Mobile forest project aims to green the city together with citizens

News - 24 June 2023 - Communication

Increasing and prolonged heat is hitting Dutch cities. Trees can cool the environment by up to 15 degrees. But they are often considered last in urban development. The T-Roffa Lab Project in Rotterdam, which officially started on June 21, uses a mobile forest to investigate how we can develop cities together with citizens and make cities climate-resilient through the placement of greenery.

It has been hot and dry in the Netherlands for weeks. Increasing and prolonged heat, due to the heat island effect, hits cities particularly hard. This leads to uncomfortable living conditions and even dangerous health situations.

Up to 15°C cooler

Trees are the key to more cool cities. On a hot, windless day, a leafy neighbourhood can make it feel up to 15°C cooler. 
However, it is difficult to add greenery in existing neighbourhoods. Often the planting of green spaces is only considered after city infrastructure, such as roads and utilities, have been put in place. As a result, the potential of trees is not fully utilised and trees can become ill and even die. This project asks:

  • How can we design cities with the use of greenery as a starting point? 
  • How do we keep trees and citizens healthy? 
  • How do we involve local citizens in greening?

New dynamics between trees and residents

The T-Roffa Lab Project in Rotterdam will be looking into these questions over the next two years. With a mobile forest of 38 trees with sensors. We bring this mobile forest, which was used at TU Delft for heat research, to people in the city. This way we introduce a new social dynamic between trees and citizens. Trees give coolness to residents. Residents provide them with water and also keep an eye on their health.

Kick-off together with neighbours

The kick-off took place on 21 June. Local residents were invited to help think about the forest. For instance, the children gave each tree its own name (footballers' names proved to be very popular), brainstormed on possible activities that will take place in the forest over the next two years, voted on the first configuration of the trees and then moved the trees physically into place.

Theo Peeterman (District Council), Hans de Voogd (Resilient Delta Initiative), Assoc Prof René van der Velde (TU Delft | BK) and Soeniel Bahadoer (Gemeente Rotterdam) came to explain the initiative and express their support.

The kick off exceeded our expectations as an event. We connected with so many citizens of the area. Feedback was clear, the citizens are very happy to have the trees in the square. They are eager to care for the trees and be involved in designing new configurations that open up new social activities and bring neighbours closer together.

― Project coordinator Rebecca Price

T-Roffa Lab is part of the Convergence Programme with partners Erasmus MC, Erasmus University Rotterdam and TU Delft.