The impacts of climate change are already palpable in Finland. Extreme heat waves and extremely heavy rains are becoming more frequent, and their risk impacts are increasing in cities as well. This increases the need to adapt, in which a digital twin can be an efficient tool.
A digital twin can be used as an efficient tool in assessing and adapting to the impacts of climate change. The term ‘digital twin’ refers to a virtual copy of a real-life subject, such as a city or infrastructure. It can be used as a simulation and analysis tool and to help with performance optimisation. Digital twins can also be used in city planning, decision-making and risk assessment processes.
The Regions4Climate project of the City of Helsinki’s innovation company Forum Virium Helsinki involves implementing a demonstration in Uusimaa, the objective of which is to develop the digital twin trial process and improve Uusimaa’s ability to adapt to climate change in a socially just manner. The digital twin focuses in particular on the risk impacts of urban heat islands and stormwater floods. Forum Virium Helsinki’s key partners in the demonstration are VTT, the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council and the University of Helsinki.
The digital twin demo features datasets related to aspects such as buildings, population density, green structure and urban forests. It has also utilised the Urban Heat Vulnerability Index of Helsinki and features experimental additions of socio-economic datasets. The project also includes a flood demo produced by one of the project partners, Technical Research Centre of Finland VTT.
Examples of the stakeholders of the project include experts working on climate change, city and area planners, environmental specialists, the rescue department and experts in the field of social welfare and health care services. One wish of the stakeholders is to be able to better understand the long-term development process and predict future developments, as well as where the green structure should be placed to support the cooling effect and stormwater management. Generally speaking, ‘stormwater’ refers to rainwater that is not absorbed by the soil and flows as surface water. Stormwater may contain debris, dirt and other substances that can contaminate water bodies.
Adapting to climate change concerns all groups of people in Finland as well
‘Adaptation’ refers to the means through which the adverse impacts of climate change are combated. The aim is to mitigate the impacts of climate change by reducing emissions that warm the climate, but adaptation is necessary in Finland as well.
“For example, the risk of heat waves can be mitigated with a variety of nature-based green solutions. The digital twin demo of the project features integrated soil cover and forest datasets that increase understanding of the cooling effect of vegetation,” explains Project Manager Heli Ponto from Forum Virium Helsinki.
Helsinki residents have varying capabilities and opportunities to adapt to extreme weather conditions depending on their socio-economic background. Examples of risk groups include young children and the elderly, as well as people who do not have a financial buffer for unexpected situations.
However, there is no clear-cut definition as to who belongs to a risk group. For example, office premises can warm up considerably during unexpected heat waves, hindering people’s work. This is why the adaptation work calls for different perspectives.
Image: The heat load of buildings in the Helsinki city centre is greater in areas with only a small number of cooling green structures.
The digital twin can help with assessing the risk, planning adaptation solutions and making knowledge-based decisions. It also facilitates identifying areas that are particularly susceptible to the impacts of extreme weather phenomena.
Assessing and adapting to the impacts of climate change are complex processes that require diverse understanding The digital twin is one tool that can help with the implementation of these processes. The technical development project involves popularising digital twins and their usage possibilities and helping with their critical assessment.
The Regions4Climate project seeks to find solutions to these problems together with the stakeholders of the project. Operators can join the project, for example through various workshops or by contacting the contact persons of the project.
Regions4Climate has received funding from the ‘Large scale demonstrators of climate resilience creating cross-border value’ funding programme of the EU. The project involves 46 partners and 12 regional demonstrations across Europe and is coordinated by VTT. The total budget of the project is €26,510,550.50, of which Forum Virium Helsinki’s share is €881,750.00. Project grant agreement ID: 101093873.
Article image: Jussi Hellsten.