Storms, sea level rise, and extreme drought are only predicted to accelerate in the decades ahead. Combined with unprecedented urban population growth, this unpredictable weather is a recipe for costly, life-threatening disaster in the world’s biggest cities. Rather than quibble about why climate change is occurring, the city of Copenhagen has decided to take action. The city recently unveiled a comprehensive Climate Adaptation Plan. Using both blue and green design strategies, the plan will prevent heavy rainfall from crippling infrastructure while increasing natural habitats within the city. The Climate Adaptation Plan is also one of only five prestigious INDEX: Awards winners, which were announced earlier this afternoon in Denmark!

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos

[vimeo width=”537″ height=”400″][/vimeo]
Copenhagen Climate Adaptation Plan from INDEX: Design to Improve Life® on Vimeo

The Climate Adaptation Plan grew out of a need to assess the city as a whole, rather than separate neighborhoods or issues. While other cities might be working on green roofs in one sector and sewer enhancement in another, officials of Copenhagen realized that the best way to prepare for adverse weather was to make sure the entire city worked together.

“With this plan, we are meeting the challenges now,” writes Ayfer Baykal, Mayor of Technical and Environmental Administration, on the project’s website. “Doing this in good time will help us to keep expenses down as well as offering us a number of exciting possibilities. Climate adaptation can contribute to giving us a greener city as well as more growth and more jobs. In other words, we must exploit the climate challenges positively, by acting in a way which will please both citizens and businesses – not just in 50 years time, but here and now.”

Wow, viewing climate change adaptation as an opportunity for economic success rather than the enemy of commerce—what a novel idea!

The Climate Adaptation Plan, which won an INDEX: Award today, outlines three main areas that must be addressed by all projects moving forward: 1) Minimizing potential damage arising from climate change; 2) Warning and response systems to deal with abnormal conditions; and 3) Preventive infrastructure to cope with damage, loss and traffic disruption.

These three main targets serve as an operational framework that guides the hundreds of Danish designers, architects and engineers working on designs for a vibrant and resilient 21st century habitat. Main components of the plan include increasing the number of green spaces—parks, recreational areas, and green roofs—that can help absorb heavy rainfall naturally. The city is also planning a number of water boulevards that would channel stormwater runoff through the streets and into the nearby ocean without disrupting traffic or overwhelming the sewer system.

In addition to creating a safer, healthier place for Danish families to live, implementing the Climate Adaptation Plan is expected to mark Copenhagen as a city that’s ready to do business well into the 21st century.

“By including a green growth perspective in our thinking, Copenhagen will ensure that investments can be made in partnership with external investors,” a spokesman for the municipality told Design to Improve Life. “This can contribute to investments being not just an expense for the city but also a way to create growth and employment, as well as attracting new knowledge and new business to the city.”

Images via Copenhagen Climate Adaptation Plan