Exporting sustainable cities

Sketches of the future Caofeidian, China. Photo: Sweco

Resource-efficient city areas such as Bo01 in Malmö and Hammarby Sjöstad in Stockholm have put Sweden on the world map. Sustainable urban planning has become a Swedish brand of acknowledged quality, and China is one of the countries in which Swedish urban development is now gaining ground.

Today, over half of the global population are urban dwellers. China is one of the countries in which urbanisation is advancing most rapidly; something like 15 million Chinese per year are migrating to its towns and cities. This is placing a considerable strain on the urban environment.

– Efficient infrastructure and traffic, along with sustainable systems for waste management and water supply, are huge tasks for many urban areas experiencing growth, says Åsa Bergman, CEO of Sweco Sweden.

Major potential

Sweco is one of the companies that have developed concepts and ideas for tackling the challenges posed by urbanisation. The company is clear about what is needed: good planning is essential, and sustainable urban planning is largely about introducing the right skills early in the planning process. The work must be based on open, creative and constructive cooperation between decision-makers, experts and the general public.

Here, Sweden has considerable expertise - and this in itself has become a successful export. Given the growing number of urban dwellers, the importance of sustainable urban planning should not be underestimated.

– Sustainable urban development is vital if we wish to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, says Ulf Ranhagen, a senior architect at Sweco and a professor at Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology. He adds:

– Using integrated planning and a holistic approach, it’s possible to create climate neutral city districts. This is true both with regards to new projects and the transformation of existing ones.

SymbioCity–A Swedish Concept

The Swedish SymbioCityexternal link, opens in new window concept integrates community planning and urban development from an ecological, social, economic and spatial perspective. It involves adopting an ecocyclic approach to energy, waste and water, community planning, transport and land use planning, and energy-efficient buildings. Caofeidian in China is one city to have applied this concept, which also underlies the development of the Hammarby Sjöstad suburb in Stockholm and has been implemented in other projects in China, Canada  and Ireland etc.

SymbioCityexternal link, opens in new window is supported by a network of Swedish companies and organisations, and the concept has been developed in collaboration with the Swedish Trade Council.

Key Sweco players in Caofeidian

The Chinese eco-city of Caofeidian, 250 kilometres southeast of Beijing, is an example of Swedish expertise demonstrated on site. Where there used to be fish farming ponds, salt production facilities, oil pumps and the seabed, a whole urban community is being developed. Housing, streets and roads have been established on reclaimed land comprising mud and sand dredged from the bottom of the Pacific.

A Sweco team has undertaken a sustainability analysis of the area, which in the future will have approximately a million residents. In addition to that, Sweco has also produced an urban plan. The first development stage will extend across 30 square kilometres and accommodate some 400 000 inhabitants. It is due for completion in 2020. Sweco has also produced a local development plan for 12 square kilometres of housing, workplaces, schools and a university, plus sports and recreation facilities.

Renewable energy in Caofeidian

The targets are ambitious. Besides not generating any carbon emissions at all, the new eco-city is designed to deliver a surplus of energy. In the plan it is proposed that 95 per cent of the energy use in Caofeidian should be renewable, and a highly sophisticated ecocyclic system will in principle enable everything in the city to be recycled.

The city’s water, waste and energy flows will be viewed as resources. Both treated sludge from sewage works and organic waste will be converted into biogas, for instance, and purified wastewater from dishwashing and clothes washing will be used to irrigate farmland.

A sustainability centre

The eco-city will be based on a system of efficient ecocycles. In addition, a dense network of roads will facilitate public transport and it will be easy to walk and cycle in the city.

– Planning and environmental technology are not everything, however, says Åsa Bergman, Sweco.

– It’s the way people live and behave that will determine whether the solutions we build into the city have the right impact. To raise environmental awareness, she notes, a sustainability centre is also being built where people can learn more about environment and sustainability issues.

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