To adapt or not to adapt

A study into the adaptability of the urban environment

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The climate and the urban systems are changing, leading to new challenges and opportunities in the urban environment. Adaptation to these challenges is needed, using the vulnerability assessment areas that are vulnerable can be identified. Vulnerability is the likelihood a system experiences harm and is the combination of both risks and adaptability. Finding adaptability can be hard and is not straightforward, therefor this thesis aims to operationalize adaptability for the current urban environment, focussing on climate change and the physical indicators related to adaptability. Adaptability simply means the ability there is (within a system, society or city) to adapt. A lot of different definitions for adaptability (or adaptive capacity) can be found in literature, which makes talking about, using and comparing adaptability hard. Different fields of interest use different definitions, frameworks and approaches. Most of the definitions and frameworks found in the literature search of this thesis tend to be meant for assessing social adaptability on regional or country scale. They focus on institutions, economy and (technical) knowledge on larger scales. These assessments come down to, the third world countries have bad adaptability while the first world countries have better adaptability. For decision-making on municipality level assessment on smaller scale is needed. For this thesis a lot of indicators have been gathered (a grand total of 38) by literature research and interviews with experts. Indicators are one of the ways of assessing adaptability, so by selecting and combining indicators it is able to determine a measure for adaptability. The used indicators (9 in total) are grouped in so called determinants. There are indicators saying something about space that is available for climate proofing or the type of climate proofing (blue, green or grey solutions) that can be used (space: percentage buildings, percentage water and percentage greening). Furthermore there are indicators that express the underground conditions in an area (underground: soil type and underground infrastructure). There are indicators stressing opportunities regarding climate proofing that may arise (matching: planned works and estimated end of life cycle). There are also indicators that stress the drive for climate proofing (budgets: urgency). Lastly there are indicators related to specific characteristics of an area (function related demands: historical city centre). The indicators are then combined to construct a rapid assessment tool for the municipality of Dordrecht. This tool can be used to prioritize climate proofing in the Dordrecht area, when used side-by-side with a risk map. Quick wins (high adaptability, high risks) can be identified as well as areas that need further attention, research or innovation (low adaptability, high risks). The resulting maps from the tool, show expected behaviour. The historical city centre of Dordrecht shows lower adaptabilities, while harbour, park and nature areas show higher adaptabilities. Assessing and using adaptability adds data and information to your decision-making process. Climate proofing is needed, for it being the least-social-cost strategy, assessing vulnerability helps making good and funded decisions on climate proofing.