Sea levels have been rising 0.14 inches (3.5 millimeters) per year since the early 1990s. In the decades to come, many of the world’s coastal cities will be threatened. Hamburg’s new city core responded to this challenge with a relatively inexpensive solution, HafenCity is designed to be flood proof.
HafenCity is Designed To Be Flood Proof
According to Professor Jürgen Bruns-Berentelg, CEO of HafenCity Hamburg GmbH, there is not anything like this elsewhere in Europe. Prior to the 1990’s, this was a harbour/industrial area. Only six buildings remain from that era. People used to move out to the suburbs. HafenCity is the rebirth of a city centre, “a new downtown” that contains an intricate network of offices, public spaces, commercial spaces, around 2,000 inhabitants and 10.5 kilometres of publicly accessible quayside promenades.
HafenCity is one of the most environmentally conscious communities in the world. Every would-be-developer has to sign an agreement saying they will built to the Gold standard, the European equivalent of LEED Platinum. Buildings are energy efficient. There is a high proportion of green roofs and solar panels. The area obtains 92% of its’ energy from renewable sources. (Fossil fuels are only used during peak load.)
“This not a downtown in the classical sense, like downtown Chicago or in a Toronto high-rise, but allows for a different sort of relationship between private spaces and public space. The public spaces become extremely important as part of the whole identity of the city, ” said Bruns-Berentelg.
He added, “We have a brownfield conversion that has the potential of redefining what urban mobility is.”
Only about 25% of HafenCity’s movements are by automobile. There are more paths and promenades than roads and the majority of them are not close to automobile traffic. There is also subway, buses and car-sharing services for electric vehicles.
A third of the residential units in HafenCity are subsidized housing.
(This has been the standard in Hamburg for several years and appears to be a common practise throughout Germany.)
Rental units costing Є9.60 per square metre (Є960 for a 320 square foot unit) are in the same neighbourhoods as expensive penthouse condos.
HafenCity Is Designed To Be Flood Proof
One of the challenges they faced was rising sea levels. HafenCity is on an island that is only 4.5 to 5 metres above sea level. Once a year, the waters already rise high enough to cover the picturesque promenade.
Yet Hamburg still remembers the flood of 1962, when a catastrophic flood terminated the lives of 347 people.
HafenCity chose a different solution. Instead of dikes, which are both very costly and would have destroyed the area’s picturesque waterfront charm, they designed their neighbourhood to be “flood proof.” The first floor of every building on the promenade is dedicated to retail outlets, and exhibition spaces, that are sealed off in times of flooding.
“The solution is not complicated, you just close the door and there is someone responsible for this in every building,” said Susanne Bühler, Head of Communications for HafenCity. “Only the promenades are vacated in case of flooding.”
Buildings behind the promenade are built on “warts” (elevated mounds) 8-9 meters above mean sea level.
The streets are also on this higher level and not effected by the neighbourhood’s annual flood.
Bühler suggested that, as sea levels continue to rise, a number of coastal cities may adopt strategies similar to HafenCity’s.
Top Photo Credit: Water and Green Technologies in Hamburg, Handout for Press Trip Nov 26th, 2015 – Courtesy Professor Jürgen Bruns-Berentelg, CEO HafenCity Hamburg GmbH