This article is available also in spanish here

Sponge city: what it is, how it is designed and real examples

My list

Autor | M. Martínez Euklidiadas

Sponge cities are a bioclimatic urban planning solution, with nature-based solutions (NbS) that aim to design communities for humans that are compatible with natural habitats, with a focus on their resilience to water. This fascinating liquid is capable of eroding and sinking any badly positioned human infrastructure.

What is a sponge city?

A sponge city is an urban construction model capable of tackling phenomena such as torrents, monsoons, swelling, flooding or other water events, through drainage systems or permeable areas that prevent the accumulation of water on hard surfaces.

Sponge cities were proposed by the architect Kongjian Yu in 2000, tested during that decade, adopted in 2014 by the CCP and later exported across the globe. Although some cities had installed other similar systems before.

How does a sponge city work?

Urban environments practically everywhere have followed the urban construction model of countries developed in the mid-20th century. That is, car-centric cities and with impervious surfaces, built with concrete and asphalt. These materials do not allow water to drain and instead favor the accumulation of water, apart from increasing the urban heat island effect.

Sponge cities resolve this problem by designing green infrastructures that enable water to be absorbed into the subsoil, combined with permeable areas made with soil and other materials. Therefore, there are two mechanisms in action: storm tanks at ground level to store water and green areas that direct the water downwards.

sponge city 2

Why do we need sponge cities'

Historically, developed cities have fought against water. Large walls have been constructed, surfaces have been sealed and pumping infrastructures have been designed to remove excess water. We now know that this strategy does not work and cities around the world are suffering the consequences of combating nature.

One of the most tragic examples were the floods in Germany in 2021. To prevent problems like these from reoccurring in the future, sponge cities aim to coexist with water reducing its speed, helping to distribute it and filtering it.

Are sponge cities effective?

Sponge cities are extremely effective, although only a few have been designed according to Yu Kongjian's original idea. For example, in cities that call themselves sponge cities, buildings are still being constructed on natural water runoff areas; an urban planning error that affects families every few years.

Some examples of sponge cities

Sponge cities in China

China has the highest number of sponge cities. Baicheng, Qian'an, Jiann, Xixian and a few dozen more, together with those of Shanghai and Shenzhen, have already adapted part of their infrastructures. This country has set itself the objective of having 80% of its urban areas absorbing 70% of water by 2030.

Berlin, sponge city

Berlin is one of the cities that has opted for an urban sponge model. Since 2007, they are increasing urban densities and freeing up space to serve as an absorption layer. Green roofs and vertical gardens are other necessary tools.

Beira, in Mozambique

As it is a port town and practically surrounded by the Pungwe River, Beira is one of the African cities that could benefit the most from transforming its urban planning model. In 2019, the Tropical Cyclone Idai almost destroyed the city and it intends to redesign its city with a focus on the sponge model.

Jakarta, urban planning at the limit

Jakarta is sinking, and it would seem that the only way to conserve the city is by transforming it, literally from the foundations up. Making way for the natural flow of rivers, refraining from draining aquifers and preventing overloading certain areas with the weight of concrete are some solutions that need to be implemented.

Images | Jorick Jing, Iewek Gnos

Recommended profiles for you

Remember to activate your profile to network!
Activate profile
ES
Endrit Sadiku
VINTAGE Architecture
Senior Architect
sp
silverio pedro
valart
designer
Paul Hobcraft
Paul Hobcraft
Agility Innovation
Innovation & Energy Knowledge Provider
CA
Camila Cristina Aguirre Huaman
Universidad Continental
Student
Paul Riser
Paul Riser
Detroit Urban Solutions (a program of Techtown Detroit)
Director
Shanshan Wang
Shanshan Wang
Arup
Senior Engineer
Imtikumzuk Kichu
Imtikumzuk Kichu
Student
Student
Masaki Mori
Masaki Mori
EHL
Associate Professor
AH
Ashok Hansraj
Global Green
Administrative
PG
Pablo Gurevich
41graus
director
JM
Joaquin Molina
APTO GREEN
Sales New Markets
WM
William Anibal Montalvo
EEPRI
yo soy el gerente general
BM
Breuillaud Manon
Engie Solutions
Category Lead Buyer
TT
Tomohiro Takeuchi
Oriental Consultants Global Co., Ltd.
The architect for the railway station plaza
TK
Tajendar Kalra
Valka Care and Services Pvt Ltd
As a Manging Dirctor of Company responsible for all business operations and business development.
MM
Mariangela Martinez Monzon
N/A
Working student
SM
Sandra Matafeni
Assistance
VS
Vitor Silva
Cycloid
Business Development
Roberto Villarreal
Roberto Villarreal
UPASTUDIO SA de CV
CEO
FS
Francisco Silvestre
TYPSA
Roads Director

Related content

Recommended profiles for you

Remember to activate your profile to network!
Activate profile
Imrandeep Singh
Imrandeep Singh
RODIC Consultants Pvt ltd
Support Engineer
LG
Lorenzo Garcia
Cegearquitectura
Ceo
RG
Rosa Gonzalez
Diputació de Barcelona
Librarian
LP
LUVIS PARRALES MARCILLO
MIDUVI
Asistente Provincial de Hábitat y Vivienda
MM
Miguel Miyashiro
3Led Lumitec SRL
Manager
ZH
Zacarias Omar Hernández
TIR Inmobiliarios S.C.
Partner
JC
Jonathan Cunningham Cunningham
Bentley Systems
CJ
Chhagan Kumar Jangir
VK Associates
Manager
Aldo Zoccheddu
Aldo Zoccheddu
-
Urban planner/GIS Analyst
Vedant  Kulkarni
Vedant Kulkarni
DYPIEMR
NA
Ricky Zhu
Ricky Zhu
cipta kreasi
General Manager
Tiago Tiburcio
Tiago Tiburcio
Pontificial University Chatolic of Campinas (PUC Campinas)
Student
Marta Companys
Marta Companys
Noord Zuid Architectuur
Architect. Independent project advisor and intermediary between Spain and the Netherlands.
JD
Juan David
Javeriana
Student
RB
Rahul Banerjee
Shapoorji Pallonji Real Estate
Assistant Manager Planning
GF
Gloria Font Baste
D388arquitectura
Thecnical director
AA
Anneleen Artois
Microsoft
Tobias Neffle
Tobias Neffle
Bosch
International Business Development Manager\\nhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/tobiasneffle/
MARIE HELENE MANSARD
MARIE HELENE MANSARD
AXIS
Director of Business Development APAC countries
JN
Jacques Nieuwland
Roca
Digital Transformation director

Only accessible for registered users
This content is available only for registered users
TO: $$toName$$
SUBJECT: Message from $$fromName$$