Unite education, research and practice in innovative projects that stand out for interdisciplinary leadership


By Jos Timmermans | July 2019

Deltas worldwide are under accelerating pressure of sea-level rise and hydrological extremes, but still thrive with unprecedented economic growth and urbanisation. Former high-end scenarios rapidly become thinkable futures that push delta interventions outside common delta management practice. TU Delft Delta Futures Lab brings scientific, public and private forces together in a mission to foster urbanising deltas as sources of social, ecological and economic prosperity. The lab aims to deliver the next level of delta technology, landscape and urban designs, institutional arrangements and management concepts, to be implemented with our public and private partners in the global delta community.

What is the Delta Futures Lab?

The Delta Futures Lab is a multidisciplinary network for MSc students and staff with the ambition to become interdisciplinary leaders in spatial design, engineering and governance of river deltas. The Lab unites master students, researchers and professionals in interdisciplinary projects. It enriches and supports master students in becoming the mission-oriented engineers that future delta societies need. With the Delta Futures Lab, TU Delft presents itself as an interdisciplinary leader in spatial design, engineering and governance of river deltas. University staff will use the Lab to further develop existing and new methods like the Tohoku method,  Design with uncertainty and Research-by-Design. This video and website give a good impression of what the Delta Futures Lab realizes and further develops. Besides their project and master thesis reports, student teams make a collaborative product aimed at external communication of their work via a journal paper, scientific poster, policy brief, infographic or professional article for DeltaLinks.

The Lab will be physically located in the Bouwcampus. At the Bouwcampus, the lab offers project teams two design halls and meeting rooms to collaborate on their projects. On Lab Fridays, Delta Futures Lab offers a diverse program of lectures, presentations and game sessions in the Bouwcampus Kubus meeting hall.

Contributing to Sustainable Development Goals

The TU Delft Strategic Framework 2018-2024, Impact for a better society, calls for a Delft University of Technology contributing to solving global challenges by educating new generations of socially responsible engineers delivering innovative technological solutions for societal problems. Delta Futures Lab embarks on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as excellent guides for realizing this call.

Delta  Futures Lab especially aims to contribute to SDGs 2, 6, 9, 11 and 13. Zero Hunger relates to the major contribution of fertile river deltas to agricultural production to be distributed around the globe. SDG  6, Clean water and Sanitation, is at the heart of urbanizing deltas. Without the availability of freshwater, the unprecedented urbanisation of deltas would not have been possible. In many deltas nowadays, unsustainable use and poor management of this indispensable resource turn it into a threat. Subsidence, resulting from overexploitation of groundwater resources, is probably the most dangerous one and climate change-induced sea-level rise the most unpredictable. Investments in infrastructure for transport, irrigation, energy and information & communication technology are crucial to achieving sustainable development in urbanizing deltas. In deltas, the innovation and infrastructure focus of SDG 9,  is therefore a central issue. Infrastructures are at the heart of the economic development of deltas, but may also undermine their sustainable development by impeding natural processes of erosion and sedimentation and can cause a decline of biodiversity. A shift from ‘Building in Nature’ towards ‘Building with Nature’ in flood risk protection and port development is thus a major theme of the Delta Futures Lab. SDG 11 emphasizes the importance of inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities. Delta management aims to deliver the indispensable physical boundary conditions for the development of these delta cities as hubs for ideas, commerce, culture, science, productivity, social development and much more. To foster urbanising deltas as sources of economic, social and ecological prosperity, contributing to SDG 13, Climate Action, especially climate adaptation, is a final primary focus.

This article was published in TU Delft DeltaLinks in July 2019