If we want to change people's behaviour, habits and way of thinking, we should start with the children. If we are all to become better at seeing rainwater as a resource, an obvious idea is to start using rainwater as a resource at schools and day-care institutions. This is the idea behind the Climate School - a project which is transforming Lindebjerg school in the village of Gundsølille near Roskilde into a 'model school' for climate change adaptation, inspiring not only other schools, institutions and municipalities, but also parents, who might want to implement the LAR philosophy at home. "And it works," said Hanne Kjær Jørgensen, consultant at the Pipe Centre, Energy and Climate, Danish Technological Institute. It occurred to me that a school would be the perfect place for a demonstration project to show what we can do locally to adapt to climate change, and the school board acted on the idea," she said. And so did the teachers, parents and pupils.
Pupils, teachers and parents have been on-board since the start of the project.
It's all about the stork, they say in Gundsølille, when explaining the project in more colourful terms. The small village north of Roskilde is home to the last remaining breeding pair of storks on Zealand, and in order to hold on to the storks, the villagers must establish small ponds for frogs and toads to stock the couple's pantry. Therefore, the plan is to bestow the frogs with a sunny pond where biodiversity can flourish.
With this little tale, the people behind the Climate School project have used the village's pride, i.e. the storks, to mobilise local backing for the project - a trick Hanne Kjær Jørgensen has picked up from the US where there are many good examples of projects that have stimulated local backing for climate change adaptation in this way. The rainwater that falls on Lindebjerg School is therefore now considered a valuable resource which should not simply be diverted to the sewer. Instead, it is collected and led along open drains and streams to paddling pools, infiltration beds and ponds, or it is left to percolate down into the groundwater.
The ambition of the LAR project has been to find solutions that together can manage, locally on the school's area, both normal rainfall as well as extreme rainfall and cloudbursts, and thereby relieve the adjacent Maglemose River which rainwater from the Gundsølille area has caused to flood on several occasions. The school has had one of its basements flooded on at least one cloudburst occasion.
Layout of the school and surrounding areas. The rainwater from the sloping roofs is led onto various LAR facilities. As a first step, the terrain profile and soil conditions around the school and the associated sports hall were surveyed. Next, buildings, roofs and paved areas were analysed in order to discover how rainwater could be disconnected from the sewer systems and to identify where to lead the water instead. Lindebjerg School has been expanded on several occasions with extensions, some with flat roofs and others with pitched roofs, some with hidden, internal downpipes and others with exterior downpipes that were more easy to disconnect. A total of 1,100 square metres of roof area fed rainwater into these external downpipes, so the project decided to start with these. In the summer of 2012, a 72-square-metre large green roof on the school's bike shed became the first visible sign of the school's new status as a Climate School. At the same time, the project tested ideas for how to apply different climate initiatives in teaching. A notice on the bike shed explains the concept of green roofs and asks questions to which pupils and parents can find answers by scanning a QR code. Disconnecting the downpipes started in spring 2013. Simple water channels in concrete were established leading from the downpipes, so that the rainwater was diverted to infiltration areas on the outskirts of the buildings. The areas chosen were those that had proven most suitable for infiltration in prior infiltration tests. These areas were designated as 'water playground' areas for children of different ages. Thus, the youngest pupils have a paddling pool designed as a true copy of the local Roskilde Fjord and Isefjorden.
The paddling pool is popular among the youngest pupils. It has been constructed with a maximum depth of 12cm to prevent any gumboots from overflowing with water. The pool has been constructed with a sloped bottom so that the water runs out of the basin when the rain stops and the outlet is opened. The outlet can be plugged, however the pool must not be left with standing water for several days. "When the children shout "To the fjord!" they are not referring to the adjacent Roskilde Fjord but to the paddling pool, which they just love! Every time it rains, they want to go outside and play, so the school has had to expand the wardrobe area to make room for all the gumboots and rain clothes," Hanne Kjær Jørgensen explained. The slightly older pupils have helped plant their own infiltration bed. A local firm, Ambi Consult, helped identify the most suitable plants in the local area and they then took all third-formers with them on a field trip to find and collect plants to dig up and then replant in their own infiltration bed at the school.
The different LAR facilities are connected in series with spillways into each other: the paddling pool is connected to the infiltration bed, which, in turn, spills over into a trench. Since the ground at Lindebjerg School slopes slightly southeast, the rainwater will ultimately end up in the lowest-lying part of the area and this serves as a reservoir during the most severe cloudbursts. However, of course the area should also serve a purpose on normal days with no cloudbursts. Therefore, the project is working on an idea for an outdoor multi-purpose activity space. This is a bowl-shaped construction with permeable sports paving which will allow any rainwater to penetrate down into underlying dry wells, while a built-in spillway will lead larger rainwater volumes on to an grass-covered infiltration area with underlying dry wells. A skate park and amphitheatre are some of the ideas which architects Thing & Brandt Landskaber are currently working on. The facility is expected to be ready for use in spring 2015. The area in front of the school has been partially converted to permeable paving. As part of the project, concrete manufacturer IBF and the contractor NCC tested three different types of permeable paving, all of which have until now been able to absorb all surface water, also during heavy rainfall.
Runoff conditions around the school were mapped prior to the climate change adaptation initiatives using DHI's MIKE Urban ground modelling tool, and the idea is to carry out modelling again when all LAR solutions have been implemented, so that the results of the project can be documented and used in teaching. A rain gauge has been set up on the school's roof. The gauge can be read on the school's intranet, so that the pupils can monitor the rainfall amounts managed by the LAR systems. In October 2014, the rain gauge documented that the LAR facilities are actually working as intended: Large amounts of rain fell on Gundsølille over the course of several days. However, at Lindebjerg School the water was neatly led away from building and paved areas along the channels, canals and trenches and it leached into dry wells, infiltration beds and trenches.
Incorporation of the climate initiatives into teaching is still being didactically developed. The school has obtained the status of 'Green Flag School' and, as a part of this, pupils are working thematically with several topics. This year the topic is 'Water'. In another initiative, the oldest pupils are being trained as climate ambassadors and this will equip them to teach other young people about climate conditions.
A dry well of the Collectio type is popular among the students; its underlying membrane establishes a water table from where water can be pumped up via an old-fashioned water pump. "Teachers are fitting climate issues into individual subjects wherever relevant. Things are evolving over time, so we have not found the final form for this yet, but to be honest, I'm actually quite impressed by how far we have come. And we are already seeing some effects. If one of us grown-ups leave the tap on when we wash our hands, we can rest assured that some of the kids will show us the proper way to do things," said the school manager at Lindebjerg School, Ralf Pultz. The school is keen to share its experiences with other schools. Currently, they are working on an idea which involves preparing a 'suitcase' with ideas and ready-to-use teaching material to inspire other schools. There is also a proposal for an actual teaching portal, if the resources can be obtained to back such an idea. However, with its initiative, Lindebjerg School has already shown the way forward for other schools and municipalities. The school's board has just recently established a 'Climate Council', which will be responsible for the future process.
The partnership 'Water in Urban Areas' has contributed DKK 800,000 for development and dissemination of the concept; the Danish EPA has granted DKK 1.3 million from its Programme for Eco-innovation (MUDP) to two demonstration projects; and the Municipality of Roskilde and Roskilde Utilities have also contributed. Once the school, parents and companies involved had committed to putting in hours and donating material totalling more than DKK 2 million, the project became a reality.
Photography: Thomas Wilhelm/Specialphoto