Making the living environment suitable for the consequences of our changing climate is the inescapable task facing municipalities like Meierijstad. The ‘Sint-Oedenrode Zuid: climate robust’ plan aims to combine the prevention of flooding and drought in the Dommelrode residential area with making the Diependaal nature reserve wetter.
The reason for the plan was the rapid drying up of parts of the Diependaal nature reserve, which led to a noticeable decline in biodiversity. In addition, a lot of rainwater remained in the streets, and it was regularly too dry for the greenery in the neighbouring Dommelrode district, which damaged the soil and plants in the area.
Heijmans was selected as the implementation partner to come up with solutions for water storage and the disconnection of rainwater from the sewer system. Thanks to the linking of the tasks in Dommelrode and Diependaal, rainwater no longer runs via the mixed sewer system to the sewage treatment plant, but is taken to the nature reservation area via a separate system of pipes, ditches and dams.
It is also very important that neighbourhood residents are aware of how they deal with rainwater. In talks with local residents, Heijmans explained what their role is in using rainwater and how they can use it sparingly. Furthermore, Heijmans will be laying sample gardens, enabling the municipality to show how gardens can be designed in a sustainable way.
Heijmans project leader Maikel Ruijs explains: “More and more municipalities are looking for solutions to make the living environment climate proof and improve biodiversity. However, this kind of thing doesn’t happen overnight. Tackling multiple problems at the same time means we arrive at sustainable solutions much more quickly. This could well become the new norm.”
The project combines a whole range of activities, and this is challenging in terms of technology, logistics and communication. And lots of different tasks are being carried out in a fairly busy residential area on the one hand, and a quiet nature reserve with its own vulnerabilities on the other. Maikel: “We find it very important to hear the municipality’s thinking on the subject of climate adaptation. After all, there is no single solution. If we know what’s happening on the climate adaptation front, we can work together to find which solution is the best fit. As creators of a healthy living environment, we think it is wonderful to make a tangible, forward-looking contribution based on that vision.”
Leon van Maren, public space project leader at the municipality of Meierijstad: “Climate proofing is something we will have to do together. We won’t succeed without each other. Heijmans has shown that it is an expert, committed and collaborative partner. And the company took up the challenge at an early stage of the implementation process to have as many residents as possible disconnect their rainwater runoff from the sewer system. Based on experience gained elsewhere, Heijmans worked out scenarios for this and presented the financial impact to us. Thanks to Heijmans’ efforts, local residents and the municipality are assured of competent and trusted advice. In addition, this reduces the burden on the municipality and residents are included at the right time: when the construction company is busy.”
"Involving residents in the design process at an early stage has a positive impact. People get to know each other and seek each other out. It helps to create ownership of public space; residents want to keep it neat and clean. It’s true that the willingness to actually go green on ‘their own property’ and possibly 'disconnect' paving from the sewer system does vary. In any case, the knowledge Heijmans transfers and the impact this has does make a positive contribution.”
Project leader Maikel concludes: “We hear back from clients and residents that we devote an above-average amount of attention to both people and sustainability when coming up with solutions. We communicate effectively about potential inconvenience and solve problems immediately. How we improve the quality of space on fronts such as biodiversity, liveability and damage prevention in the future is fully in line with our vision as creators of a healthy living environment.”