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We hope to reach even further

Ingela Lindh believes that Stockholm’s eco-district Hammarby Sjöstad has been a success, even if some of its sustainability targets were not met. The Swedish architect says that it is not helpful to compare what was done before with what is possible to do today because our expectations will always fall short. We should take what was learned and aspire to accomplish even more next time.

Ingela Lindh believes that Stockholm’s eco-district Hammarby Sjöstad has been a success, even if some of its sustainability targets were not met. The Swedish architect says that it is not helpful to compare what was done before with what is possible to do today because our expectations will always fall short. We should take what was learned and aspire to accomplish even more next time.

Interview: Elana Caro

When you spoke at the LISDAR Congress, you said that Hammarby Sjöstad did not meet all of its targets. Why is that the case?

Ingela Lindh: We were overly optimistic about car ownership. We anticipated that there would be around 0.3 cars per home, whereas in fact people tend to have far more cars. This has made the parking situation in Hammarby Sjöstad absolutely impossible and meant that we have had to build far more parking spaces than originally planned.
But I think the main problem with Hammarby Sjöstad is that you compare it with what is possible to do today. So for instance some people tend to say that energy consumption there is too high. I think this is completely wrong because Hammarby Sjöstad shows what was possible to do at the time that it was built.

Is the ecological footprint in Hammarby Sjöstad smaller than other parts of Stockholm?

Yes. And household energy consumption is lower in some aspects, but we can do more there, too. Even if you build a perfect house, you can still have high energy consumption because people take a shower for 40 minutes every morning or use a lot of electricity. This means that we have to work with tenants more and try to inform them how they can change their behaviour to decrease their electricity consumption.

Are you also taking steps to reduce the number of cars in Hammarby Sjöstad?

We have a toll in Stockholm, which means that you have to pay to take your car into the inner city. One of the effects of this is that Stockholm has become a city for cyclists, which it hadn’t been before. We are also experiencing immense growth in the number of inhabitants in Stockholm so there is a lot we have to do with public transport. Stockholm has a very high user rate of public transportation, but we haven’t put the investments in place that are necessary to meet this growing population.

From a technical perspective, if Hammarby Sjöstad was built today, would more of its goals have been met?

Definitely. I think that one of the things that we’ve learned from this experience is that we will have to think more about the behaviour of the people living in the area. When we started with Hammarby Sjöstad, we thought that there shouldn’t be any difference living in this area than in other areas. Today, we are completely aware that we must tell people that they are moving to a more sustainable place and we will therefore expect them to own fewer cars and have an interest in these issues. In Hammarby Sjöstad, we were too silent about this.

But weren’t people drawn to Hammarby Sjöstad precisely because of the different lifestyle?

That may be the case today, but it was not the case from the beginning. People moved to Hammarby Sjöstad because it’s an attractive quarter in Stockholm, irrespective of the fact that it is more sustainable than other places. The attraction was its location. But now when people move to Hammarby Sjöstad they are more aware of the fact that it is more sustainable and they are therefore more interested this.

If you look at what you hoped to accomplish 10 to 15 years ago, has it been a success?

Yes, I would definitely say that. This is a very attractive area in Stockholm, and people really want to live there. For instance, we have many families with small children who continue to stay there even after having a second or third child, instead of buying a house in a suburban area as is often the case with families in Stockholm. So of course it’s a success if people who can choose to live in an area do so.
The other reason is that when we started discussing Hammarby Sjöstad, the real estate and building sectors didn’t really appreciate the fact that this would be an area with sustainable buildings. These are no longer questions today. It’s natural for every developer to think about sustainability. Hammarby Sjöstad shows that it has made a huge difference in the mindset of this sector in Sweden.

Can Hammarby Sjöstad influence the rest of Stockholm, which is already a built city?

We are taking what we learned from Hammarby Sjöstad and are applying it in two areas that we are currently developing. One is the Royal Seaport, which is in the northern part of the inner city of Stockholm. We hope to reach even further in that area.
But the Royal Seaport is something out of the ordinary. In nearly everything else that we build in Stockholm you can say that we are learning from Hammarby Sjöstad. For instance, the company where I am CEO (Stockholmshem, one of the largest housing companies in Sweden, ec) built its first passive house. I don’t think it would have been possible without Hammarby Sjöstad.

How important a role do governments or city planners play when it comes to building an eco-quarter or eco-city?

They have a very important role because there is a need to balance different kinds of demands such as legislation, financing and also the social aspects of what you build. In order to make this balance function and create something that is not simply about money, you need strong government control. You will always have the economic interest, but if you just let the market control this, then in the worst case it will be a development’s only goal of a development. When the government is involved, other interests will be equally important.

And yet governments change. Does it become more difficult when you have a government that’s not as responsive towards sustainability or do you think that sustainability is now firmly ingrained in our mindset?

It’s the latter. In Stockholm we usually change the government every election, but this has had no impact. Everyone agrees that we should continue with the aims and goals that we set out in Hammarby Sjöstad.



























Ingela Lindh, born 1959, is a Swedish architect and former Head of Stockholm City Planning Administration. Since 2009, she is the CEO of Stockholmshem, one of the largest housing companies in Sweden. Lindh graduated as an architect at the Royal Institute of Technology, KTH, and worked as a practising architect before she began in Stockholm city service. From 1991-1996, she was a political advisor for the Mayor and vice Mayor of Stockholm.