DESIGN INTO ACTION
By: Kate Hawley, Research Associate ISET-International
“This is the 2007 flood level,” explained Mr. Cao Giang Nam, a lecturer from Da Nang Architectural University. As I looked up, I realized the flooding level in Hoa Chau ward was taller than me, exceeding my height at 170cm. “How is this possible?” I ask myself. “How does someone actually survive flood waters taller than 170cm?” These questions continue to fill my head as we walk the roads of the Hoa Chau ward.
Many factors contribute to flooding in this area (and always seems the case). However, the City of Da Nang has put infilling measures into practice very actively over the last few years. Infilling, in the case of Da Nang, means that soil from the nearby mountains are transported to this coastal city and piled high in certain areas throughout the city to create higher ground for the building of commercial and residential areas. The water has to go somewhere, right? Apparently, it goes here.
Da Nang is a quickly urbanizing metropolis in Central Vietnam experiencing natural hazards from flooding to typhoons, almost yearly. With a growth domestic product in recent years, just over 11 percent (Cu, 2008),1. The city’s beach front property is a key attraction for Korean Development Companies and home to the great ‘Dragon Bridge’ recently completed in 2013 and commemorated during the 38th anniversary of the Vietnam War.2 It is in this city that ISET-International and Hue University are hosting the Resilient Housing Design Competition (www.resilienthabitat.org) for poor and vulnerable households. Climate change is expected to increase the intensity of rainfall in shorter time durations instead of the consistent rainfall that is experienced (ISET-International, 2013)3. What does this mean? It means more flooding for the residents of Da Nang. However, typhoons are another story. Since such limited information exists concerning typhoons in Southeast Asia, we do not even know what will happen. It is speculated that typhoon frequency may reduce, but intensity may increase (ISET-International, 2013)4. Overall, it seems like Da Nang will be experiencing more intense storms all around.
That is why we are here. We’ve assembled a team of professionals and students to address these issues through innovative housing designs. The Architecture students came from Da Nang and Hue University as well as one professional firm to share their creations with a panel of experts on April 26th. Like any honest panel, they provided critical feedback concerning the designs specifically giving critique on how to add realistic features and consider the site selection when designing their houses. This gave the students plenty to ponder. We were then whisked away for a group site visit to specific wards throughout Da Nang that experience yearly flooding and typhoons. It is here where the stories unfolded.
“My father passed away in the 1990 floods in Hue. That is why I am participating,” shares La Van Son, student at Hue University. “His father,” I thought, suddenly thrown into the reality of what we are really trying to do. We are not only here to try and make safer houses, save lives and assets—we are creating a force of inspired young architects that will influence the way we will live in the future with climate change.
1 Cu, N. H. (2008). Da Nang’s economic growth is stable or not. Journal of Science and Technology of Da Nang University, Vol. 5, page 125-134.
3 ISET–International (2013, April). Extreme Rainfall, Climate Change and Flooding in Da Nang, Vietnam. Boulder, CO: Sarah Stapleton.
4 ISET–International (2013, April). Da Nang: Typhoon Intensity and Climate Change. Boulder, CO: Sarah Stapleton.