Swe­den show­cases pro­gres­sive de­sign “T

Condo makes for­eign ar­chi­tects green with envy

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - New Condos - VANESSA FAR­QUHAR­SON

hink big, build small” would be a per­fect motto for Swe­den.

One can find ev­i­dence of this while strolling through any lo­cal IKEA store, of course — the com­pany is renowned for its in­no­va­tive fur­ni­ture de­signs pack­aged in flat, easy-to-trans­port boxes — but it’s also ap­par­ent on the streets of Stock­holm and Gothen­burg. Here, big thinkers are part­ner­ing with pol­icy-mak­ers and NGOs to con­struct densely pop­u­lated, low-rise hous­ing de­vel­op­ments that run on holis­tic, closed-loop sys­tems of waste, en­ergy and wa­ter man­age­ment.

Dur­ing a re­cent study tour in the coun­try, a group of Cana­dian ar­chi­tects, de­vel­op­ers and politi­cians were given an in­side look at a few of the new­est, green­est projects in Swe­den — condo build­ings that go far be­yond the stan­dard LEED qual­i­fi­ca­tions in terms of sus­tain­abil­ity.

Take the restora­tion of Ham­marby Sjostad, for in­stance, a water­front space on the outer edge of Stock­holm that is in the midst of be­ing trans­formed from in­dus­trial scrap yard to thriv­ing res­i­den­tial com­mu­nity. It is an empty yet prime lo­ca­tion, close to tran­sit, with im­mense po­ten­tial to show­case pro­gres­sive de­sign.

As of now, Ham­marby Sjostad has 15,000 in­hab­i­tants on nearly two square kilo­me­tres of land. The area is con­nected to the down­town core with a street­car, a free ferry, and roads (with bike lanes) made of semi-per­me­able as­phalt that col­lects stormwa­ter, chan­nelling it to a lo­cal treat­ment cen­tre be­fore di­vert­ing it back to the lake.

Waste is sorted by res­i­dents, who de­posit their garbage into colour-coded, vac­u­um­op­er­ated chutes, which suck the ma­te­rial un­der­ground into a net­work of tun­nels — the glass and pa­per rat­tles over to a re­cy­cling de­pot, the or­ganic waste ends up in a com­post­ing fa­cil­ity and the rest of the garbage is in­cin­er­ated; the heat cap­tured from this process is then chan­nelled back into the neigh­bour­hood for res­i­den­tial heat­ing and elec­tric­ity needs.

En­ergy-ef­fi­cient ap­pli­ances and du­alflush toi­lets are a no-brainer, but the im­pres­sive feat comes in the sewage treat­ment, which ex­tracts bio-gas and bio-solids (i.e.. fer­til­izer) from the sludge that is then used by the Ham­marby Sjostad com­mu­nity, and the heat cap­tured in this process again makes its way back to the neigh­bour­hood as part of the district en­ergy sys­tem.

In short, the Swedish model isn’t just about do­ing as many green things as pos­si­ble or se­cur­ing LEED cer­ti­fi­ca­tion; it’s about mak­ing use of the way re­sources are con­nected to one an­other, and view­ing waste from one process as fuel for an­other.

“Th­ese guys are way ahead of us,” says renowned Van­cou­ver ar­chi­tect Peter Busby, one of the tour’s par­tic­i­pants, “and we should be pay­ing at­ten­tion, be­cause we have the same cli­mate.”

Al­though he was im­pressed by such things as the clean, ed­u­ca­tional and even so­cial na­ture of the re­cy­cling rooms in Swe­den’s apart­ment build­ings and offices, Busby was truly won over by the lev­els of in­su­la­tion.

“Their walls are much thicker and their win­dows are be­tween R5 and R10,” he says, not­ing the high ra­tio of in­door to out­door tem­per­a­ture. “That’s un­be­liev­able. Our dou­ble-paned win­dows are R2, which means we lose five times the amount of en­ergy.”

But not all Cana­dian win­dows and walls of­fer poor in­su­la­tion, and not all Cana­dian hous­ing de­vel­op­ments are shame­fully be­hind those of the Swedes when it comes to sus­tain­abil­ity.

Busby can at­test to this — his ar­chi­tec­ture firm, Busby, Perkins + Will, spear­headed the de­sign for Dock­side Green, a holis­tic har­bourfront com­mu­nity in Vic­to­ria re­cently built upon for­mer in­dus­trial land.

Gerry Kahrmann, Van­cou­ver Prov­ince

Ar­chi­tect Peter Busby of Van­cou­ver.

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