Visit to Stockholm Royal Seaport

NGO Global Playground Stockholm organized a study visit to Stockholm Royal Seaport, a green district that is been transformed from an industrial zone to the largest sustainable redeveloped area in Stockholm.

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Stockholm Royal Seaport is currently one of the most ambitiuos urban development projects in Europe. It was initiated by the City of Stockholn around 2008 in order to revitalize the old industrial neighbourhood and the port area in the North-East of Stockholm. According to the plan, the area will embrace all aspects of a sustainable and livable city and in 15 years become the world-class example for other cities to follow up. Global Playground visited Stockholm Royal Seaport Innovaiton Center to learn about state of the art sustainabe urban development practices.

The fact that Royal Seaport is located close to nature (water in the east and the royal national park in the north) and to the city center (only 3,5 km away, easily accessible by public transport) at the same time contributes to the vision of “city within a city”. In other words,  Stockholm Royal Seaport aims to become a separate and self-sufficient neighborhood of Stockholm, not just a suburb, by mixing jobs, residential, commercial, and recreational facilities and providing citizens with all-encompassing infrastructure. Mixed use of space will eliminate dead and dark spaces during the night hours and by that improve safety and livability of the area. Developers are planning to combine some of the existing houses and refurbished industrial buildings with completely new ones. But there are no big shopping malls in the plan, only mid-size buildings with floor level rented out to shops, restaurants and other small businesses. The developers want to maintain the human scale of older parts of Stockholm.

The project seems to be an explicit collection of all the best practices in environmental sustainability.  There will for example be energy-plus houses, storing heat collected over summer and using it for heating during cold months. All homes will be equipped with biogas provided by a new power plant. The City of Stockholm puts big emphasis on the amount of greenery a house should have, together with spaces for urban gardening. Another important part of sustainability for the Royal Seaport is integration of the area into the surrounding environment. Mr. Bo Hallqvist (information officer at Royal Seaport) told us about the wildlife research project they have conducted in order to understand how the local fauna will be affected. As a result of this project there are now plans to build a tunnel for frogs, so they could get from nearby forests to residential areas and ponds without risking their life. Partner companies will be also incentivized to take into consideration well-being of seabirds and other species. Even though Stockholm Royal Seaport constantly highlights that it will be an upgraded version of Hammarby Sjöstad – another sustainable neighbourhood in Stockholm – the same vacuum waste collection system will be adopted. There will be many more build-in sustainble waste and energy solution, but the main challenge is still not completely solved – how to change behavioral patterns of residents?

There are currently many companies working as contractors, each responsible for a small part of the project. According to Bo Hallqvist there is a list of around 80 requirements that companies have to follow, which makes Stockholm Royal Seaport a demanding and challenging project to work with. But the tough requirements will allow the area to be the leader in sustainable urbanism.

It is rather curious, that there is no fixed master plan for the project. Royal Seaport wants to stay flexible and up-to-date by taking into account new technological solutions that might come up in the remaining 15 years. However some important decisions, like whether and how smart grid will be introduced into the project, are not yet made. The City of Stockholm makes a good effort to take into account all the small details to deliver the best result, but long execution time might present unexpected challenges.

On our way back we walked a bit through the future Stockholm Royal Seaport. Looking at it today, it is difficult to see that the area is going to become a world-class sustainability neighborhood. So far one cannot say for sure whether this complex and ambitious project will be successful. The ship of Stockholm Royal Seaport is just beginning its journey and there are still many miles left on its way.

Post is written by Nina Tsutsieva

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