Hamburg, Germany is one of the world’s many cities threatened by rising sea levels, yet its development of the eco-friendly HafenCity district may be part of the solution. The island sits a mere 4.5 or 5 meters above sea level, yet instead of abandoning the area and moving inward, the city has developed HafenCity into a model of sustainability for its 2,000 residents. Even more impressive is its simple solution to annual flooding and the effects of climate change.

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The area used to be an industrial harbor, yet now houses thousands of citizens in swanky, solar-powered apartments and entertains visitors with commercial spaces in “the new downtown” Hamburg. HafenCity has strict policies about new developments, requiring them to adhere to the Gold Standard, or the equivalent of LEED Platinum requirements. 92 percent of energy comes from renewable resources and only 25 percent of transportation is done by automobile. Winding paths and promenades encourage residents to stroll to their destinations, yet subways, car-sharing programs, and electric vehicles also abound.

Related: Hamburg announces plans to become a car-free city within 20 years

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Hamburg experiences yearly floods which leave buildings near sea level covered. And the promise of rising waters from global warming means this hazard will only grow more problematic. The district’s solution is quite simple: only build commercial spaces on the first levels of buildings and install reinforced doors to quite literally close up shop when floodwaters rise. Retail outlets and exhibition spaces on the promenade will have a designated taskmaster to shut these doors during times of floods and residents can stay safely above water in buildings built up on 8 to 9 foot “warts” and on ground elevated higher than the promenade. The solution has saved money on costly dikes. HafenCity officials hope other coastal districts will adopt a similar flood-proofing model.

Via Clean Technica

Images via Shutterstock (1,2,3)