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Last Updated: Monday, 9 October 2006, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
Green living takes root in Sweden
By Laurence Peter
BBC News, Malmo, Sweden

Housing/courtyard in Bo01
Western Harbour's vegetation is as diverse as the architecture
"Western Harbour" is not the most romantic name for a pioneering ecological housing development - but then Sweden is pursuing green goals with more pragmatism than flamboyance.

Sustainability is the motto of the Western Harbour (Vaestra Hamnen) project in the southern city of Malmo.

There are futuristic buildings sporting massive glass windows and glinting solar panels.

But turn a corner and you find a green courtyard with a little pond and some modest timber structures that remind you of Swedish villages.

"I really like the diversity of houses - and they've made it easy here to live in a sustainable way," says Helena Parker, who was among the first to move into the area in 2001.

A former shipyard and industrial site is being turned into a green residential area based on 100% use of renewable energy.

Traffic reduced

The first phase of Western Harbour, called Bo01, now has 1,000 homes, covering 25ha (62 acres). But eventually the area will accommodate 10,000 residents and 20,000 employees and students.

Malmo map
Sustainability means it has to be more than an architects' theme park - so a lot of thought went into making it economically viable and integrated with the rest of the city.

"I have two small children and cycle to work and to pre-school," says Ms Parker. "We don't really need a car - we just use it at weekends."

Bo01 is nearly all pedestrianised and frequent buses - running on a natural gas/biogas mix - connect it to the rest of Malmo.

"This is a very quiet part of town - and it's very relaxing to have water everywhere," says another resident, Stefan Thoernkvist. "It's like living in a vacation area."

Many people in Bo01 walk or cycle the short distance into the city centre, he adds.

Medieval inspiration

The planners devoted plenty of space to greenery and water features. And there are no high-density tower blocks, except for the Turning Torso - a graceful 190m (627ft) skyscraper designed by Santiago Calatrava.

Terraced housing in Bo01
Some buildings appear modelled on traditional designs

Parking space is limited to 0.7 cars per apartment, compared with the usual 1.1 for Malmo, and garages are underground.

Architect and planner Hans Olsson says the project drew inspiration from the plan of medieval Lund, a nearby town. "We wanted a human scale, small streets."

Taller buildings are on the outside, facing the sea and sheltering the inner spaces. Passages to the sea are narrow to keep the wind out.

Bo01 has an open drainage system which traps rainwater on numerous living green roofs, in courtyard ponds and open channels. That allows the water to run off slowly into a saltwater canal or the sea.

The ponds and canal not only look attractive - they provide habitats for wildlife, creating biodiversity.

Green points

A "green space factor" ensures that each plot in Bo01 has a minimum amount of greenery, and on a scale of 0 to 1 the average factor must be at least 0.5. So an impervious surface rates as 0.0, a tree 0.4 and a green roof 0.8.

Wind, solar power and underground aquifers
Developers comply with green space factor and green points
Water features enhance biodiversity and quality of life
Car use reduced by good bus service, pedestrian areas, cycle paths
On-site recycling facilities - rubbish is separated

Developers were also told to use a minimum of 10 "green points" in every courtyard - examples being nesting boxes, enough soil depth to grow vegetables and beds for wild flowers.

Jon Andersson, energy coordinator for the project, says there were initial fears in Malmo that "exclusive" flats would be built, just for the rich.

But student flats account for 34% of the homes in Bo01 and there is also a retirement complex, while the seaside walkway is enjoyed by residents and non-residents alike.

A nearby 2MW wind turbine provides much of the electricity for Bo01, the rest coming from solar panels.

Student flats in Bo01
An avant-garde student apartment block - with water feature
Solar collectors on 10 of the buildings provide 15% of the heating, but a more important source is a heat pump connected to aquifers 90m (297ft) underground.

The water in the limestone bedrock is used to provide heat in winter and cooling in summer.

Bo01 is connected to the district heating supply - so surpluses can be used elsewhere in the city, or more can be drawn in if necessary.

Oil-free future

The sustainable measures were backed by 250m kronor (18.5m; $34m) from the Swedish government and 1.9m euros (1.3m; $2.4m) from the EU.

Most of Sweden's electricity comes from nuclear and hydropower - but green solutions are part of a plan to wean the nation off oil. Housing accounts for about 40% of Sweden's energy consumption.

Recycling shed in Augustenborg
Even a recycling shed in Augustenborg has a green roof
The energy-saving star of Bo01 is probably the small, well-insulated LB house, no more expensive to build than a conventional home.

Its energy consumption is 87kWh per sq m annually - compared with about 200kWh per sq m for some other buildings in Bo01.

The unexpectedly high energy consumption of some buildings has prompted the planners to revise their calculations to ensure that the Western Harbour sticks to its green targets.

For recycling there are waste separation units close to home and a centralised system of vacuum waste chutes.

Similar green solutions have been applied in Augustenborg, a mainly residential redevelopment in Malmo that boasts more than 9,000sq m (96,840sq ft) of green roofs.

Augustenborg has solar window shades that not only provide electricity but also reduce direct sunlight, cutting air conditioning costs.

Jenny Holmquist of developer MKB said some residents took part in "CO2 dieting - a bit like weightwatchers".

The group monitored their production of the greenhouse gas CO2 through travel and energy consumption at home. "Most reduced it by about 20%, whereas Sweden's goal is a 4% reduction", Ms Holmquist said.

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