The 'Stadhuis PLUS' greening project
A green calling card for Eindhoven
How can you bring the rich ecology of a river to the heart of the city?
In 2020, Eindhoven Municipality wrapped up its major renovations on City Hall and set to work on the surrounding area. Acting under the auspices of UNaLab (the Urban Nature Solutions Lab), the municipality worked with the !mpuls construction consortium to provide more space for water and biodiversity in the immediate environment. The project was named 'Stadhuis PLUS.'
The Municipality of Eindhoven had already given the part of the Dommeldal nature reserve around City Hall more space back in 2003. Still, this new project has brought more of the ecology from the rest of the Dommel River into the city and increased the biodiversity even further. When you go there today, you'll find a wide range of plants you can also encounter at other locations along the Dommel River. These include European water plantain, water horsetail, floating pondweed, and creeping willow. Now, the urban section of the river is much more closely aligned with the ecological function of the rest of the Dommel.
The crowning glory of the project is the new wadi. This pool gives the Dommel extra space during periods of heavy rain, helping make the downtown area more climate-resilient. When the wadi dries up, a true Dommel garden emerges with a unique micro-climate. Visitors can cross the wadi via a small bridge or the concrete pillars in the pool. This makes city hall's "backyard" all the more inviting and interactive.
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About the assignment
In many ways, a City Hall is a city's calling card. It's where new residents come to register themselves, and where the municipality welcomes guests from the business world. A gray building with an energy rating of G doesn't match the image of a sustainable community. That's why the !mpuls construction consortium decided to overhaul City Hall and the City Hall Tower from the ground up.
Thanks to technologies like triple glazing, solar panels, and a ground-coupled heat exchanger, City Hall now runs without gas. As a result, the building earned the highest possible energy rating: A++++. What's more, City Hall is now much more economical in terms of water consumption, with toilets that now flush using rainwater. The renovation work itself was also carried out in the most sustainable way possible. In fact, over 95% of the materials were reused and recycled. That includes such items as ceiling tiles, furniture, toilets, and carpets. All that effort was rewarded when the project won the 2020 Cobouw Sustainability Award.
The municipality also asked the !mpuls consortium to develop a proposal for greening the area around City Hall. Greening the NRE-site and the rest of Stadhuisplein also comprise part of this assignment.
The assignment forms part of Eindhoven's participation in UNaLab (Urban Nature Laboratories). This European project shows how cities can be made more climate-proof with the help of what are known as 'nature-based solutions.'
These are solutions based on the power of nature that are used to solve challenges with heat and water. In addition to Eindhoven, the Italian city of Genoa and the Finnish city of Tampere are also involved. And there are now five other cities planning to take part too.
The redevelopment of Clausplein square and Vestdijk street and the greening of Eindhoven's shopping streets, Stratumseind street, and the NRE-site are just some of the initiatives that are taking shape as part of the UNaLab project.
About the process
The municipality wants to make the whole of Eindhoven climate-proof. Whenever the opportunity arises, the municipality chooses climate-adaptive solutions. And wherever possible, it's even opting for nature-based solutions to heat stress, drought, and flooding. This approach also provided the foundation for redeveloping the area around City Hall.
There were several key goals for greening the area around City Hall. First and foremost, it was essential to ensure that the area became a better ecological match for the rest of the Dommeldal nature reserve. Then the municipality wanted to create more space for collecting rainwater to reduce the risk of flooding during periods of heavy rain. This is why the wadi was built.
The third key goal was to create a beautiful green space for local residents and visitors to Downtown Eindhoven. The municipality has plans to build some 2,100 residences around Stadhuisplein. For that reason, City Hall's backyard should be a wonderful place for the area's new inhabitants to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a little while.
The final goal was to work with as many sustainable materials as possible. All the timber needs to be rated durability class 1 and feature verifiable FSC or PEFC approval. The concrete stepping stones in the wadi are made of recycled concrete from Biobound.
‘‘Using smart design not only allows you to make the city more functional and climate-resilient but also more attractive for people and animals.’’Luuk Postmes | Policy Adviser for Water, Eindhoven Municipality
The implementation phase began by excavating the wadi. The Dommel River has a rich history. So it was no surprise when a piece of that history – the walls of an old wool spinning mill and cloth factory from 1816 – emerged during the excavation work on the wadi. It was decided in consultation with city archaeologist Peter de Boer to include the walls in the design.
In total, more than 2 hectares of plants, shrubs, and trees have been planted in the Dommeltuin garden. They are all species that can also be seen on the banks and on the riverbed in other parts of the Dommel River. They range from plants that grow well in clay and plants that flourish in the wet soils of the wadi, right through to plants that thrive in the sun or even in the shade.
The overall process was more drawn-out than expected. Although the actual implementation phase only took a few months, The project partners spent a lot of time on the run-up to and completion of the project. Pollution, archaeology, and arrangements with the contractor regarding the European project took a great deal of time.
Although the Dommeltuin garden still needs a couple of years to grow to its full potential, it's already a real improvement compared to before. This part of Downtown Eindhoven has been transformed from an ecologically poor piece of the Dommeldal nature reserve into a unique green city oasis where nature can flourish. Studies suggest that the biodiversity of the area has increased significantly.
The greenery in the Dommeltuin garden has been extended to City Hall: If you go to the entrance to Inwonersplein, you'll now see a green roof measuring some 110 square meters in size. The area around the entrance was previously also planted with robust, winter-hardy plants that match the flora of the Dommeldal nature reserve. If you look next to the flagpoles at City Hall, you'll see the 'Witte Anjerperkje' – a special bed of white carnations symbolizing veterans' appreciation. The municipality chose this location in consultation with the Nationaal Comité Veteranen (the Dutch Veterans' Committee).
The municipality has big plans for the area around Stadhuisplein. A number of residential buildings will be situated around the edge of the square. More greening work will also be carried out on the square itself. You can read more about it on Eindhoven Municipality's website.
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