Integrated Sustainable Development: the Swedish Experience

hammarby sjostad-park

Featured Image: Hammarby Sjostad Park. Courtesy Tengbom Architects

Integrated Sustainable Development: the Swedish Experience
by Anna Kerr

Sweden is well positioned with regard to Sustainable Urban Planning, Design and Architecture. Stockholm was the first winner of the new European Green Capital Award and it was awarded the European Green Capital of 2010. One of the key drivers behind this is the strong Swedish tradition of cooperation between planning authorities, architects and developers. Hammarby sjöstad in Stockholm and Vastra hamnen are projects that are good examples of this tradition.

Brief Background 
By the 1970’s, decades of heavy industrialisation had finally taken their toll on Sweden. The air was polluted, the forests were dead, wastelands and toxic water were common. To cap it all, Sweden was the most oil-dependent country in the industrialized world. Eventually, the negative events triggered political action and tougher legislation, spurred cooperation between local, regional and national authorities and private industry- and got ordinary citizens involved too. Suddenly, companies began to turn sustainable ideas into reality, finding new ways to treat water, insulate buildings and develop automatic energy-saving systems and alternative fuels. A new insight: these innovations also turned out to be really profitable.

In the past decades, these innovations have been put into practice on a wider scale, cutting the amount of oil that Swedes use for heating and electricity by a stunning 90%! The new environmental legislation did not seem to clash with the economy. In fact, it was the other way around. Since 1990, CO2 emissions have been reduced by 9% while the economy has grown at stable speed. Seemingly, the goal of sustainability did not seem to hamper economic growth.

Case study: Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm – Making An Entire Sustainable Urban District
A new district has emerged around the lake of Hammarby sjö in Stockholm. A run-down port and industrial area has been cleaned up, developed and converted into a modern and eco-friendly district. Hammarby Sjöstad is Stockholm’s largest urban development project with an environmental programme that incorporates energy supply, water and waste water treatment and waste management.

Hammarby Masterplan:  Courtesy Stockholm Stadsbyggnadskontor

An integrated Part of the City 
Hammarby Sjöstad is a natural extension of Stockholm’s city centre. Civic ambience is a hallmark of the district’s design and planning and this has necessitated extensive infrastructure adjustments. Transport barriers have been removed and old industrial and terminal sites have been closed down, consolidated or given new uses.

Residential Apartments: Courtesy Tengbom Architects

A Large Scale Project
When complete, the Hammarby Sjöstad development will contain 11.000 apartments and accommodate an estimated 35.000 residents and workers. Mixed forms of tenure apply throughout the district, with a 45-55% split between tenancy and tenant ownership. Municipal, commercial and public transport services are also expanding as Hammarby Sjöstad grows.

Multiple investors
Various parties have financed the project. The city of Stockholm joined forces with 25 construction companies to build the district, with the latter contributing 80% of local cost. Other funding comes from two government agencies – the Swedish Rail Administration (rail transport) and the Swedish Road Administration (routing of the Southern Link ring road).

Extensive environmental objectives
The city of Stockholm set stringent environmental requirements for buildings, technical installations and traffic infrastructure right from the start. The aim is to halve the environmental impact of areas built in the early 1990’s. Nature preservation considerations have been paramount and new green spaces created. Contractors have cleaned up contaminated land and transformed brown field sites into attractive residential areas with fine parks and open spaces.

Hammarby Sjostad: Courtesy Tengbom Architects

Wide Range of Public Transportation
Thanks to major investments, Hammarby Sjöstad is served by a modern public transport system – the Tvarbanan light railway, new bus services and a ferry service on Hammarby Sjö Lake between the district’s southern and northern tips. Carpools are available to residents and people working in the area.

No Harmful Materials Allowed
All materials used – inside and outside the buildings – were carefully selected based on environmental considerations. The philosophy is to use proven, sustainable materials and products with environmental declarations, and to avoid chemical products or building materials containing hazardous substances.

Sustainable and Renewable Energy
When Hammarby Sjöstad is complete its residents will produce half of the energy they need by themselves. The focus will be on renewable fuels, re-use of waste heat, biogas and household energy efficiency. The adjacent Hammarby thermal plant extracts heat from the treated wastewater and contributes by-product energy to the district-cooling network.

Waste as a Resource
The Högdalen co-generation plant separates combustible waste as an energy source in electricity and district heating production. Another example of sustainable heat supply is the Hammarby thermal plant, which recovers waste heat from treated wastewater piped from the Henrikdals sewage treatment plant.

Centralized production of district heating and cooling is another feature, with cooling generated as a clean by-product of district heating production. Hammarby Sjöstad also has solar panel installations on its walls and rooftops that use photovoltaic cells to convert sunshine into energy for heating water.

Hammarby waste collection: Courtesy Envac

Figure 2: The Hammarby Model: Stockholm Stadsbyggnadskontor

Unique Cycle System
The Hammarby model is a unique eco-cycle system that integrates energy, solid waste, water and wastewater from homes, offices and other activities in the area. Seen as a blueprint for city systems of the future, the cycle also includes all storm water, rainwater and melted snow.

Recreation for Better Health
The district aims to provide a healthy environment for residents, offering ample opportunities for exercise, sport and local culture.♦

More information about the Hammarby Sjöstad project can be found here:

Hammarby Sjöstad – A Unique Environmental Project in Stockholm (A pdf publication by the City of Stockholm)



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