Two basic questions come out of the discussion on climate protection measures. On one side, more efficient energy use is seen as a key factor in achieving the global climate improvement objectives. These include lesser consumption, greater efficiency in energy conversion processes and greater resort to the use of renewable energy. The aim is to reduce the emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, thus limiting their long-term concentration in the Earth’s atmosphere. On the other side, adaptation strategies to ongoing and predicted climate change in the medium-term are being devised, analysed and implemented. The adaptation strategies are considered essential, in addition to the prevention measures, to enable people to maintain their lifestyle in the current economic and social systems, even when there is a progressive change in climate.
As a result of the relatively high incidence of private road transport on total CO2 emissions, both prevention and adaptation strategies concern the control of and reduction in vehicle traffic. On this, the reduction strategies for the quota of emissions linked to private transport are based on concepts such as the expansion of public transport services, oriented by a careful study of demand, the development of the electrification network of local public transport (LPT) and other ‘carbon-free’ technologies, and the integration of public and private transport into a concept of global mobility. Nevertheless, whatever the effort made to strengthen ‘carbon-efficient’ forms of transport, we will always have a quota, that may also be significant, of private motorised transport. Recognising this aspect, the German government proclaimed 2020 as ‘Electric Mobility Year’, promulgating various programmes of incentives for the development, and purchase, of a greater range of electric cars.
If we accept that individual road mobility will continue to play a central role in the lives of most people outside metropolitan areas, two main critical points must be dealt with. Firstly, the electrification of the private vehicle fleet in circulation must be accompanied by the expansion of an effective and efficient recharging network. This is the only way of ensuring the effectiveness of the decarbonisation potential arising from the choice of car electrification. Secondly, the answer to problems associated with the use of private vehicles must be integrated into the strategies for safeguarding the climate, including car-sharing services, which enable the number of vehicles to be considerably reduced without, theoretically, influencing availability. This prevention strategy takes account, in particular, of the energy waste linked to car production.
What has been missing to date are convincing ‘concepts’ for vehicle parking areas which go beyond the desolating concrete surfaces, typical of the car parks of any supermarket. The idea of the Klimaparkplatz (the re-invention of a car park from the eco-compatible point of view) arose from the combination of the shortcomings noted and the localisation of potential new parking areas. But can a car park really generate benefits for the climate? It’s very difficult. If we start from the example of the supermarket car park, the usual critical points can immediately be highlighted. A high level of impermeabilisation of the surfaces causes an accumulation of rainwater in sewer systems. In addition, these surfaces become very hot, tending to develop dust in the long-term and are generally unsuitable for sociability. For cost reasons, the whole area should be able to operate as much as possible as a car park. All these points tend to become increasingly disruptive because of the increase in average temperatures or, following the increasingly frequent onset of extreme climatic events (periods of drought alternating with torrential rain), the loss of vegetation (caused by drought, forest fires and storm damage) and the problem of atmospheric pollution. These are associated with climate change but they can’t be solved just by the exclusive use of strategies to reduce CO2 emissions in the short- and medium-term.
This is where the concept of the Klimaparkplatz comes into play as a tool that promotes resilience to climate change. The rule “a tree every three car spaces” is behind the design idea and is taken into consideration from the very start of urban planning in the definition of urban parking schemes. The implementation of this base model allows both the ecologic transformation of mono-functional parking areas, re-converting them to ‘combined vegetation sites’ and inevitably tends to increase the gross land take. Nevertheless, if thought of in terms of integrated, sustainable mobility, considering the new parking areas as hubs for car-sharing, for modal interchanges with the public transport (e.g. Park&Ride) and cycle-pedestrian mobility networks (integrating, for example, racks for bicycles or e-bikes) the number of spaces for private cars can be reduced and, as a result, the total land take.
From the construction point of view, it’s important to use building methods and materials that are as ‘ecologic’ as possible. For example, by avoiding excessive impermeabilisation of the project areas, the precipitation infiltration process can be exploited for trees and shrubs and to supply the underground water system. In addition, the collection of rainwater for irrigation through delayed infiltration. Taking account of local building regulations or the conservation requirements of the historic-artistic heritage, planning the re-use of recovered materials available regionally (e.g. old granite flooring) may also be effective. Thus, these go back into the production cycle as ‘recycled building material’.
With regard to the systems, the opportunities offered by e-mobility must be considered in particular. In addition to the recharging stations for electric vehicles, systems for recharging electric bicycles safely must also be provided (e.g. in the form of cupboards with connections to the electricity network), and also for electricity generation in situ through the installation of photovoltaic panels, suitably housed on the shelters covering the bike racks. Similarly, the accumulation of photovoltaic energy can also act as a reserve for nocturnal lighting.
To summarise, as the result of an alternative design concept, the Klimaparkplatz model aspires to guarantee a ‘natural’ operation of occupied land, as would happen for a free space of the same size (e.g. an archaeological area). This ambitious aim is achieved through both the design of free surfaces with a high degree of green areas and the installation of additional functions that help to reduce the negative effects of conventional traffic.
So the Klimaparkplatz is a concept that helps to pursue a climate adaptation strategy in an urban context and integrates it through design elements that aim to reduce CO2. Therefore, it is anything but a placebo, rather an intelligent combination of opportunities and potential for the sustainable mobility of the near future.