Presented by SI News

The three pillars of sustainable urban development

The three pillars of sustainable urban development
Hammarby Sjöstad is directly south of Stockholm’s South Island. Photo: Mikael Sjöberg/mediabank.visitstockholm.com
SI News hears from NFGL Local Network Urban Development Stockholm about their recent trip to Hammarby Sjöstad, an urban development project directly south of Södermalm in Stockholm.

“Cities are in a sense natural ecosystems too – for us.” Jane Jacobs, Death and Life of Great American Cities.

It might be not a brand new information that nowadays more than a half of all world’s population live in cities, and this number is still growing according to the UN World’s Cities Report

This rapid urbanization is bringing big challenges, including growing numbers of slum dwellers, increased air pollution, inadequate infrastructure, and unplanned urban sprawl, which also make cities more vulnerable to disasters. 

However, as cities are proven to be “engines of innovation”, as was once stated by Jane Jacobs, their concentrations of talented and creative people could also bring sensible solutions to the arising challenges. Thus, better urban planning and management is necessary for dealing with many of the world’s current issues. 

In order to implement good practices of urban development, the UN commission has set, among its 17 new Sustainable Development Goals, the goal to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” (SDG 11).

What is sustainable urban development? 

It is worth saying that sustainable urban development is based on a number of principles, rather than on one solid agenda. However, the concept of sustainable urban development relies on the notion of planning and developing communities that will meet long-term human and environmental needs. By addressing not just cities, but communities, it touches upon both physical matter, encountering objects where communities operate, and non-tangible matter, such as socio-cultural connections between people in these communities.

Furthermore, sustainable urban development requires more than just new smart technologies and innovative solutions, it entails much attention to people’s behaviour and interactions – both with each other and with nature. The awareness of how to implement smart solutions and govern the process of urban development is crucial for reaching long-term success in our cities.

In short, the main aspects of sustainable urban development should be based on the following three pillars:

  • creating technological solutions for building the environment
  • fostering sound economic development
  • empowering communities and creating more robust social links.

This way, we, as an SI Local students’ network, aim to uncover the best Swedish practices and cases of city planning, the introduction of modern technologies in the built environment, and governing of change within the municipalities and districts. 

For this matter, we collaborate closely with the NFGL Sustainability Stockholm, with which we recently held a study visit to Smart City Sweden and the eco-district of Hammarby Sjöstad. 

There, with the help of presentation by Allan Larsson, Sweden’s former Minister of Finance, we got a glimpse of what Hammarby Sjöstad 1.0 aimed for and what Hammarby Sjöstad 2.0 strives to be.

Nowadays, the district is a place for piloting innovations in test-beds, as well as an energy live-in lab – the testing platform for researching how an energy system would change if people started producing their own energy. 

Importantly, one of the keys to the success of Hammarby Sjöstad has been eco-governance – an approach where both the city planners and business enterprises reach an agreement on how to work towards sustainability.

Following the study visit to Stockholm’s Hammarby Sjöstad, we are now planning a big study trip to discover the cases of sustainable urban development in the Öresund region – Malmö and Copenhagen. There, we plan to visit Hyllie district in Malmö and two cutting-edge districts in Copenhagen – Ørestad and Nordhavn.

Hyllie is projected to be 'Sweden’s most climate-smart city' and is planned to become the most climate-smart district of the entire Öresund region. The main objective for the district is that the energy supply will be 100% renewable or reused (energy from waste or wastewater) by the year 2020.

In Copenhagen, we aim to explore the works of the world-know architecture firm BIG group, founded by Bjarke Ingels, who is a champion of the hedonistic sustainability concept in architecture. This concept is framed as designing buildings like ecosystems that fit into their own landscape, improving the quality of life and human enjoyment. 

During the study visit, we aim to visit some of the BIG group’s earlier work in Ørestad (such as residential buildings Tietgenkollegiet, VM Mountain, 8Tallet) as well as the newly developed harbour area in Nordhavn, which draws on the maritime and industrial history of Copenhagen.

As we are running our final preparations for the visit, we are very excited to get a glimpse on what is considered to be the best practices of the urban world, as well as trying to understand better and improve our own cities and neighbourhoods.

Last but not least, we encourage you to stay tuned and do not miss our upcoming review of the study visit.

SI NFGL Urban Development Stockholm

* together with SI NFGL Sustainability Stockholm we are moderating a Facebook page NFGL Sustainability & Urbanism – which you are more then welcome to join in order to get first-hand information about our events.

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