions.com/xxl—m4h-development-strategy

Beautiful Amsterdam, TU Delft, and Massive Infrastructure: Day 1 of Wet Infrastructure Studio Course

By: Grant Mason & Lara Hintelmann

Grant and Lara are in their final year of the graduate planning program at Ryerson University. Lara enjoys exploring new places and learning about how culture and physical landscapes impact each other. Grant enjoys discovering and documenting the beauty in our urban environments and recognizing the ways culture is reflected in architecture. They are both passionate about urban resilience and building healthy sustainable cities.

Leaving Oosterdok in the early afternoon on the Lena Maria, we sailed through the canals of Amsterdam. Taking in the beautiful architecture and getting a feel for the city, we quickly realize two things: the Netherlands is a nation of cyclists and two, it is a nation that lives comfortably with and around water. Upon reaching the countryside, the latter becomes very apparent. Everywhere you look there are straight canals cut into the land. Add in some windmills, grazing cows, and cyclists, and the result is a very romantic and picturesque landscape.

Travelling on the Lena Maria.

Travelling on the Lena Maria.

As lovely as they are, these canals are not built for aesthetic purposes. Rather, they play an important and integral role in the Dutch landscape. Centuries ago land was creating from the then marshy land by a process called poldering: farmers would dig ditches and build dikes around a plot of land, and windmills powering screw-pumps would carry out the drainage process. As a large majority of the Netherlands is below sea-level, this has been the method used to produce land that is dry. Many of these windmills are still operating, though the majority have been replaced with modern electric pumps.

In the early evening we arrive in Leiden, located some 40km from Amsterdam. It is our first opportunity to take out the bikes in the Netherlands and explore, which proved to be quite the introduction to the country. In random bursts of sheet rain and downpours, we cycle through the city centre to experience the carnival that is in full swing. It is the celebration of Drie Oktober – celebrating the end of the Spanish siege of 1574. We hop on “The View of Leiden”, a ferris wheel that gives a wonderful view over the city and the festivities. Despite the down pouring rain, people are still on the rides and enjoying the fun atmosphere.

Docked in Leiden, ready to take out our bikes to explore the city.

Docked in Leiden, ready to take out our bikes to explore the city.

The following morning we get fully immersed in the Dutch culture of “living with water”. To start off our day we visit TU Delft where we listen to a presentation about initiatives in the Netherlands to combat, and also work with water. Projects here are geared towards finding ways to integrate stormwater and flooding, rather than combat and expel water. A major component of stormwater management is the holding, and slowing of water. In many cases the Dutch have engineered their public spaces to act as temporary reservoirs in the event of a storm. More water held in a park means less water to flood basements and homes. This is only one example of the technology being utilized to manage the growing risk of flooding.

Visiting TU Delft, inside the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment

Visiting TU Delft, inside the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment

 

After this introduction, we have a visit at Deltares, an independent institute for research in water specifically flood risk and adaptive delta planning. Here we are introduced to the Delta Flume – a 300m long flume capable of generating 4.5m high waves. This facility tests full scale effects of extreme waves, useful for flood defence designs and related research. We also take a tour of the hydro facilities and then visit the impressive Deltares interactive data research laboratory (iD-lab). During crisis and disaster situations, this lab uses real-time information to track flooding. Tailored visualizations are created to show the effects of a flood on infrastructure and demonstrates the linkages between stakeholders. The iD-Lab combines expert knowledge and open data to analyze cascading effects.

The Delta Flume at Deltares. Source: Dutch Water Sector, September 2012

The Delta Flume at Deltares. Source: Dutch Water Sector, September 2012

Our last stop of the day as at the Deltapark Neeltje Jans, where we take a walk over to the largest storm surge barrier in the world – the Oosterscheldekering. This experience highlights the history of the Dutch struggle against water.

As Toronto experienced Hurricane Hazel in 1954 that saw much devastation to the city of Toronto, the Netherlands experienced a terrible disaster as well in the 1950s. This storm and resultant flooding claimed the lives of 2,000+ people. This demonstrated the risk and cost of living below sea level, and forced the Dutch to upgrade their protective measures against future storms. The Dutch now face a triple threat in regards to water: sea levels are rising, increased precipitation and melt causes the river levels to rise, and historical poldering has desaturated the land, causing subsidence. In response, the Delta Works Commission was created to develop measures to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again. This particular project that we visited is the largest of the 13 Delta Works series of dams and storm surge barriers. This is an immensely impressive undertaking, which sees the delta – a stretch of 9km – cut off by 3 sections of sluices (62 gates in total). These gates close in the event of a major storm surge, but remain open the rest of the time to allow the extreme tides of the Lower Schelt estuary to move in and out. It took a decade to construct and is designed to last 200 years. Before the Oosterscheldekering, the chance of flooding was once in 80 years and now it has been reduced to once in 4000 years.

Visiting the Oosterscheldekering. Walking along one of the 62 gates that make up the 9km long storm surge barrier.picture5

Visiting the Oosterscheldekering. Walking along one of the 62 gates that make up the 9km long storm surge barrier.

Educational playground at the Deltapark Neeltje Jans.

Educational playground at the Deltapark Neeltje Jans.

Ending this outing we came across an interactive playground that aimed to teach children about water and flooding. Children here learn at a very young age about water – living with water is very much part of the culture and it is evident everywhere we go.

 

After this day of learning about how the Dutch interact with their landscape and take measures to fight climate change, and the ever present threat of the sea, we understand a little bit more of this place and gain a great appreciation for their boldness and ambition.

 

 At the Deltapark, view from the Oosterscheldekering. The Dutch are world  leaders in managing water.

At the Deltapark, view from the Oosterscheldekering. The Dutch are world  leaders in managing water.

Students honoured at FCS Recognition Event – An Outsider’s Perspective

Guest Blogger: Samantha Sim
Ontario Work Study Program (OWSP) employee for the Faculty of Community Services and 2nd-year Journalism student

Last Wednesday’s first-annual FCS Student Achievement Event reminded me just how interconnected our world really is and how important it is to use this interconnectedness to give back to the communities around us who’re in need. The event showcased 23 presentations split into two categories: students presenting on conferences they had attended and students presenting on their experience at an international placement.  Being a journalism student I’m essentially an outsider to the faculty, so it was interesting for me to see the variety of countries students visited and the range of topics that had been presented at conferences. The event showed me that no matter your age you can make an impact on the world around you and it really got me thinking about the one I want to make before I leave this school.

Award recipients Ying-Mei Liang (left) and Marian Mohamud (right) with Dean Dr. Usha George.

The event also honoured three students who were recipients of Faculty of Community Service awards. Nursing student Ying-Mei Liang was the winner of the FCS Full-Time Undergraduate Award. “Thank you to FCS for recognizing students who go the extra mile outside of class,” she said. Disability studies student Stacey Simmons won the FCS Part-Time Undergraduate Award. Social work student Marian Mohamud was the recipient of the RBC Community Services Award. “[FCS] recognizes our hard work. [Winning this award] tells me that I’m doing something good and that I should continue doing it,” said Mohamud.

Here are a few of the presentations that caught my eye:

Tina, a fourth-year ECE student who recently visited Tanzania, Africa.

Tina, a fourth-year early childhood education student, spent three weeks in Tanzania, Africa this past May working as a team lead for Child Reach International, a U.K. based charity that provides community based development to children worldwide. She helped renovate a local school, teach children, and recruit team members for the charity. Her stay also included a cultural experience where she was able to visit and explore local African communities. “It was an incredible experience and I’d recommend other students to go,” she said. “I’ll definitely be going back within the next five years.”

Denice (right) speaking with an event attendee.

Health science graduate Denice Koo showcased her presentation “An examination of knowledge, beliefs and perceptions about the plant-based diet among women attending breast cancer risk assessment clinics” that she presented at the American Institute for Cancer Research Annual Research Conference in October 2010. Koo credits the conference support grant as being a major advantage for helping her to secure her current and past jobs. She currently works as a corporate patient education specialist at St. Michael’s Hospital. “Without [the conference support grant], which allowed me to showcase this level of research, I may not have been able to get the types of employment opportunities I’ve had.”

The New Orleans Project and its participants.

A group of students travelled to New Orleans to work with the St. Bernard Project, which is helping to rebuild the St. Bernard parish after Hurricane Katrina. In addition some of the students travelled to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to volunteer at a donation centre sorting goods for the victims of the recent tornadoes. I spoke with Iryna Muzyka, a fourth-year food and nutrition student, and Daphne Paszterko, a continuing education student, who both agree that the trip really opened their eyes to the scope of the damage these natural disasters inflicted. “Even if you can see these things on T.V., [this project let us see firsthand] the people who’ve been affected,” said Paszterko.

Katarzyna (left) with Dean Dr. Usha George (right).

Katarzyna Tupta, a masters nutrition communication student, presented the findings of her presentation titled “Expectations and perceptions of first-year students in Ontario food and nutrition undergraduate programs” at the Dietitians of Canada National Conference in Edmonton this past July. This was the first conference Tupta attended and she encourages other students to take advantage of the conference support grant. “There’s a whole world outside of school with lots of interesting research going on. The [conference support grant] gave me an opportunity to see this and make lots of professional contacts,” she says. For her project Tupta surveyed 104 first-year nutrition students about what they expected out of their program and whether they were interested in becoming dieticians. She found that 97% of students were in the program with the objective of becoming dieticians.

Welcome from the Dean

Dear students,

The Faculty of Community Services is entering the social networking arena to hear from our students and encourage their participation in the life of the Faculty. We are very keen to know your perspectives on your life at Ryerson and how we can assist you to have fun while you are studying hard to complete your program of study.

Our new FCS Student Life Blog will be updated daily by our very own students and will cover anything and everything that may be of interest to Ryerson students and specifically to students in any of our nine programs (Child and Youth Care, Disability Studies, Early Childhood Education, Midwifery, Nutrition, Occupational and Public Health, Social Work and Urban and Regional Planning).

Visit often for stories about campus life, student experiences and anything else that matters to our students.

Sincerely, Usha George
Dean, Faculty of Community Services