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What is the State of Your Street?

Published on: October 4, 2023

A climate adaptation labelling system

Sweco has developed a labelling system for climate adaptation called State of Your Street. The system provides decision-makers and citizens with instant insights into the impact of climate change through a labelling system that measures climate change effects on cities.

Each street in a city is labelled with an A to E rating for heat stress, rainfall flooding, drought, and river or coastal flooding. This helps citizens see how their street is doing in terms of climate robustness, while decision-makers are provided with overview maps indicating high-risk areas that might require climate actions.

The system has already been adopted by several Dutch municipalities to set climate adaptation targets. The tool is seen as a significant contribution to the global effort to adapt our cities to the new climate, with experts, decision-makers and citizens all needing to be on board.

Mapping the current state of the climate in the street and neighbourhood

The labelling system offers a common language to discuss the current state of the climate and ambitions based on the vulnerabilities in the street and neighbourhood.

Making adaptation plans requires decision-makers to set their own targets. Clear climate adaptation targets are often lacking due to the complexity of setting climate adaptation goals. State of Your Street provides a framework for decision-makers to set their goals that can then be tailored to meet specific needs.

The labelling system is seen as an excellent way to engage citizens and decision-makers in the process of adapting our cities to the new climate.

About 60% of our cities are private property, and adapting also means engaging citizens. The system offers a common language to discuss the current state of the climate and ambitions, which is critical for making informed choices in order to adapt public spaces and drainage systems, says Martijn Steenstra, Water Management and Spatial Planning consultant, Sweco Netherlands.

The information available to the public on climate adaptation is often overly technical. Heat maps, water models, drought maps, scenario studies – outcomes require interpretation, and people who are not experts in the field can struggle to get a clear picture of the situation. The State of Your Street labelling system overcomes this challenge by providing citizens with a quick and accessible insight into how their street is doing in terms of climate resilience.

Sweco’s “State of your Street” guides city planners and adaptation experts towards targeted implementation of measures in areas facing higher risk of extreme heat, drought-related subsidence or surface water flooding. The labelling system is aided by community-led data collection and engagement, making it an excellent tool for co-creating adaptation solutions and building capacities for adaptation.

Digital tools for accurate street-level information

Digitalisation is critical for accurate street-level information. Open data on the state of our cities offer the foundation for insight. In all countries in Europe, an increasing amount of accurate open data is available on which labels can be based. Our experts can develop even more accurate street-level information on heat, drought, land subsidence, water drainage and floods through additional modelling.

We expect data accuracy in the coming years to continue to increase thanks to improved data availability and the use of AI to obtain information on our built environment.

Data sources like elevation maps, heat maps and public water models form the basis of State of Your Street. We add local data together with our clients and then use the algorithms that we developed to create a specific climate label for each street in a city. Henri Veldhuis, Business Unit Manager GIS/ICT, Sweco Netherlands.

The potential to apply this labelling system in other countries is growing as global climate data sources are increasing rapidly in availability, accuracy and coverage. Sweco has developed labels for over a dozen municipalities in the Netherlands. In the current information age, climate action starts with clear and accessible insights into how people are affected by climate change, now and in the future.

Creating impact is all about communication. Labels are therefore always presented in line with the municipality’s broader policies and communication strategy. The labels are usually displayed in an interactive dashboard, but they can also be shown in a street-specific brochure, on a website or in a StoryMap.

Climate action starts with clear and accessible insights into how people are affected by climate change, now and in the future. By communicating through digital tools using climate data, we showcase vulnerabilities and ownership on a local scale – a scale where much can still be achieved to improve cities’ resilience to climate change. Jeroen van Eekelen, climate adaptation consultant, Sweco Netherlands.

What is next?

State of Your Street is just the beginning. The digitalisation and availability of climate adaptation data are accelerating, as is the capability for better decision-making. We see further development in the creation of digital twins, which can be combined with the label criteria.

New AI-based tools will make it possible to interpret our environment. For example, we will be able to identify the location of a door and the entrance to an underground carpark to assess the impacts of flooding, or the type of vegetation present in a street to assess the impacts of drought and heat stress. In addition, developing labels for other challenges related to the UN’s sustainable development goals (e.g., healthy cities, clean energy, biodiversity) is a promising possibility.