UTFacultiesETNewsSTAR interview: Civil engineering solutions to climate issues require collaboration

STAR interview: Civil engineering solutions to climate issues require collaboration

In this STAR interview, we speak to Joanne Vinke-de Kruijf of the Faculty of Engineering Technology (ET). STAR is an acronym for (S)ituation, (T)asks, (A)ctions, (R)esults. We also have many “star” colleagues at UT with an interesting story to tell. Joanne Vinke-de Kruijf contributes to the creation of integrated civil engineering solutions that add value to society.


What is/was the situation (S) of your research/initiative?

Infrastructure is essential to a safe and well-functioning society. Climate change has put a considerable amount of pressure on infrastructure, especially water-related infrastructure. Physical and organisational adjustments are needed to be well-prepared for longer periods of drought, more extreme rainfall and heatwaves.


What tasks (T) were or are you currently working on?

My team and I conduct research into the implementation of participatory and integrated approaches to climate issues. In one of our projects, we conducted comparative research into how municipalities in Overijssel cooperate in the adjustment to climate change, both within their organisations and beyond, and where improvements can still be made. We also researched why it is often difficult in Overijssel to implement solutions that address multiple societal challenges, such as the implementation of sustainable heating systems along with more green areas for climate change adaptation. In two other projects we are focusing on integrated approaches to water safety. We examine the possible implementation of nature-based solutions to dike reinforcement in protected nature reserves as well as flood resilient landscapes, an innovative and future-oriented spatial approach. In a European project we are conducting research into how innovative participatory and collaborative policy instruments can contribute to  a transition to more sustainable and equitable water governance. In September we will be launching a new European project into the development and implementation of sponge measures, to improve water retention in landscapes.


What actions (A) are you working on and who are involved?

We conduct our research in projects funded by the Dutch Research Council, the European Commission and local and regional partners. In research projects but also in education and thesis projects, we work closely with municipalities, regional water authorities, provinces, network organisations, companies and interest groups. In cooperation with the Zwolle-based water authority, we have set up two multi-year partnerships to promote the development and sharing of knowledge. At UT, we work with scientists in other groups, both within the Faculty of Engineering Technology and beyond. This cooperation takes place in projects but also via UT and 4TU programmes in the field of resilience. In the field of climate resilience, we have recently also started working with the University of Auburn in Alabama, US.


What results (R) do you hope to achieve, and how will society (or UT organization) perceive them?

Our research shows that, particularly in a densely-populated country such as the Netherlands, cross-sector and participatory approaches have a lot of potential and can help solve multiple issues at the same time. Landscape-based and more nature-based solutions, but also closer cooperation with residents and other parties, are promising. They can help boost the resilience of infrastructure, ecosystems and societies in a broad sense. Our research shows that parties recognise this potential. And yet it is not always possible for them to coherently solve issues. Achieving a climate-resilient infrastructure system and living environment requires new cooperations and changes in the ways we think and work. We research and develop a wide range of approaches that can help achieving this.

Header picture: An integral climate project of the municipality of Enschede: restoration of the Stadsbeek including the realization of the Pinkeltjesplein, a square that provides space for water, play and nature and was designed with residents.

drs. J.G.M. van den Elshout (Janneke)
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