ShoreScape: dune landscape development for better coastal management

News - 23 January 2017 - Communication BK

There are more ways of managing coastal defence than building dikes and dams; the sea can also be tamed through smart coastal landscaping. The Urbanism department has been awarded an NWO grant jointly with TU Twente for research into a symbiosis of building and sand protection through dune formation.

This year researchers will start work by establishing a number of test sites in the Dutch coastal zone. Here they will set up a range of test installations varying in size and shape. This will enable them to get a better insight into the sand flow around the elements, and make sand flows easier to predict. “On the one hand we want to gain a better understanding of sand flows around beach constructions, and on the other hand we want to improve the design of beach constructions so they can steer sand flows and replenish the coastal dunes. This should lead to safe coasts and the sustainable development of dune landscapes”, explains project leader Steffen Nijhuis. “If we succeed, it will facilitate synergy between coastal protection, building, nature and landscaping, with safety and spatial quality as important supports.” This is particularly relevant for densely built-up delta regions, as despite their sensitivity to coastal erosion and rising sea levels, they remain desirable building locations.

At the moment coastal management is mainly seen as a civil engineering issue. In places where basalt blocks or concrete are used to hold the sea at bay, there is no room for nature or architecture. And in the dunes and on the beaches there is room for nothing much more than the occasional beach bar. As far as the researchers are concerned, this can all change. They are not in favour of building up the entire coastline, but they would like to see the development of landscaped buffer zones at the boundary between sea and land, with space for building, nature and recreation; hence the name of the project: ‘ShoreScape’.

The study explores the best way of creating such dune landscapes. In collaboration with experts from TU Twente, the project team will analyse the interaction of erosion and sedimentation of sand by wind and compare a number of case studies. The results will be translated into design principles which will then be tested at specific sites. “We hope to use the results to enable us to make more substantiated choices on where we can and cannot build in the dunes, and how”, says Nijhuis. The test results can also help us to calibrate computer models.

The experiments at the pilot sites will be scale models. They are also intended to show us the best way to position buildings in relation to each other to achieve the maximum effect. The ultimate goal is to achieve safer and more interesting coastal management and a richer ecological dune landscape.

The researchers will be using the observation facilities of Rijkswaterstaat. Deltares, Imares, H+N+S Landscape Architects, Hoogheemraadschap Noord-Hollands Kwartier and Witteveen + Bos are also involved in the research project.

The NWO grant is worth 700,000 euros in total and the ShoreScape project is due for completion in 2022.