Nordic solutions with global relevance

Demographic changes in Nordic countries are compounded by climate change impacts, resource scarcity and population growth. This increases the complexity of building resilience in Nordic cities and regions. The Nordic Built Cities Challenge responded to these changes to encourage innovative Nordic solutions that may have global applicability. Three finalists in this challenge presented their innovations at Resilient Cities 2017.

Runavík, Faroe Islands: Building on steep terrain

Harsh weather, unsustainable energy consumption and ineffective building traditions stand in the way of sustainable, resilient development in Runavík. The buildings and infrastructure in the community are generally built to withstand harsh storms moving at 80 meters per second, but the local building tradition, which dates back 50 years, is carbon-intensive, out of step with nature and ill-suited to the steep local terrain.

Ruavík has set out to reinvent their housing stock by using radically different construction practices that connect more closely with the natural landscape. Houses will now be in ring-shaped settlements, forming interior courtyards that create a barrier from wind and increase the ambient temperature. By creating these protected areas, residents will have an alternative exterior social space and a place to grow vegetables and rear chickens.

Construction will also steer away from excavation-intensive practices designed to flatten steep slopes, and buildings adorned green roofs and insulated with wool.

Malmö, Sweden: Institutionalizing innovation in affordable and climate smart living

Longstanding city administration systems in Malmö, Sweden do not always jibe with innovation. To spur a transition towards innovation, the city is making concerted structural changes through the Malmö Innovation Arena, a collaborative effort among government, business, academia and non-profits that leverages the strong culture of stakeholder collaboration in Malmö. The city is clear that the Malmö Innovation Arena is not a side activity or pilot project. It is financially and structurally integrated into the  physical development process.

The Malmö Innovation Arena focuses on upgrading and improving building stock, in order to counteract the risks that come with rapid construction in Sweden. Through the arena, the city is creating test beds within the existing housing stock and experimenting with new constructions. This effort brings together 10 city departments and collaborate closely with developers and property owners to cut through specific obstacles to innovation.

One area of focus is Sege Park, a former mental health institution the city will transform into an affordable, climate smart living space. They will strive for two-ton CO2 living, provide affordable housing, preserve green space and cultural value, enhance well being and use sharing economies as a tool to stay within planetary boundaries.

Copenhagen, Denmark: Linking social and physical planning

The Nørrebro Distict in Copenhagen has a reputation for violence, guns, police, gangs and a low level of education. However, it is slowly but surely becoming a more vibrant space for families and businesses, as the city works to strengthen its physical and social fabric.

They look at this shift through an integrated lens, recognizing that resilience requires a strong socio-technical networks. They are modelling this approach in their water systems, looking at the connection points among non-governmental organizations, residents, technicians, politicians, utilities, equipment and rainwater. They are changing physical systems for managing water as well as the ways that locals interacting with it. New rainwater tanks will be a visible part of shared space, adding to the sense that the community is livability and sustainable.

So how can we generalize this knowledge? How can it be useful in other contexts? One might hope that the many city representatives at Resilient Cities 2017 will find inspiration in these examples that fits to their local context.

This blog post is based on the “Nordic innovative solutions for building livable, smart and resilient cities” session on 5 May at Resilient Cities 2017.

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