Will prolapsed houses become the new standard?

Well let’s be honest: your house probably won’t be prolapsed in the coming five years, but there are some chances buildings will sag in the future if we don’t do anything. Area’s in the so called “Randstad” are facing two vast problems in the coming years. There will be a growing task of protecting ourselves against flooding, on the other hand we have to ensure our peat soil will be solid enough to hold our houses and other buildings.

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Where most people think the protection against water is our biggest difficulty, they underestimate the growing shortage of ground water in the peat soils our cities are constructed on.  By using the peat grounds we face a process called ‘inklinken’. This natural process is accelerated by human activities like filtering the groundwater for the supply of drinking water and other purposes like agriculture. For years the problem of inklinken was way less critical than protecting our country against flooding, but now the time has come to see things in perspective. In this video you can hear an extensive explanation on the worldwide problem of inklinken: https://goo.gl/ZsMJdr.

Inklinken is basically the process of volume decline of the soil through drought. This volume decline can possibly cause buildings to prolapse, sewer systems to move and ways to sag. Everyone could imagine the problems this process could cause; therefore, several solutions are available. One of them is to let water flow back into the peat soil to regain the lost volume. Even the peat can grow back and long gone ecosystem services will have their function again. This solution isn’t as easy as it seems: many people rely on these peat soils for work and income.

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The biggest stakeholders as it comes to the dry soil are farmers, they rely on the relatively dry peat soil for the production of their farms. Setting their acres under water would be devastating for their businesses. Therefore, the government decided, amongst other things, to enlarge the Kleinschalige Water Aanvoervoorziening (KWA), this emergency irrigation supply uses canals connected to the Lek and the Amsterdam Rijnkanaal to irrigate land in control of the Hoogheemraadschap Rijnland. The KWA will be enlarged and its supply will be doubled the coming years. More information about the KWA can be found here: https://goo.gl/P4tFXp.

This emergency irrigation is of course a great way to stop the process of inklinken when its necessary, but we have to ask ourselves if it’s enough to prevent our houses and highways from sagging in the future. As the article in the picture above states: “the inklinking is mostly caused by the winning of drinking water”, with a growing population this factor could grow even bigger. The government and other people that work on a solution for this problem know it exists, but I bet most of the people living in the Randstad don’t even know there is a problem. To prevent peat soil from sinking, we have to undertake a lot more action than we do now. To do so, inklinken has to be recognised as a major problem: let’s hope government and water management stakeholders start with gaining attention for it!

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4 thoughts on “Will prolapsed houses become the new standard?”

  1. Nice blog Lieuwe! I think you are totally right that the peat soil becoming dry is a problem. Also, this problem might become slightly less relevant in the future since new buildings have reliable foundations on one of the sand layers under the peat. This will ofcourse not solve the problem of degrading peat soil, but it will prevent some of the damage done by this.
    To prevent the damage, there are also ways to inject the soil with grouting under the old constructions, but these might be expensive, and therefore it can be chosen not to apply them.

    soil enhancing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2aEEUvmLIM

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    1. Thanks for your comment Onno! Great to see other options to protect future buildings from prolapsing, wouldn’t expect something else from a civil engineer;). I am very curious about the future: will the governement invest in recovering the peat soil, or will they only build buildings that can cope with the sagging. I guess it’s something to carefully follow the coming years!

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  2. Interesting to read this, I was also not aware of the size of the ‘inklinken’ problem. You said you don’t know it the emergency irrigation will be enough to stop the inklinken process, what else could you think of that would help? And can this maybe also be a solution for the prolapsed houses in Groningen? It’s a different case, but the houses there are also prolapsed.

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  3. Well, I guess the province of Groningen also has to cope with the problem of ‘inklinken’. Since they are also connected to the sea it would be an option to connect irrigation canals from the sea to their peat grounds. However I don’t know if salt water does the same to peat grounds as fresh water. It might be a lot more difficult. When Groningen and Leiden don’t cooperate, it seems like a good idea to do so!

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