3.2.2 Scales

Course subject(s) Module 3. |B| Spatial design


Another important aspect of spatial design in relation to nature-based solutions is the notion of scale. As everything is related, any intervention on any scale influences or has an impact elsewhere. Nature-based solutions are transcalar, which means that they work through all scales at the same time. In spatial design the macro, meso, micro and nano scale are distinguished; below we discuss nature-based solutions through these scales.

Macro scale

Size: Catchment / Sub-catchment / River branch

Domain: Public / Planning

Focus: Managing and assigning ecological flows and space

Despite transcalarity, nature-based solutions have a particular strong relevance from the regional level. The macro scale of nature-based solutions has an ecological perspective and is mainly addressed from the planning domain as this is the level from which you manage ecological flows and you assign space, patches and corridors, which can provide for the support of life. With the support of life we mean that this space can for instance provide for good quality of carbon mitigation or provide habitats for fauna and flora or facilitate the process of pollination. The value of nature’s caring capacity of life comes from the regional level and the macro scale.

Meso scale

Size: City

Domain: Collective

Focus: Enhancing performance of existing systems

The meso scale of nature-based solutions is the scale of the city and focusses on infrastructures in place and how to enhance the performance of these existing systems in supporting urban life and the nature-based retrofitting options for these infrastructures. The ecological impact of the meso scale network is smaller than the macro scale network but still of high importance as meso scale networks still carry along the full fabric of the city as conveners of smaller ecological structures. An important example is the system of roads which often functions as the clearest network of open space. The full set of small green or blue infrastructure elements along roads and sidewalks can be of high relevance for the management of exceeding surface water quantities for instance. This green or blue layer allows a multifunctional collaboration with the monofunctional road network and the pipe network which is often located below the roads.

Micro scale

Size: Neighborhood / Urban block / District

Domain: Private

Focus: Retrofitting and receiving green and blue

Going down from the meso scale to the micro scale we shift from the collective domain to the private domain, often defined by a unit, an urban block or a district with a combination of urban blocks. Within the micro scale, nature-based solutions imply the design of everything that can be retrofitted with green and blue and the way these spaces can be adapted to receive further green and blue. Think about sidewalks, public squares, street corners, courtyards, gardens.

Nano scale

Size: Street / Garden / Plot

Domain: Physical processes

Focus: Facilitating and manipulating natural processes

Fully zoomed in we reach the domain of physical processes and flows which we try to facilitate and manipulate with nature-based solutions. Within the nano scale the focus lies with the actual measures and their techniques and bio engineering in a specific part of land.

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Nature Based Metropolitan Solutions by TU Delft OpenCourseWare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://online-learning.tudelft.nl/courses/nature-based-metropolitan-solutions/.
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