Transparent Urban Waterways


Vejle, Denmark 

May 2024

Vejle Municipality 

University of Copenhagen
Climathon Winning Team
IBF / ABEO Concrete Company
Danish Technological Institute

The Transparent Urban Waterways (TUW) pathfinder project is focused on establishing a new system for rain water capable of solving the flooding problem in the Vestbyen area in the Danish city Vejle. The project intends to outline the technical aspects of the proposed system, creating guidelines for new decision making procedures as well as propositioning alternative ways in which adaptation infrastructure can be financed in the future.

In March 2016 Vejle Kommune and Climate-KIC Nordic held a Climathon with the intention of unearthing solutions to Vejle’s flooding problem. The winning idea – TUW – is based around developing a concrete module that can replace traditional pavements and act as part of the city’s rainwater management system. Using the physical TUW concept as a starting point, the pathfinder aims to analyse the solution’s technical feasibility as well as its suitability for use in Vejle’s urban environment.

The pathfinder also hopes to develop and outline new, innovative ways of funding Climate Change adaptation as well as creating inclusive decision making processes capable of creating best fit solutions for all relevant stakeholders. Ultimately, the intention of the pathfinder is to produce a holistic model/concept designed to solve urban flooding problems applicable not just to Vejle but cities globally. To this end, the desired end product is a set of proposed guidelines which is to be presented to the network of 100 Resilient Cities.

Innovation Potential and Strategic Fit

The TUW pathfinder seeks to establish not just a new physical form of rainwater management but a new decision-making process by which climate adaptation projects are decided upon and financed. The combination has the potential to be exported far beyond Vejle, the concrete module as a new installation for rain water management in flood susceptible cities and the governance procedures and financial models to all municipalities with the need to create and finance any form of Climate Change adaptation infrastructure.

Under new, more inclusive governance scenarios it should be possible to achieve greater returns on investment as projects are chosen through processes involving a greater amount of relevant stakeholders than more traditional decision making procedures. Moreover, alternative financial models should increase the possibilities for investment and thereby the amount which cities are able to adapt to Climate Change.

The concrete company IBF participates in the project with innovation interest and in-kind and thus represent an added value to the EIT funding.

Demand Side Need 

Vejle – like many coastal cities – is vulnerable to flooding events. In particular, the city district of Vestbyen has proved particularly susceptible having succumbed to floods each year in the past four years. With the onset of climate change, the problem of flooding is projected to worsen for the district of Vestbyen where the estimated economic losses are EUR 132 million in a year 2100 scenario. As it stands, the legal responsibility for dealing with excess water run-off lies with the sewage companies operating in the area.

However, property owners in the area have to accept occasional flooding when events reach a certain magnitude and are therefore beyond the sewage company’s obligations. At this point insurance companies are expected to cover damage yet are only obliged to do so in the event of ”officially recognised” storm surges. This present scenario means that all aforementioned stakeholders – sewage companies, property owners and insurers – have a vested interest in solutions that can reduce the consequences of storm surges and cloud burst.

Potential Climate Impact

The introduction of flooding adaptation in Vejle will ultimately reduce future economic losses caused by flooding events in the city. Like in Vejle, with the onset of climate change flooding events are set to become a more common phenomenon in urban areas across the world. If successful the pathfinder in Vejle will produce a complete, globally replicable physical and implementation process package for cities and urban areas around the world.