Green is the word in Hammarby Sjöstad — and not just because it's summer. Under its lush surface this residential waterside area in Stockholm hides a number of innovative sustainable solutions. The “Hammarby model” has become a tool for environmentally friendly city development around the world.
A new-built one bedroom apartment in Hammarby Sjöstad costs from SEK 6,600 (USD 1,100) per month. Photo: Anna Sandelin
Hammarby Sjöstad used to be a run-down old industrial area with grave pollution problems. In the early 1990s, in connection with an attempt to get the Olympic Games to Stockholm, all political parties in Stockholm's city council agreed to make the area an urban, environmental role model. When completed, in 2018, it will house over 20,000 residents in around 11,000 apartments.
Erik Freudenthal, communicator at the environmental information center GlashusEtt at Hammarby Sjöstad, explains the starting point for the project. “The aim was to halve the total environmental impact compared to that of other houses built in the 1990s, make the area twice as good,” he says.
Halving water consumption
One of the goals is to make the residents help to produce 50 percent of the power they need — by turning recycled wastewater and domestic waste into heating, cooling and electricity. Already, all electricity is eco-labeled, and new types of fuel cells, solar cells and solar panels are being tested in the area.
The goal for water use is to halve the consumption compared to the Swedish average of 180 liters a day. One of the ways to obtain that is via filters that have been installed in all taps, mixing air into the water to reduce the volumes used.
As for waste treatment, all garbage is separated and much of it re-used or used to produce energy. The high-tech waste management company Envac has developed a system of underground pipes that use vacuum suction to transport the garbage. A local wastewater treatment plant has also been built, which uses new cleaning technology.
It doesn't have to cost more to live green, according to resident Joakim von Porat (right): "If you look at the size of these apartments, it's cheaper to live here than in the city center," he says. Left: Christine von Porat. Photo: Anna Sandelin
Hammarby Sjöstad's residents have different views on what role sustainability plays in their everyday life. Christine von Porat thinks that the environmental engagement has waned lately. “At the beginning, many people sold their cars and joined car pools and so on,” she says. “Now, that has disappeared a bit.”
Another local resident, Richard Broberg, claims he doesn't notice the eco-friendliness much at all, apart from the waste sorting. Urban Nyström, on the other hand, believes that “you get really environmentally friendly by living here.”
According to Lars Fränne, the City of Stockholm's project manager for Hammarby Sjöstad, a huge number of people has moved to the area over the last couple of years.
His colleague Freudenthal points out that one group of newcomers is particularly noticeable: “There are a lot of families with children in the area,” he says. “Ten percent of the residents are kids between zero and five, and there are ten pre-schools and two elementary schools in the neighborhood.”
Urban Nyström sees many advantages of living in Hammarby Sjöstad. “It's airy and green, the traffic is kept away, it's child-friendly, and there are good communications to the city center,” he says. “And it's really well kept. We also have swings and a sandbox right below our apartment.”
Erik Freudenthal stands on the rooftop of his workplace, GlashusEtt, where he has been teaching visitors about the sustainable side of Hammarby Sjöstad since 2002. Photo: Anna Sandelin
A holistic approach
Freudenthal believes that the exceptional thing about Hammarby Sjöstad is the integrated planning process. “All units involved in the project sat down to focus on the environment before even drawing the first line. It's a holistic concept.”
Fränne adds: “Another unique feature is the concerted project organization — and that the city is involved to such a great extent.”
The eco-innovative area has quickly gained worldwide reputation; in 2007, GlashusEtt received more than 12,000 visitors. “Hammarby Sjöstad has become some kind of international brand,” Freudenthal says. “For instance, we've had 10–15 of the major CEOs of the British building industry visiting, and 30 mayors from Thailand.”
The “Hammarby model” has also been exported — to Russia and the United Kingdom, for instance, as well as to China, where the city Hohhot has gained inspiration from Hammarby Sjöstad.
Keeping it clean. Swedish environmental technology firm Envac is the inventor of these waste sorting units in Hammarby Sjöstad. Photo: Envac/Image Bank Sweden
Reaching the goals?
More than 10 years into the project, have the environmental goals been achieved? In a new report covering some major parts of Hammarby Sjöstad, it is concluded that these are 30–40 percent more environmentally friendly than normal housing areas. So, progress has been made, but there is still some way to go.
According to Freudenthal, 75 percent of the sustainability in Hammarby Sjöstad is integrated into buildings and infrastructure — the remaining 25 percent are for the residents themselves to contribute to. Fränne is somewhat skeptical to how well that has succeeded: “Generally, people like the idea of this as a sustainability project, but are not so keen on turning down the heat a notch in their apartments. Most people probably see this primarily as a normal housing area.”
The opinions may vary as to whether Hammarby Sjöstad is all about living green, or just about living. But one thing is certain — the residents of Hammarby Sjöstad seem to be more than happy to stay.
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Anna Sandelin is a freelance journalist who used to study human ecology at university, but got a bit too disillusioned to continue. However, if sustainability can be as pleasant as in Hammarby Sjöstad, she's definitely ready to reconsider.
The author alone is responsible for the opinions expressed in this article.
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