Oirsbeek Village Square

Innovative Water Management Strategy from Rockflow Enhances the Urban Realm

Located in Limburg (NL), the village of Oirsbeek in the municipality of Schinnen is vulnerable to flooding due to large amounts of rainwater coming down from the steep slopes that surround it. Recent years have seen severe rain overload the sewer system, at times leaving much of the village of Oirsbeek underwater. This dire situation lead the Municipality of Schinnen to take ground-breaking measures, tackling the problem with an innovative water collection buffer using Rockflow, a sub-grade water management system utilising stone wool

Ton Peeters, Water Management Expert at the Municipality of Schinnen explains that following the severe flooding, one of the measures the authorities considered was the construction of a swale under Oirsbeek’s main village square. A swale, being a shallow valley or channel that retains water, is a common water management strategy in the Netherlands. Nevertheless, this strategy met resistance from locals. ‘The square was well used in the village, hosting community activities and serving as an ideal site for tents and other amenities during festivities, something that would be compromised by the swale.’ Looking for a solution that would resolve flooding issues, while not only maintaining but enhancing the urban public sphere, the Municipality reached out to a contact from Lapinus, a subsidiary of Rockwool, who proposed the Rockflow solution.

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Rockflow is a sub-grade water management system that buffers extreme rainfall quickly and efficiently, allowing it to be ultimately infiltrated in the soil or directed towards a sewer. Rockflow stone wool elements can absorb 95% of their volume in water within a very short time and have a throughput speed of 200 metres per day. Installed below the ground surface, there is no loss of urban space and vehicles can even park on top of the system without any deformation or loss of functionality.

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Rockflow by Lapinus was installed in Oirsbeek to prevent local flooding.

Rockwool technical expert Robert Driessen explains, ‘It was known for some time that stone wool could be very useable in water management, but little was really investigated further until 2 years ago when we worked together with Royal Haskoning DHV on a pilot project.’ The results have been so success that Lapinusnow has 15 more projects and many more in the pipeline in this area of expertise. Driessen adds that in the case of Oirsbeek, 1 m3 of stone wool can easily absorb 950 l of water within 8 to 9 minutes, even with low pressure. This easily meets requirements from the Municipality. 

Further, the Netherlands requires that a buffer system must be emptied/absorbed within 24 hours, another requirement easily met here. After implementation, Ton Peeters says, ‘The solution is liked because it is low maintenance with a long life - and here accommodating for the 25 year storm - but also because the village square keeps its function.

A subtle response to flooding and the urban sphere, the result is truly a beautiful whole.