Why we are doing what we are doing!

Jose Miguel Lameiras
Jose Miguel Lameiras
Dear URBiNAT colleagues, 

Last Saturday the city of Porto was affected by a torrential rainfall. In one day there was 130mm of rain fall, 40mm of which happened in less than one hour. The rainfall for this single day can be compared with the average that is normally registered for the whole month of October. This kind of rainfall occurs on average once every 20 years.

You may recognise the site from the images that follow. They are from one of our designs, and depicts the site that is usually showcased as the NBS for watercourse restoration. We would like to share with you, how this site endured to this extreme event. All image credits belong to
Manuel Ribeiro Manuel

This project was designed in a way that all rainwater is managed (stored, retained and infiltrated) on site. There is a system of interconnecting water retention basins, done exclusively through landform design, where all surface and subsurface water is lead and conducted to this low points. The retention basins have a storage capacity of 2680m3 of water, calculated for the 20 year storm event.
Retention basins in Asprela Parks 396 KB View full-size Download

Retention basins in Asprela Parks 356 KB View full-size Download
If this amount of water is exceeded, then a system of hydraulic bypasses will move the water between basins, and lastly will send the water to the re-naturalised watercourse, whose section is calculated to allow for an added retention of up to 5000m3, that will be slowly released over a larger period of time, thus diminishing the peak of water concentration (video bellow).

Hydraulic bypass that conducts the excess of rainwater from the basing to the section of the watercourse 7.86 MB View full-size Download

If needed, the section of the watercourse can retain an added 5000m3 of water 494 KB View full-size Download

The main lawns also feature a 30cm sand and gravel sublayer, largely contributing to the volume of the water infiltration. The project also feature a large number of trees whose foliage  stores and retains a significant volume of rain water. 

When this project was designed, we knew that this was a problematic area, with a highly impermeabilized watershed, affected by the hazards of a heavy rainfall. The site was designed based on the principles of natural drainage and the use of green structure to put as much water into the ground as possible, to retain and slow its movement.

Seaguls found shelter in the Park during and after the heavy rain 5.91 MB View full-size Download
This it primarily a park, with a deep social and ecological function, and it works this way for 364 days a year, being used primarily by the academic community, but also by the citizens of Porto. But on that exceptional event that happens very rarely, it provides a very critical function. The water that was managed by this site aided in the reduction of possible flood problems downstream.   

The stormwater management system in this park is way cheaper and more cost-effective that any stormwater management system based on heavy pipes and infrastructures. It was interesting to see that the road next to the park, with its pipe infrastructures got overflowed, while the park endured.
Rua Roberto Frias 305 KB View full-size Download
The water that fell on this site will also feed the underground aquifers and will latter fead the headwaters of the watercourses. This is clean and potable water, its path to the ocean should be delayed as much as possible. 

Lastly, there is a need to point out the function of the park as a system. This park does not fit into a single of our categories of NBS’s. The watercourse alone encompasses a ‘watercourse restoration’, a ‘stormwater management’, and even an ‘urban forest’ (the banks we planted with authoctonous plants). Things work better in systems, and the synergetic effect is larger than the sum of its counterparts. And that is what we are trying to achieve with the healthy corridor concept.

A project this complex required a large team, so it is only fair that their names are mentioned in this post. 

Paulo Farinha Marques, Coordination and landscape architecture
José Miguel Lameiras, Project management and landscape architecture
Gonçalo Nunes de Andrade, Landscape architecture 
Luís Guedes de Carvalho, Landscape architecture
Nuno Costa, Landscape architecture
Jorge Barbosa, Landscape architecture
Ana Lindeza, Irrigation
Francisco Guedes de Carvalho, architecture
Rodrigo Maia, Civil engineering - hydraulics
Hélder Magalhães, Civil engineering - hydraulics
Juliana Mendes, Civil engineering - hydraulics
Cardoso Teixeira, Civil engineering
Susana Sousa, Civil engineering
João Cunha, Civil engineering
António Murta, Civil engineering
Daniel Moreira, Electrical engineering

A big THANK YOU to
Manuel Ribeiro Manuel
Ribeiro, also an URBiNAT member from the Municipality of Porto. After a heavy rain, he took an extra step and  captured these amazing images. Thank you Manuel for allowing us to see what we tried to antecipate.