SWEDEN: Stockholm’s urban planning continues to be a model for sustainable communities

STOCKHOLM—It is a warm spring afternoon and we are standing in the middle of Norra Djurgårdsstaden, a “sustainable neighbourhood” in Stockholm, when the spotlight is stolen by a young blonde woman who walks up to a waste station, lifts a hatch and dispatches her household waste via a network of pipes underground.

“No need for lorries (garbage trucks),” explains Bo Hallqvist, Norra Djurgårdsstaden information officer, and our guide.

Reporters from every corner of the globe are here at the invitation of the Swedish government to witness what’s playing out on the sustainability front.
I represent Canada— or more to the point, Peel Region.

If you want to get an idea of Mississauga’s vision for its lakefront revitalization project, Stockholm is probably the best place to visit. Stockholm is known as “the Venice of the North” but the innovations introduced here push the boundaries on “eco-living” and solidify Sweden’s position as Europe’s environmental heartland.  
A large portion of the country's energy now comes from renewable sources and, by 2030, this northern European nation, with a population of roughly nine million, aims to become emissions free — as in zero.

As it moves toward achieving this goal, Sweden is spurring on major innovations across public and private sectors.  

Norra Djurgårdsstaden, (Stockholm Royal Seaport in English), is the largest urban development area in Sweden and Stockholm’s flagship project in sustainable living.

The city’s population is rapidly growing: At 880,000 people, Stockholm is projected to expand by 200,000 new inhabitants over the next decade. In pure population numbers, it’s comparable to Mississauga and Brampton.

To accommodate this influx, Stockholm city council signed off on a massive building regime that will add 140,000 new housing units by 2030.

A major part of this expansion includes the revitalization of approximately 236-hectares enveloping the city’s old industrial district and port area to the northeast, adding 12,000 new homes and 35,000 workplaces.

People began moving into the area in 2013, and construction on phase two commenced in 2014.

It is one of several major urban redevelopment projects currently underway in Sweden, most notably Hammarby Sjöstad (the site of Sweden’s 2004 Summer Olympic bid) with 26,000 new inhabitants.

Representing an investment in the billions of dollars ($3.8 billon CDN), Norra Djurgårdsstaden is the model for the sustainable and livable city.

The Royal Seaport is designed on a closed loop environmental system, where energy, waste, sewage and water make up an “eco-cycle.” For example, electricity and district heating is provided by incineration of combustible waste. Biogas is generated from digested organic waste and wastewater and used to fuel buses. 

In northern Europe, home heating accounts for more than 40 per cent of total energy consumption.

To address this, many homes are ‘energy-plus,’ in which excess heat collected over the summer is use for heating during cold months.

In addition to efficiency, homes are built for longevity (about 100 years life span) allowing for lower life cycle costs over the long term. 

Staffan Lorentz, head of development, said the Stockholm experience has encouraged greater collaboration with other Scandinavian port cities like Copenhagen and Helsinki. 

Mississauga, in conjunction with Peel Region and private-sector partners, is currently in the process of planning a similar revitalization of its harbour lands, with a lot of the inspiration drawn from Stockholm.

Mississauga Coun. Jim Tovey, who helped lead the charge on the waterfront lands, visited Stockholm and cities across Scandinavia. Much of what he saw has been incorporated into the $56 million vision for Inspiration Lakeview. 

“With Lakeview, the plan is to take all of that to the next level,” said Tovey.

For decades, the main landmarks of eastern Mississauga's industrial waterfront were the famous ‘Four Sisters’ smokestacks of Ontario Power Generation's Lakeview Generating Station.

Today, the 102 hectares (254 acres) are being marked off to become a vibrant, sustainable, mixed-use community.

The master plan calls for a 64-acre conservation area, 8,000 residential units, 9,000 workplaces, an advanced research centre dedicated to environmental sustainability, as well as district energy facility and a vacuum waste system that would replace garbage trucks by sucking trash into an underground tube system.

“We will be able to use the Lakeview site as a model for smart growth and a model for sustainability for North America. It’s a great opportunity,” said Tovey.
Everything constructed in Stockholm’s Royal Seaport is subject to strict guidelines. 

Materials used in construction are expected to be “non-toxic” and emit zero Co2s.
“We are quite hard on the developers,” said Hallqvist of the environmental specifications.

Taking a 360-degree look from the main square, the neighbourhood is an oasis in this bustling northern metropolis.

In keeping with the green theme, streets are named after animals like Moose Street (Älgpassgatan) and Bird Dog Street (Fågelhundsgatan).  
There are parks and trails, communal gardens, cycling and pedestrian pathways. Street-side car parking is hard to find with most spaces located underground.

Residental developments are limited to half the number of parking spaces as there are residential units, and 2.5 bike parking lots per apartment.
Building heights are limited to 25 metres and must conform to Stockholm’s existing “character.” They are largely mixed-use with busy commercial storefronts.

The neighbourhood is connected to the city centre by various modes of public transport. There is a four-kilometre nature trail connecting the neighbourhood to the city centre, and many amenities are located within walking distance, including daycares, schools and a grocery store.

“We’ve tried to provide all the features that you would need to live here,” Hallqvist said.

It’s all about increasing livability standards. Sprawling cities like Mississauga, and especially Brampton, have been given low marks on this front in the past.
Peel Region boasts one of the highest rates of diabetes in the province. A Peel Public Health report suggests the poor state of health of residents could be linked to how suburban neighbourhoods are laid out.

There is a certain freedom in this section of Stockholm, where automobiles are largely segregated and the activity is evidence of the higher quality of living claims: People are out pushing baby strollers, riding bikes or sunbathing in the neighbourhood’s central park.

But there is a downside to this green living.

Newer, greener neighbourhoods mean housing prices are higher compared to other areas in Stockholm, raising concerns about gentrification and the exclusion of low-income residents.

Hallqvist said houses cost more because of the huge investments by developers.
The issue of affordable housing has long been a hot button issue in Greater Toronto.

Peel Region has the longest wait times in the province for affordable housing and Brampton, expected to hit 1 million inhabitants over the next few decades, and where most of the region’s expansion will occur, is being asked some tough questions about its current growth strategy.

The days of sprawling neighbourhoods of single-family homes may truly be behind urban centres in favour of greater density and policies that ensure housing is accessible.

Sweden is making great strides to combat a culture dependent on fossil fuels. And the proof of that effort is evident at the street level in Stockholm.
From investments in cycling infrastructure, to green transit and energy efficient homes, Stockholm is a city gunning for the future, which begs the question: Are Peel Region and Greater Toronto headed in the same direction?  
 

Published : http://www.bramptonguardian.com/news-story/6775988-sweden-stockholm-s-urban-planning-continues-to-be-a-model-for-sustainable-communities/

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