In Stockholm an area called Hammarby Waterfront has been recognized for being on the international forefront with regard to environmental adaptation and planning of a modern urban area. Chicago politicians, planners and architects have studied the Swedish project in preparation of a similar development in the windy city.
“One planet is what we have,” said meeting moderator, Peter Örn, before he introduced a panel of some of Sweden’s and Chicago’s foremost experts on green neighborhoods and energy efficiency at a convention that brought together politicians, planners and architects to discuss modern urban environmental adaptation. Örn is the chairman of the Delegation for Sustainable Cities, and he facilitated the discussion within the panel of experts about how to turn a brownfield into a modern oasis.
The evening’s first speaker was Erik Freudental, head of Communication for Hammarby Waterfront. The Hammarby area, in Stockholm, was a port and industrial site filled with oil, grease and heavy metal. An approach called SymbioCity was used to build and develop the area. SymbioCity promotes a holistic and sustainable urban development approach. It transformed the Hammarby area into a beautiful, clean, waterfront residential area.
Chicago's South Works
On the south side of Chicago is a brownfield that used to be the U.S. Steel plant. The old industrial area is now being transformed into a modern, environmentally healthy, urban community called the South Works project.
Architects and developers are studying the Hammarby model to make South Works clean and profitable. Several people, including Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley, have been traveling from Chicago to Hammarby to better understand how to move this plan forward. The plan is in its fifth year, and it has been a challenge to clean the area due to all the slag.
Now this former brownfield is finally clean enough to have developers start the building process.
The City of Chicago is requiring a high level of dedication to environmental issues in connection with large scale new developments. The project's lead architect, Philip Enquist, of Skidmore, credits this to Mayor Daley’s long term commitment to sustainability.
Örn asked Erik Freudental to give one piece of advice to the representatives of the Chicago South Works project: “Be bold,” said Freudental with the authority of someone who has years of experience developing a true green urban area.
Green building and living
The Embassy of Sweden, together with Consulate General of Sweden, SACC-Chicago, Metropolitan Planning Council and Chicago Sister Cities International, were the sponsors of the evening.
The second panel of Swedish and American experts discussed the operation and rehabilitation of aging buildings and how to make them more energy efficient and profitable.
One aging apartment project on the west coast of Sweden was considered by Egil Ofverholm, representing the Swedish Energy Agency. Ofverholm said the most cost efficient solution to some existing buildings was a bulldozer. He continued, “We tend to be a rather calm people in Sweden, but riots broke out when people in these buildings understood they needed to move.” So the bulldozer stayed in park. In the U.S., buildings ten to forty years old need green refurbishment. That is about half of all the commercial buildings in the U.S., Daniel Haas said. He is a preconstruction manager for Skanska in Seattle. Haas emphasized that green buildings have maintained a better value in the current market than older non-environmentally efficient buildings.
One way to lower the cost of cooling buildings is to use a district cooling system. The president of Capital Cooling, Pär Dalin, explained that district cooling uses local sources for cooling that otherwise would be wasted or not used (for example, cold lake water). Deborah Kuo, director of real estate for Exelon Corp, mentioned that they relocated their headquarters to downtown Chicago in an effort to have all employees in one building. The company's chairman said, “The greenest building we can build is one we don't need to build.”
These panels of experts made us all believe that the one planet we have can be greener.