Porto discusses how to use nature to adapt cities to climate change and showcases concrete examples of what is being done in the city

On 31 October 2023, about seventy people attended the conference “How to use nature to adapt cities to climate change“, held at the Porto Innovation Hub, in the framework of the LIFE-myBUILDINGisGREEN project. During the afternoon, participants also had the opportunity to visit on the ground one of the city’s innovative and sustainable solutions, which serves as an example of what Porto is doing in this field: the green roof project installed at Falcão Primary School, in Campanhã.

In the opening session, Filipe Araújo, Vice-President of the Porto City Council and Councillor for Environment and Climate Transition, recalled that in an increasingly urbanised Europe suffering the impacts of climate change, “we find in nature the solutions to some of the problems we have”.

Nature-Based Solutions, in addition to adapting to climate change, make it possible to promote biodiversity, respect the natural water cycle in the city, increase carbon storage capacity, enhance the value of soils, reduce energy consumption, and make cities more pleasant and comfortable for all their residents and users. Filipe Araújo gave as an example the solutions implemented in the Falcão School in Campanhã: “there are 700 m2 of green roofs and facades, as well as photovoltaic panels”.

Filipe Araújo during his speech © Câmara Municipal do Porto

The conference also discussed other urban projects designed to be resilient to climate change, such as the new Alameda de Cartes Park, designed to foster biodiversity and ecological enhancement of the urban landscape, promote microclimatic comfort and increase the quality of life and safety of the resident population.

How to increase the permeability of cities? This was one of the questions posed by José Lameiras, associate professor at the Faculty of Science of the University of Porto, who stated that “urban areas are going to be the most affected because that is where there is a lot of waterproofing of the soil. All cities need to increase the permeability of the soil so that water can penetrate the water table, thus avoiding surface flooding in times of heavy rainfall and ensuring that this water is available for trees to pump into the atmosphere in summer, cooling the environment through the phenomenon of evapotranspiration”. In this respect, he gave the example of the Asprela Park, which can retain and hold back 10,000 m3 of water in the event of heavy rainfall, which corresponds to the volume of the Transparent Building. In his presentation, José Lameiras showed that in the city of Porto, 25 % of the urban space is dedicated to buildings and 32 % to green spaces. The remaining 43% of the city is dedicated to roads, public roads and paved areas. In this context, he recalled the importance of the Municipal Forestation Plan, a strategic document whose main objective is to improve the city’s sustainable forestry public space.

José Lameiras during his speech © Câmara Municipal do Porto

Paulo Palha, President of the National Association of Green Roofs, was also one of the speakers at the session and warned of the need to maximise the use of green roofs on buildings, with 131 green roofs identified to date in Porto. “There is still no machine that does what vegetation does for us and for the planet,” he said, insisting on the need to use green roofs on urban buildings.

Paulo Palha during his speech © Câmara Municipal do Porto

The conference was also attended by Miguel Vega, from the Royal Botanic Garden in Madrid (RJB-CSIC) and coordinator of the LIFE-myBUILDINGisGREEN project, who explained what was done at the Falcão Primary School. The investment was funded by the LIFE programme and aimed to improve the quality of life of those who work and study daily at Falcão EB1.

Miguel Vega during his speech © Câmara Municipal do Porto

Andrea Gonçalves, from the Environment and Development Unit of CIMAC (Intermunicipal Community of Central Alentejo), also participated in the meeting and presented the same LIFE-myBUILDINGisGREEN project, but implemented at the Horta das Figueiras School in Évora.

Andrea Gonçalves during his speech © Câmara Municipal do Porto

At the end of the morning, the city of Porto showcased its approach to Nature-Based Solutions. Pedro Pombeiro, Director of the Municipal Department of Planning and Environmental Management of the Porto City Council, gave an “X-ray of the city”, highlighting that we now know where the most vulnerable population of the city is, and that it is essential to adapt buildings and territory to protect these people from extreme weather events. He also pointed out that Porto City Council has been increasing the permeable surface of the city, rehabilitating water conduits and doubling the number of green spaces, with the aim of favouring the effects of water retention and infiltration in green spaces (for example in the Oriental Park, the City Park, the Asprela Park and the New Alameda de Cartes Park), cushioning the impact of rainwater on roofs (such as at the Campanhã Intermodal Terminal, with the installation of the largest green roof in the city), soil protection (such as the 3,042 indigenous trees already planted at VCI crossroads and the 9,964 trees offered to Porto residents), among others.

Pedro Pombeiro durante su intervención © Câmara Municipal do Porto

Pedro Pombeiro also stressed the need to support property developers of various scales in the implementation of Nature-Based Solutions in buildings. To this end, the city is finalising a specific tool – the Porto Environmental Index, foreseen in the PDM – which aims to encourage developers of recovery, rehabilitation and construction projects to promote the use of Nature-Based Solutions in their projects.

Speakers answering questions from the audience © Câmara Municipal do Porto

In the afternoon, participants visited the Falcão School. In collaboration with the Porto Energy Agency, environmental technicians demonstrated the characteristics, functions and advantages of green roofs and green facades on the ground, and explained the functioning and benefits of photovoltaic panels.

On the ground floor of the school, another Nature-Based Solution could be seen, this time a green façade that shades the classrooms during the hottest days.

On the rooftop, the participants could see how a green roof, a kind of garden instead of a roof, works and how it is put together. These raised gardens have the advantage of regulating the temperature inside buildings throughout the year and, at the same time, help rainwater to seep more slowly into the ground, preventing flooding. In the case of the Falcão school, there are three types of green roof: an extensive pitched roof, a roof installed on cork sheets (GUL technology) and a “bio solar roof”, which combines the benefits of green roofs with the production of energy through photovoltaic panels. In addition to this solution, the presence of plants contributes positively to the efficiency of energy production. Currently, around 60 % of the energy consumed in the school is produced locally.

Visit to the NBS implemented in EB1 Falcão by LIFE-myBUILDINGisGREEN © Câmara Municipal do Porto

The meeting was aimed primarily at municipal technicians, architects and planners, urban project developers, professors and university students of architecture and landscape architecture.

For all news and events related to the LIFE-myBUILDINGisGREEN project, we recommend following the project’s Twitter and LinkedIn channels.

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