Flood preparedness and planning issues in City of Espoo

Facts of the city

Fig. 1: Map of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area

Espoo, with c. 235,000 inhabitants, is the second largest city in Finland. It is one of four municipalities composing the Metropolitan Area. Espoo has faced a rapid expansion; in 1920 it was a rural municipality with less than 9,000 inhabitants. In the 1950s population started strongly increase, in 1970 Espoo had over 100,000 inhabitants, and today, the number of citizens has been more than doubled. The city has not a city centre in its traditionally known form, but the urban network structure, comprising five urban centres and two local centres.

Climate facts in Espoo

Climate change impacts in Espoo

The City Planning Department has participated in the ASTRA project in order to receive most recent results of the climate change adaptation and apply it into the land use planning. Those issues which should be observed in planning include more frequent floods, winds, heavy rains and storms. The total rainfall will increase, changes in soil humidity and groundwater levels will occur, as well as greater erosion and landslide risk and changes in icing conditions. In addition, it should be considered vulnerability of municipal utility systems, energy production, water supply and purification, and waste management, plants in extreme weather conditions, and the capacity of species and biotypes to adapt to climate change.

Flood preparedness

When in 2005 the Gudrun storm swept over Finland, it resulted in revisions of the actions plans in the city. For instance, the city made operations models to be better prepared for flooding. In the same year parallel to the ASTRA project, the Board of Managers of the City of Espoo Technical and Environmental Services appointed a Flood Group to assess the flood risk in Espoo, draw up flood maps (Fig. 2. Flood Risk Map), conduct a survey of the liabilities and responsibilities and to propose measures to be adopted in preparation for floods.

Fig. 2: Flood Risk Map, copyright: Espoo City Planning Department

Discussion and dissemination

In May 2007 Espoo organised a seminar which was co-financed by the ASTRA project. The seminar was titled Climate Change and Planning in Espoo, and it was focussed mainly for the planners. However, it offered a good platform to discuss the state of the climate change issues in the city. The audience included participants from national and regional organisations, residents' associations, other cities, media and also a large number of local politicians participated. Parallel to the seminar, it was also compiled a summary of the key impacts on the climate change in urban planning from latest research results. The seminar provided a cross-section of the city's response to climate issues; how mitigation and adaptation have been considered in one city.
In addition, many departments at the city have been participating in the project by information exchange. This has offered an occasion where a wide range of bodies and stakeholders inside the city can during the project discuss and apply project results in their duties. It also allows prompt local actors' feedback to the project itself.

Kurttila residential area - Impacts on detailed planning

Kurttila area is currently under detailed planning and there the climate change adaptation has been considered in planning process of the area (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3: Aerial Photo showing Flood Risk Area under the Detailed Planning, copyright: City of Espoo

The area is located next to Espoonlahti bay in vicinity of the Natura 2000 area, protected by the EU Birds Directive. Mostly the area is located under 2 meters above sea level, and it is considered as flood risk area (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4: Extract of the Flood Risk Map for Lasilaakso - Kurttila Area, copyright: Espoo City Planning Department

Building is not recommended on the area where the ground level is under 2,5 meters above sea level. The area sits on thick clay beds, some of them exceed over 20 meters. This puts extra limitations for the construction of the area from the point of view of e.g. flood control. During the planning process it has been discussed of the costs of geotechnics, foundation and building; it has been asked what type of land use would provide the reasonable solution, and how the planned land use will fit to the townscape and landscape. It has been planned open landscape areas there where the area is under flood risk, and housing is planned to situate further from the coastline (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5: Landscape Development Plan, copyright: Ympäristösuunnittelu

In the planning process it has also been considered issues such as how to be prepared for heavy winds, and therefore an extra care has been taken in e.g. the location of buildings (Fig. 6).

Fig. 6: Figure shows how buildings form a buffer zone which still provides open views, copyright: Avantoarkkitehdit

Contact information

Mervi Romppanen (ASTRA project contact in Espoo) tel. +358 50 5246026
Merja Kiviluoto (preparedness for climate change in detailed planning) tel. +358 9816 24170
Jukka Koskikallio (flood preparedness, flood mapping) tel. +358 9 816 24334
Hannu Vepsäläinen (preparedness for climate change in master planning, flood preparedness) tel. +358 9 816 24335
Email to the contact persons: [email protected]


 © GTK, 2007