View of Nico Tillie on a green campus

News - 28 October 2021 - Communication BK

The campus is an excellent advertisement for TU Delft, says researcher and landscape architect Nico Tillie (Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment and Urban Ecology Lab), and should serve as a living lab for the cities of the future.

Cities have already disrupted many natural systems, such as the carbon, water and nutrient cycles. Everything’s fine for a while, but there comes a time when things go wrong. You can see this in such major issues as climate change, health problems and the nitrogen crisis. In the Urban Ecology Lab we ask how synergetic design can be used to make cities as natural as possible, from system level down to plants and butterflies. The TU Delft campus serves as a living lab for that.

The current vision for the campus is not future-proof. It’s based on outdated thinking: extending roads and adding extra buildings. The good news is that things are changing fast. Last year saw the start of the Sustainable Campus project, we have the Green Village and a lot is going on with Campus & Real Estate.

But much more is needed: we need to think of how natural systems will be in the future and structure the campus accordingly.
By natural processes, I mean things like water management. The northern part of the campus is draining water away to the surrounding residential districts and yet it’s too dry in summer. Surely we could store water on campus? Create purification ponds and ponds for swimming, filled with water lilies with canoe routes, footpaths and places to hang out. What my students call the ‘slow lane’. Create a network from the campus to the local neighbourhoods, from the botanical garden to the Ackerdijkse lake area. Less tarmac, from car park to park!
We need to build in a nature-inclusive way, with nesting boxes for birds and bats, bee routes and transform some walls into living walls. Create bio-walls bringing all of this together or add a semi-greenhouse for food crops and better energy management.

We could divide the campus from north to south into three habitats with forest, grassland and wetlands. The forest would be in the higher, northern section. The middle would be grassland and in the wettest area, the south, the focus should be on water and peat formation. We know that more water is coming. Seize that opportunity to show how we can live on water in the future. The ideas exist already: create mounds or buildings on stilts or floating buildings and roads. The southern campus will then have a combination of CO2 storage in peat, water storage and nature. The smart campus will use sensors to chart natural processes. Every faculty would be able to contribute to a natural campus as a living lab, bringing everything together.
We can already achieve a lot tomorrow. It’s hardly rocket science, it’s all about a mindset.
We need to think about life in a century’s time and start building and testing it now, from system strategy through to butterfly route.”

More information:

  • This article was previously published on Delft Outlook; written by Jos Wassink.
  • Read other stories about the research of Nico Tillie here