A new online tool has been launched which will allow people living in Flanders to calculate how climate-proof their homes and gardens are, and how to make them more climate-friendly.
Based on aspects including rainwater collection facilities, and how many ponds and trees are nearby, the Green Blue Level tool - the name highlights the importance of water infiltration and greenery - gives scores ranging from A to F and tailored suggestions for how to increase the score.
"We are increasingly confronted with heavy rainfall and longer periods of drought," Flemish Minister for the Environment Zuhal Demir said.
"The consequences of this are also becoming increasingly clear: the scorching hot summers with water shortages of the past few years have given way to heavy rainfall, with all the consequences this entails. We will all have to do our bit to adapt to the new reality," she added.
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Demir explained that this tool gives people in Flanders a way to do their part as well as "adapt and protect their own homes or plots against the consequences of climate change."
More trees and storing water
The initiative was set up by the knowledge centre for water management VLARIO, in cooperation with the Flemish Construction Federation and the Flemish Environment Department in response to the increasingly palpable problems caused by climate change, which played a part in the deadly July floods that damaged thousands of homes.
The tool itself was developed by researchers from Leuven University (KULeuven) and focuses on scoring plots in eight domains: drought, peak discharges, water use, floods, biodiversity, air quality, cooling and CO2 storage.
"With a score between A and F, people in Flanders can discover the impact of their homes and gardens in each of these areas," researcher Patrick Willems explained.
For categories where they score less well, they will receive suggestions for adjustments to improve that score, for example planting trees to absorb excess water, or storing rainwater.
To use the tool, homeowners need to know the surface area of the roof, garden, terraces and water features. The location of homes - and how susceptible it is to flooding - is also taken into account for the calculation.
It is one of the projects within the Flemish government's Blue Deal, through which it wants to combat drought and water scarcity, and which also included numerous concrete actions, projects and large investments to structurally tackle drought and water scarcity with the help of industry and farmers.
According to the developers, all Flemish homes achieving a C-score on the green-blue level could result in most of today's water problems being solved.
"But only when all houses achieve an A-score, will we also tackle tomorrow's problems and absorb the impact of climate change by 2050," Wendy Francken, director of VLARIO, told De Standaard.
Not only private individuals but also architects, local authorities and companies can use the tool to help contribute to future-proofing buildings.