Bo01 community in Malmö celebrates 20 years as a global source of inspiration

By Lucas Dietrichson, Communication Strategist, City of Malmö and Braoin MacLauchlan, Communications Assistant, ICLEI World Secreteriat

The sustainable housing development Bo01, part of the European Housing Exposition 2001, celebrates 20 years of a thriving urban community. The project has won several awards and is still attracting people from all over the world who want to learn more about sustainable urban development.

The Bo01 housing exhibition area, in Malmö’s Western Harbour, is one of the biggest and most ambitious sustainable urban development projects in Europe – an old industrial site transformed into a diversified inner-city environment with the aid of innovative architecture and environmental initiatives. Not only was Bo01 the first climate-neutral district in Sweden, using 100 percent renewable energy, but the area has also been praised for its “outstanding aesthetics” as well as for spaces that foster social interactions at the city, neighborhood, and street level.

Both tourists and city residents are drawn to the area – to picnic, repose and swim. A swimming spot had not been one of the intended uses of the area due to strong currents, but the city listened to people’s requests for a bathing area and installed jetties to make this possible.

Photo credits: by Apelöga for City of Malmö

These are some of the key features that have inspired other cities, like London (see “Green Space Factor”). Many of these features were initially designed within the scope of the green and blue strategy: a planning strategy to create a truly sustainable area that is both attractive and resilient.

Renewable energy

In the Bo01 area, 1000 homes are powered by renewable energy sources: solar energy, wind power, and water – the latter through a heat pump that extracts heat from seawater and an aquifer, a natural water reserve in the bedrock that facilitates seasonal storage of both heat and cold water.

Photo credits: by Apelöga for City of Malmö

Stormwater management

Malmö is a low-lying city with only minor fluctuations in altitude, but a history of problems with flooding. The stormwater management system in Bo01 is tailored to this site and its unique characteristics.

Seawater from Öresund is pumped up through the canal embankment via the footbridge leading into the Bo01 area. The wide canals under the footbridge run out to the other side of the bridge in Ankarparken. The canals that run along the buildings, overgrown ponds and underground canals, form part of the canal system that criss-crosses the entire Bo01 site. This promotes biodiversity as stormwater is channeled up into ponds, whose vegetation helps filter the water.

The stormwater also channels into works of art, such as the stone sculpture at Scaniaplatsen. This stone sculpture is an example of the elevated aquapoints that provide the square’s focus and allow the sound of running water to be heard throughout the entire area. The water is used as a feature in the area’s urban planning. When it rains, the water runs down into the open canals, along the buildings and then into the canal system, passing through the system before finally reaching the sea.

Solid waste management

Waste disposal plays an important role in Bo01’s climate-neutrality. Residents have direct access to waste sorting facilities – either in their buildings, or to waste disposal chutes on the street, for which they have keys. Glass, metal, plastic, paper and food waste are separated for recycling, while residual waste is incinerated and used for heating. Food waste is disposed of in special waste chutes and then sucked via underground tunnels into a communal tank. It is then collected by trucks and transported to the Sjölunda reningsverk biogas plant at Spillepengen in Malmö, where it is processed into slurry. This slurry is in turn taken to a recycling plant in Kristianstad and converted into biogas, which heats Bo01 buildings. 200 households on the site also have waste grinders, which are the chosen waste disposal systems for Turning Torso and the newer districts in the Western Harbour.

Green space factor

The ‘Green Space Factor’, a part of the developer dialogue, was an important element in the quality program. It has been used in many of the city’s projects. The developers selected to participate in the housing exhibition agreed to create a defined amount of green space within their projects, with different types of surfacing being weighted differently. There were no points for hardstanding and more points were awarded for trees and bushes than for grass, with domestic species being preferred over foreign plant species. Green roofs were also included in the Green Space Factor, giving developers an incentive to invest in these types of greenery, thanks to which, there are now many green roofs in the Western Harbour. Green roofs have several advantages: they insulate buildings from heat and cold, increase biodiversity and retain rainwater efficiently, thereby relieving strain on the stormwater system.

The system of green space factor is a part of the “London plan” that came into force in 2021. According to The Guardian, Malmö and Bo01 were an inspiration.

Learn more about Bo01