Building Resilience Through Blue-Green Infrastructure

The value of blue-green infrastructure is becoming increasingly evident to cities around the world.

August 2017 | Report

The value of blue-green infrastructure is becoming increasingly evident to cities around the world. More than just for aesthetics, blue-green infrastructure is a manifestation of resilience, and provides benefits and returns for a city and its people.


According to the Resilient City (100RC) project, resilience is about the “capability of individuals, communities, institution, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow, no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shock they experience”. This is achieved not by reacting to challenges, but planning ahead and putting in place integrated transformative systems and strategies to improve the liveability of cities, be it in times of peace or crisis. Blue-green infrastructure, in particular, offers a resilience dividend by achieving “multiple benefits and returns on resilience investments”. This includes more quantitative returns, such as financial gains or enhancement of the physical environment and well-being; or more qualitative and intangible benefits, including enhancing social cohesion, sense of belonging and community, urban biodiversity, and more.


Today, there are many examples of blue-green infrastructure developments being carried out by cities across the globe. Many current and future projects were demonstrated and shared at the 100RC Global Summit held in New York on 23 to 27 July 2017, here are three examples from 100RC network members in New York, New Orleans and Singapore.


New York: Big U
Conceived as part of the Rebuild by Design (RBD) programme, this proposal to protect lower Manhattan from flood water, storms, and the impacts of climate change, is an example of a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach to reimagining the way communities fund solutions for large scale, complex problems. A key part of the Big U focuses on identifying opportunities for multiple benefits, and working with stakeholders to utilise blue-green infrastructure.


For example, parks are integrated into the coastal and waterfront area, providing access to good quality community and public spaces and also doubling up as coastal protection in times of rising sea levels and storm surges. This is evident in Brooklyn, where waterfront living has been planned and designed to utilise the natural space that also doubles up as a coastal defence mechanism.


The Big U proposal (taken from RBD Website)


Artist Impression of the Big U, “The Bridging Berm” – vertical protection for the Lower East Side (Taken from RBD Website)


A waterfront public park in front of residences in Brooklyn
A well utilised public sports hall along the waterfront that is also connected to a park


New Orleans: Living with Water
The city’s latest innovative flood resilience measures have been branded as “Living with Water”, and consist of various blue-green infrastructure projects that utilise naturalised methods to live with water and work with nature. One major project is “The Gentilly Resilience District”, which is planned and designed to capture rainwater in the urban landscape, while enhancing the area’s aesthetics, improving the liveability of neighbourhoods, and creating recreation opportunities.




Plans and project for the Mirabeau water garden in Gentilly (Taken from City of New Orleans Website – factsheet on Gentilly Resilience District)


Singapore: Active, Beautiful Clean Waters
Since the 1960s when Singapore set out to become a Garden City, it has continually planned and worked to ensure greenery, urban biodiversity, and waterways are part of its development. Today, Singapore is upgrading itself to become a City of Gardens and Water, and the Active, Beautiful, Clean (ABC) Waters and Park Connector programmes are prime examples of statedeveloped blue-green infrastructure. Such projects have generated economic, environmental, and social benefits, while creating a more liveable and resilient Singapore. This is well demonstrated in the Kallang River @ Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, a former concrete canal that has been transformed into a beautiful meandering river. This vibrant blue-green public space has been a boon for the community and has also enhanced local urban diversity.


ABC Waters Project at Kallang River @ Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park


About the Writer


Lim Wei Da


Wei Da is Assistant Director at the Centre for Liveable Cities (CLC), and deals with research and knowledge development on urban environmental and resilience related issues.