A climate neutral and climate proof Beurskwartier

Utrecht wants to be a smart and healthy city. In the next decade a large area of 80 hectares, next to the Central Station will be transformed into a high density mix use district called Beurskwartier. Currently it is a site covered by large scale congress facilities like halls and parking lots. With the redevelopment and redefinition of the congress facilities an incredible opportunity emerges to redevelop this important site into a health urban district. An important aspect of this will be to achieve high goals on climate adaptation and energy neutrality.

Therefor we executed a research by design on creating a climate proof and climate neutral district, as part of the National program of ‘Living Labs’ to explore possibilities beyond the daily practice. In this Living Lab different stakeholders have been connected to this process of exploration. We based our work on the outcomes of the ‘Smart Sustainable Districts’, an extensive scientific research on opportunities and preferred measures for sustainable development. This research focusses on sustainable forms of warmth-cold exchange, generating electricity, the collection of rain water and reducing heat stress.

We translated these ambitions into a combination of an improved “Trias Energetica” and the “Water Sensitive City” and applied them into spatial modelling of the given site program of 3.000 new dwellings and 100.000 sqm of mix use and work related program. In this we used several techniques: We shaped the urban forms according to ancient techniques of wind and sun orientation to reduce energy consumption and to optimize the harvesting of heat and ventilation. We applied our knowledge on creating climate adaptive public spaces and enhancing the ecological potential to stimulate inner city biodiversity, air quality and cooling capacity. We searched for proven practices and innovations that can be applied on an urban level, stimulate awareness and healthy behaviour.

In the research we generate proposals for a smart section of the city block which includes the internal exchange of warmth and cold, by a programmatic approach of internally cascading warmth. High caloric warmth is used by energy intensive functions, the residual warmth is reused by other functions until there is a low temperature left which can be used for cooling. Besides heat there is also a cold demand, using substantial green structures and natural airflows in urban space to cool the street climate and buildings. In a similar manner we set up a rain water cascade and solar zoning for city blocks and upscaled this into a ‘Vertical climate zoning scheme’ for the entire Beurskwartier. This also resulted into an advice to upscale the size of the city block in the urban plan, to be able to handle the capacity of climate ambitions in future developments for the site.

Finally we sketched out the possibility to enhance a set of robust public spaces that can integrate storm water catchment, reduce effects of drought and heat, provide ecological habitat and enjoyable healthy environments for walking and biking inhabitants of Utrecht. We outlined the ambition to create the greenest and soft inner city high density urban quarter of the Netherlands.