Sponge City is a concept in urban planning and design that aims to make cities more resilient to flooding and other natural disasters by designing urban areas to absorb, store, and use water more efficiently. This can be achieved through a variety of strategies, including green infrastructure, permeable pavement, and rainwater harvesting systems.
The goal of Sponge City is to reduce the negative impacts of extreme weather events on urban areas and to create more livable and sustainable communities. Some of the key benefits of Sponge City design include reduced flood risk, improved water quality, increased green space, and improved air quality.
The sponge city concept was proposed by Chinese researchers in 2013 and Professor Kongjian Yu is the mastermind behind it. Professor Yu (born in 1963) is a landscape architect and urbanist, writer, and educator, commonly credited with the invention of the Sponge City concept, and winner of the International Federation of Landscape Architects’ Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe Award in 2020
What are the key issues the Sponge City concept aims to solve?
Sponge City design aims to address a number of issues related to urban flooding and water management, including:
- Flooding: Sponge City concept aims to reduce the risk of flooding in urban areas by creating infrastructure that can absorb and store excess water during heavy rainfall events.
- Water quality: Stormwater runoff is a big environmental problem. Stormwater effectively cleans up city streets and residential sidewalks by scooping up pollutants like oil, synthetic chemicals, and various solids on its way to a natural or artificial drain. The contaminated fluid fills reservoirs, rivers, and the ocean. As polluted discharge reaches essential water sources, it poses harmful effects. The sponge city concept aims to solve the stormwater runoff problem too.
- Green space: Increasing the amount of green space in urban areas by incorporating features such as green roofs, rain gardens, and permeable pavement. Green spaces, such as parks, gardens, and green roofs, can help to prevent flooding in urban areas by absorbing and storing stormwater runoff. During a rainfall event, green space acts as a sponge, soaking up and holding onto the water until it can be slowly released back into the environment. This can help to reduce the volume of water that enters the sewage system and reduces the risk of flooding in urban areas. In addition to helping to prevent flooding, green space also provides a number of other benefits, including improving air quality, increasing property values, and providing recreational opportunities.
- Air quality: Sponge City design can improve air quality by reducing the amount of stormwater runoff that enters the sewage system and by increasing the amount of green space in urban areas, which can help to absorb pollutants.
- Climate Problems caused by climate change: The Earth is getting warmer, rapidly, and this cause many problems such as more frequent and severe rainfall events and as a result, floods. By creating infrastructure that can handle larger volumes of water, the Sponge City concept aims to solve problems created by rapid climate change.
What does a Sponge City need in practice?
In practice, a Sponge City typically needs a variety of infrastructure and design elements to effectively absorb, store, and use water more efficiently. Some of the key elements include:
- Green infrastructure: This includes features such as green roofs, rain gardens, parks, urban forests, and permeable pavement, which can absorb and store stormwater runoff.
- Rainwater harvesting systems: These systems collect and store rainwater for reuse, such as for irrigation or flushing toilets.
- Flood control measures: These can include retention basins, permeable levees, and other structures that help to manage and reduce flood risk.
- Water treatment facilities: These facilities can help to purify and treat stormwater runoff before it is released back into the environment.
- Public education and outreach: A key aspect of the concept is raising awareness among residents and policymakers about the importance of water management and the benefits of Sponge City’s design.
- Integrated planning: Sponge City design is most effective when it is integrated into the overall planning and design of a city, rather than being implemented as a standalone project.
What are the benefits of Sponge City?
There are a number of benefits to implementing Sponge City design in urban areas, including:
- Reduced flood risk: It can help to reduce the risk of flooding in urban areas by creating infrastructure that can absorb and store excess water during heavy rainfall events.
- Improved water quality: It can help to improve water quality by filtering and purifying stormwater runoff before it is released back into the environment.
- Increased green space: Sponge City design can increase the amount of green space in urban areas by incorporating features such as green roofs, rain gardens, and permeable pavement.
- Improved air quality:
- Reducing stormwater runoff that enters the sewage system
- Sponge City design can increase the amount of green space in urban areas by incorporating features such as green roofs, rain gardens, and permeable pavement. Green space helps to absorb pollutants from the air, improving air quality.
- Reducing heat island effect: Urban areas can be significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas due to the “heat island” effect, which is caused by a large amount of asphalt and concrete in cities. Sponge City design can help to reduce the heat island effect by increasing the amount of green space and incorporating permeable pavement, which can help to cool the air and improve air quality.
- Reducing energy use: Sponge City design can help to reduce energy use by decreasing the need for stormwater management infrastructures, such as detention basins and retention ponds, which require energy to operate.
- Climate change adaptation: It can help cities adapt to the impacts of climate change, such as more frequent and severe rainfall events, by creating infrastructure that can handle larger volumes of water.
- Increased livability: Sponge City design can help to create more livable and sustainable communities by reducing the negative impacts of extreme weather events and by creating more green space and recreational opportunities.
- Sponge city on Wikipedia
- “Sponge City Concepts Could Be The Answer to China’s Impending Water Crisis” on Earth.org
- Sponge Cities: What is it all about? on the World Future Council website
- Study: “Sponge City” in China-A breakthrough of planning and flood risk management in the urban context on the Science Direct website
- “China’s sponge cities are a ‘revolutionary rethink’ to prevent flooding” on the Euro News website