Water is integral to our life, and it is quotidian knowledge that most civilisations and cities that followed, developed on the edges of water bodies. As the cities continue to grow, looking at the concrete jungles that are being created and assessing the value of water in this context, it is observed that urbanisation increases the velocity of the run offs of stormwater. This in turn affects river edges and depletes the riparian ecosystems, whose contiguity is key to creating sustainable closed loop biodiversities. Understanding the value of water and looking at solutions to better control it in daily urbanism, there are several solutions ranging various scales that could be incorporated into our streetscape and aesthetics and be made a fundamental philosophy of urban design. Beginning with materials, the ‘green infrastructure’ systems that can be employed are porous ones, such as asphalt and concrete, which infiltrate the water. Slightly larger systems such as bioswales, rain gardens and vegetated filter strips, not only control the flow of water but also add ecological value and aesthetic value through the plants grown. Instead of creating simple streets and alleys, fountains and other artificial water features, urban design should ideally look at creating green channels and focus on reconstructing the fragile riparian buffer, increasing the ecological value and thereby creating continuous sustainable landscapes. Managing stormwater in a conscious manner has other benefits apart from environmental- it engages the public through visual integration and recreational interaction, and also generates awareness about such an intrinsic system. Small changes initiated can create a larger impact across watersheds and flood plains, remediating sites and even potentially mitigate natural disasters. Adding water as a distinct element in our daily life affords a better ambience of living while simultaneously helping increase market value and investment. It is apparent that water does have a multitude of benefits and if in the ecosystem is channelized in the right way, impacts urban spheres across its various domains.
Focussing a more on design and the incorporation of technology, it is important to understand that nature is a great model for design, and this dichotomy between nature being pure versus the human systems being dirty ceases to be valid. Defining technology is critical, as it is inherently human and natural and is currently disconnected to other natural processes. The stormwater infrastructure discussed above, for example, is a beautiful integration of technology with natural systems- and information is key in shaping data analyses and design. While (relevant) information does not give a single answer, it helps formulate the design framework and creates an awareness about the bias of parameters chosen. Given the advancement of technology today, and the deterioration of ecological systems, it would be wise to realise that the two are not isolated, and information from technology is essential for driving changes in the environment that is critical for shaping a better future of urbanism across the world.
- Based on lectures by Nizar Eldahar, PhD, Carnegie Mellon University; Dana Cupkova, Assistant Professor, CMU and Design Principle, Epiphyte Lab
- Artful Rainwater design: https://stuckeman.psu.edu/sites/default/files/facultycontent/jgb_fall07_b00_echols_-_artful_rainwater_design_in_the_urban_landscape.pdf