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Combine, Connect, Construct

Should a road be only a means of transport? Or can it do more? Could roads, for instance, not only take you from A to B but also harvest rainwater and guide runoff strategically? And can dikes – important to protect low lying communities from the threat of floods- be used for transport, building waterfront houses and even producing energy? Drains... could they have a second life as roads when they are dry?

This is the world of multi-functional infrastructure. As the world gets more congested and life more demanding, we need to rethink infrastructure. No longer is it enough for it to serve a single purpose; it should perform multiple functions. These theme pages are dedicated to multifunctional infrastructure – wetlands for water treatment;  groundwater recharge zones for recreation, road crossings for water retention…  there is so much that can be done better by thinking beyond a single use! 

Why focus on multi-functionality? Perhaps one reason is that the problems of the present and the future—such as Climate Change, resource scarcity and fragility of eco-systems—have driven us to adopt a Systems approach to tacking them. The nexus between water, energy and food security is now well-recognised. On the same lines, it is now easy to see how our needs (e.g. transport, water, communications) and the infrastructure we build to satisfy those needs (e.g. roads, dams, telecommunications) affect each other.

Combine, Connect.... 

For all the theoretical work and real-world development related to multifunctional infrastructure, it is still a nebulous concept. Different disciplines understand the term differently, and the concept is still most strongly associated with the field of urban development.

This thematic page tries to gather and showcase a few examples. Apart from innovative ideas, the selection also aims to represent  a variety of fields, including some other than urban infrastructure. Of course, by no means is this page meant to be a definitive resource on multifunctional infrastructure, but more a starting point that triggers discussions and raises awareness.

We urge you to participate: comment, voice your opinion, share your knowledge, post your videos... make this space your own! 

  • Soft Infrastructures

    Usually, the term ‘Infrastructure’ conjures up images of mega structures such as roads, bridges, dams, telecommunications and water supply systems. However, the meaning of the term can (and should) also be extended to include institutions that uphold key systems such as health, education, law & order and finance. Such institutions/organisations/collectives are often categorised as Soft Inf...

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  • Multi Layer Water Safety Strategy

    In the Netherlands, much debate is going on over the concept of Multi Layer Safety (MLS). The concept, which recently received the parliament's support, includes three layers: 1. Flood prevention (looking at the flood barriers)2. Land use planning  (looking behind the dikes)3. Emergency measurement (emergency response during unexpected floods) Source: www.rijksoverheid.nl/bestanden/documenten-e...

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  • Eco-city

    An eco-city or sustainable city is an ecologically healthy city.They are planned on the principles of living within the means of the environment. The idea also contains objectives of stimulating economic growth, reducing poverty and improving health. Notably, a key objective is to achieve higher population densities in order to achieve higher efficiency. This makes for a strong case for multifunct...

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  • Urban Lakes

    Be they manmade or natural, urban lakes are once again coming to the forefront of interest as integrated urban water management for cities becomes the path to take for sustainability.Urban lakes have many roles. From the ecological (by fostering bio-diversity); to the recreational (for swimming, boating and taking a leisurely walk around it). From the livelihood aspect, where fishing provides pro...

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  • Inundation lines: managing water for defence

    The Dutch Waterline (Hollandse Waterlinie) was a line of defence against invading armies, comprising of strategically located weirs, sluices and dikes that could inundate select stretches of land and create water barriers up to 1-metre high.The Old Dutch WaterlineThe Old Dutch Waterline was built in 1672 (left map). After trying inundation on a much smaller scale in 1589 and in 1629, a tract of wa...

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  • Blue Energy

    Modern society consumes large amounts of energy, which is mostly supplied by fossil fuels. However, these fuels offer only a limited energy supply and their combustion has multiple negative effects on the global climate. Therefore, it is important to be on the lookout for alternative sources/processes of energy production.It is in this context that Dutch researcher Jan Post has been working on a ...

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  • Green Infrastructures

    The quality of (green) infrastructures is important to be able to cope with growing urban challenges.An urban area is a densely populated piece of land, where inhabitants use natural resources like water, soil and air intensively. The higher the density of an urban population, higher is the resource use. Additionally, the several negative effects of intensive resource use come into play: such as l...

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  • Roads for water, water for roads

    Roads account for a bulk of all public infrastructure investment. This perhaps explains the strong association between the very term ‘infrastructure’ and images of highways, bridges, flyovers, etc.      This investment is, for instance, way more than the volume of investment in water resource management. Nevertheless, there is a huge potential to connect and complement road building with w...

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  • Thematic Webinars: Multifunctional Infrastructure

    'Webinars', or Web-based Seminars, are presentations or lectures transmitted over the Web. TheWaterChannel webinars are collaborative; the participants are able to communicate and discuss with the resource persons in real-time. They are free and open to all.  Watch previous webinars >>Webinars related to multifunctional infrastructure will cover a variety of topis: sand dams, water for roa...

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