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LYALL’S FILES: Hammarby, Sweden, gives Toronto builders inspiration for mid-rise wood-frame construction
May 18th, 2015 8:10 pm     A+ | a-
Richard Lyall / RESCON


Hej hej!

It’s Day 3 for the RESCON team in Stockholm. Saturday, we flew from Toronto to Copenhagen to here; Sunday, we were free to splash through the rain to see this beautiful city; Monday, we headed south of the capital to the village of Hammarby Sjostad, the “city by the lake.”

Aiming for completion by 2020, it will be home to 28,000 people in 12,000 condo apartments in buildings no higher than seven storeys high that I could eye. The $6.5-billion Cdn project was the site of a proposed Olympic village in 1997 when Stockholm competed with Athens for the right to host the 2004 Games. Stockholm lost the bid, but there was a desire to continue with the project to redevelop this 204-hectare brownfield.

Some of the beautiful apartments on the water in the community of Hammarby Sjostad in Stockholm.

The area was polluted with 120 tons of oil and grease, and 180 tons of heavy metals after it was home to “industrial squatters,” says Erik Freudenthal, head of communications at GlashusEtt, the environmental information centre for Hammarby Sjostad.

After a massive cleanup, the development slowly came together by a consortium of about 30 builders but they wanted to create a community that would strengthen Sweden’s status as a world leader in sustainability and environmental concerns.

Consider this …

“We know half the world’s population lives in cities, taking up only two to three per cent of the Earth’s land but uses 75 per cent of all the energy and generates 80 per cent of the carbon dioxide,” says Hammarby architect Stellan Fryxell at the GlashussEtt. He added that Sweden leads all EU member states in its use of shared energy from renewable sources. In 2013, the average EU was about 15-16 per cent – Sweden led with more than 50 per cent. What an absolutely incredibly innovative country, despite its relatively small population of 9.7 million (about 2.2 million in Greater Stockholm).


Back to Hammarby – it employs a unique eco-cycle system called Symbiocity. This system integrates water supply and sanitation, traffic and transport, energy, urban functions, architecture, waste management and landscape planning.

Among its features: the community has been designed to incinerate combustible waste through a vacuum chute system to create district heating, hot tap water and electricity; food waste is used to create biogas, which is used to for stovetop cooking and fuelling buses and cars; heat created from the purification of waste water allows the community to heat or cool the homes; solar cells and solar panels are used to create electricity; waste water is treated and sent into homes through underground pipes to warm them through four district heating plants; infrastructure has been created to handle storm water, rain water and melt water; Energy Class A appliances are in every home, along with low-flushing toilets; windows on every home have three layers of glass; the rail car service runs through the community, there is a local ferry and there are two car pool services.

The sustainability costs increased the cost per home by about five per cent, Fryxell says, but that hasn’t stopped anyone from buying in.

A condo apartment block after the rain in Hammarby Sjostad in Stockholm, Sweden.


Never mind that Hammarby Sjostad was built on a brownfield – “It hasn’t been a problem to get people interested in it,” Fryxell says. Freudenthal concurs. The innovation has led to 15-20 per cent increases in revenue.

The roads are 37.5 metres wide and paid for by the city (Sweden’s tax system differs greatly from Canada’s: municipalities make up the level of government that claims the most taxes). As we walk near a motorway that runs through the community, we listen for the hum of cars passing by: no such noise, as glass walls send the noise up and out of earshot. The condos are a mix of yellows, taupes and reds. About 75 per cent of the apartments have parking spaces. The inhabitants are middle class and up.

“We tried to make it family-friendly and we think it works,” Fyxell says. “There are an awful lot of children in the area. Almost one-quarter of the residents under the age of 15.

Hammarby’s park system includes spacious pathways that run along each shore of the canal and lake where young mothers and fathers push strollers – some single-child, some double – past our contingent of visitors. A few cyclists slow down and weave skillfully through our crowd.

None of this could have happened without great cooperation between the City of Stockholm’s planning department and the developers’ architects. It looks like a happy place created by an incredibly smart Swedish building industry. Looking forward to more tomorrow!

Marshall Leslie
May 19th, 2015 9:33 am
Pictures please!
Aonghus Kealy
May 19th, 2015 4:50 pm
As you wish ...
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