What is Urban Resilience?
What is Urban Resilience?
Growing populations and an increase of natural disasters is increasing the strain on urban areas across the country. From these concerns comes the movement towards Urban Resilience. Urban Resilience is the idea that cities can be built or altered to better prepare and navigate these issues. Sustainable Infrastructure, adaptable ecological systems, stable economies, inclusive societies, and transparent leadership can each contribute to more resilient cities. For our purposes we will focus on how infrastructure and ecological factors can give urban areas the ability to absorb, recover and prepare for future shocks.
Why is Urban Resilience Important?
The number and cost of weather-related disasters are on the rise in the United States. This is due to increased exposure, greater intensity and damage caused and the rate at which these events are occurring. Reports from the Climate Change Committee (CCC), attribute much of this increase to climate change. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information the number of Billion-dollar disasters in 2020 was 22-separate events. The cost of these events exceeded $95 billion in damages. Of these 13 were related to severe storms. In addition to cost, people’s lives and well-being were at risk.
In the United States the population in urban areas has increased from approximately 30% in the 1950s to 82% in 2020. It is anticipated that this number will continue to grow. With the increase in both population and climate related disasters, it is important that we consider Urban Resilience in both existing and new development. Most major cities in the US were not designed to support these changes.
Creating Urban Resilience
To change the infrastructure in an existing urban development is not always possible, but to add components which can aide in handling these disasters is achievable. There are a number of ways cities can assess their risks and better prepare for these inevitable events. Early alerts, community awareness and evacuation plans should all be in place but adding components that prevent or manage the effects of these occurrences need to also be a priority.
In Cities with storm and flooding risks, stormwater management is amongst the most important ways to build resiliency. Most cities now use municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s). These are networks of ditches, curbs, gutters, sewer pipes, and outfalls solely dedicated to moving runoff from everywhere in the city to the natural waterways that eventually carry it away. However, in the event of extreme rainfall these waterways are not equipped to manage a deluge of water. Additionally, pollutants from the streets are washed into the waterways. Some cities have added concrete to the inside of channels to increase the water flow, but this diminishes the natural beauty of the landscape and does nothing to pull pollutants from the water.
Many Municipalities are now requiring developers to add retention and detention ponds which help with the initial impact of rainwater and release it slowly back into the waterways. While these are helpful in new development, they are not always easy to add in to existing urban areas.
There are several other low-impact solutions that are more frequently being used to address stormwater concerns and meet municipal requirements. These include rain gardens, vegetated rooftops, rain barrels, underground storage systems and porous paving. Of these, underground storage systems and porous paving can have the most impact on the effects of rainwater runoff, especially when used together. Surfaces that are pervious can absorb water and send it back into the earth to recharge ground water and filter out pollutants. Porous concrete, porous asphalt, ridged plastic pavers and flexible plastic pavers can make surfaces traditionally created from impervious materials into functional areas that also serve to aide in stormwater mitigation.
Pedestrian paths, parking lots and fire lanes can all be made using porous paving creating areas around buildings that will drain instead of pool or send runoff to other areas.
Underground water storage can be added under functional porous surfaces to increase flow, naturally filter out toxins and contain water beneath the surface.
Not All Porous Paving is Created Equally
What makes porous paving products different from one another? The structures themselves vary in material, size, shape, compressive strength and most importantly void space which directly impacts flow rate and how much drainage can occur.
While using any pervious material is an environmentally better choice, flexible plastic pavers will have the greatest impact on extreme rain events, making them the best option in planning for Urban Resilience. These pavers can also be used in conjunction with underground storage systems for maximum impact. Because natural bioremediation occurs when the water runs through sand, these systems can provide the opportunity for water reuse, further increasing the environmental benefits.
Invisible Structures in Urban Planning
Grasspave2, Gravelpave 2 and Rainstore3 can be used for a number of applications in urban environments. These applications can be easily installed in existing areas as well as included in plans in new developments.
Grasspave2 and Gravelpave2 can replace concrete or asphalt in pathways, parks, parking lots, fire lanes, access roads, campuses and even helicopter landing pads. Because both products exceed H20 loading and have a psi of 15,940 they can support the weight of virtually any vehicle. A 92% void space allows for maximum flow rate and faster drainage. Both also reduce C02 and filter pollutants.
Rainstore3 is a modular stackable underground water storage system that can serve as a detention or retention system. The height of Rainstore3 can be customized and the preassembled stacks can be easily dropped into the site. It can be installed under small structures or around existing buildings, rocks and trees An impressive 94% void space equates to almost 25 gallons of water storage per unit. Rainstore3 can be also used for more efficient green roofs and rain gardens.
If Grasspave2 or Gravelpave2 is used in conjunction with Rainstore3, drainage can be increased even more, to maximize the flow rate. Because the water is filtered, toxins are removed, and water can be reused immediately for non-potable purposes.
Our products are lightweight and easy to install making them ideal for both new and existing development. Taking out an existing surface and replacing it with Grasspave2, Gravelpave2 or installing Rainstore3 requires minimal time and disruption in a busy urban environment. While there is cost associated with replacing or adding our products, they will lessen the cost of future damage caused by an extreme rainfall event making them an ideal component in creating a more resilient city.
Invisible Structures is the leader in porous paving and stormwater management solutions. We provide the finest in grass porous paving, gravel porous paving, underground stormwater storage, erosion control, drainage, and access mats.
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