Creating an integrated water management plan for Old Oak Common & Park Royal
This year’s Green Sky Thinking week was a fantastic chance to hear from leaders in the field of sustainability on how and why we should be creating integrated solutions to the challenge of ‘greening’ our buildings, neighbourhoods and cities.
Perhaps one of the most engaging events organised during that busy week was the GreenSky Hackathon Eve; an opportunity for teams of professionals working in the built environment sector to test out some of the innovative ideas being discussed on their own city. I was kindly invited to be one of a group of ‘gurus’ offering advice to teams on the night and so I was able to observe how the evening unfolded.
Watch our video about the event below:
Within the space of only two hours, the four teams were asked to answer the potential challenge of water management in one of the largest urban regeneration area in the UK: Old Oak Common & Park Royal Opportunity Area. In short, the site is suffering from an imbalance of water. Too much in some places due to a lack of drainage capacity – causing water and sewer flooding risk – and at times too little, as demand for useable water from a growing city increases. To further add to the evening’s challenge, the teams were made up of a mixture of disciplines all of which had some stake in shaping our cities but traditionally may never have worked as closely or as collaboratively together on such a project. The teams were truly interdisciplinary – architects, engineers, lawyers, housing experts, advocacy group members and developers to name a few all pitched in to create their team’s proposed plan.
One of the most important outcomes of the evening was that the vision, ideas and solutions developed will be put forward to the policymkers shaping London’s future.
And I was impressed by the brilliant and imaginative plans presented! Considering the complexity of the challenge they were given, not to mention the limited time, each team was able to come up with their own unique rationale and insight into how they believed the Opportunity Area’s potential water problems could be addressed. Ideas ranged from incorporating remote sensors in order to respond quickly to threats of flooding, repurposing the site’s canals as a water management tool to treating the invasion of water onto the site as an opportunity to improve the health and wellbeing of the area rather than as a problem. Many were even able to push the initial brief by suggesting how their ideas could be replicated and scaled up across UK cities as well as the long term impact of their interventions on the surrounding neighbourhoods.
As someone who works with cities to manage their issues of urban resilience, I feel it is important to note that the challenge of water management is by no means specific to London or the UK. Many of the cities with which the Risk & Resilience team at BuroHappold work face the dual problem of water stress as well as flooding and consistently raise it as a serious and growing concern. It was therefore heartening to see teams, from sometimes very different disciplines, put in the time and effort to come up with some new and innovative ideas on this growing problem. One of the most important outcomes of the evening was that the vision, ideas and solutions developed will be put forward to the policymakers shaping London’s future. This is just one example of the positive impact that initiatives like Green Sky Thinking week can have in driving sustainable and resilient design in the built environment.