28 November 2010

Finnish city to become a place of carbon-free housing

A new energy-efficient suburb for 6000 residents will be built in the historical City of  Porvoo, South Finland. Spurred by this project, energy efficiency has been raised as one of the key priorities in the city strategy, and Porvoo aims to become a city of carbon-free living. It also will provide true model for sustainable development for the entire Finland.

Porvoo got the town rights in the 14th century.

The entire suburb with an area of 400 hectares will be designed and built so that the buildings, services, living environment, traffic arrangements and waste management will be run energy-efficiently.

The planning and innovation work on the area, called Skaftkärr, will be implemented through wide-ranging cooperation between the authorities, energy producers, energy recovery developers, construction companies, equipment manufacturers and other companies, as well as the future residents.
“Inspired by the project, our municipal corporation has launched a versatile action plan that will systematically take Porvoo towards carbon-free housing," says Fredrick von Schoultz, Deputy Mayor of the City of Porvoo.

"Such a substantial and genuine investment in energy efficiency is unique in the Finnish context,” he continues.

The project participants are Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund, the City of Porvoo, Porvoon Energia Oy and the regional development company Posintra Oy.

The Skaftkärr pilot project is part of Sitra’s five-year Energy Program, and the plan is to benefit from the experiences gained in the course of the project elsewhere in Finland and internationally.

Energy efficiency starts from town planning

The recently completed outline plan for the suburb area produced new information on how municipalities can use town planning as a tool for improving energy efficiency in their region. The findings of this groundbreaking work were collated in the report 'Energy efficiency in town planning'.
“The joint planning project of Sitra and the City of Porvoo proved that through energy-smart planning we can achieve considerable savings in energy consumption and costs as well as reductions in emissions,” says Jukka Noponen, Director of Sitra’s Energy Program.

“The emissions and energy examinations conducted in conjunction with the planning will help local authorities grasp the climate impact of different planning solutions on a concrete level,” Noponen says. “Emissions calculations and overall energy examinations need to be included in all impact evaluation of planning all over Finland.”  

“What was learnt when creating the energy master plan will in future be made use of in all planning work of the city,” says Deputy Mayor von Schoultz.

“The City of Porvoo will take into account the carbon balance and energy solutions as part of the tendering process for plots. We will also be developing the concept of a carbon-free village centre.”

Key efforts towards the carbon-free city

Completely emissions-free heating

In addition to energy-smart planning, the city's energy company Porvoon Energia Oy is developing clean energy solutions for the Skaftkärr project.

Already, 70 per cent of the heat production of Porvoo Energia is based on renewable energy sources. Currently, the energy company plans to build a new bio-power plant near Porvoo.

After the completion of this project, more than 90 percent of Porvoo’s district heating will be produced with renewable energy

Porvoon Energia is also investigating in co-operation with Sitra the use of solar energy on a broader scale. The plans include the building of a new solar district heating plant.

The aim is to be able to supply heating for the suburb area round the year completely free of emissions. The annual heating demand for the area is estimated at approximately 20 gigawatt hours (GWh). If realized, the solar district heating plant will be a major undertaking even on the European scale.
“The new bio-power and the solar district heating plants together could potentially increase the share of renewable energy used for district heating to as high as one hundred percent in Porvoo,” says Deputy Mayer von Schoulz.

Advanced bicycle lanes

The City of Porvoo and Posintra Oy have jointly investigated the possibilities to develop the high-speed bicycle lanes introduced in the Skaftkärr outline plan.

Removing obstacles from pedestrian and bicycle traffic will increase energy efficiency. High-quality light traffic lanes will encourage people to choose walking or bicycling.
There are plans to build a fast high-quality bicycle lane between suburb area, Porvoo city centre and other local services.

One solution suggested is to cover the lanes with solar panels, which would double as rain shelter for cyclists.

Experimental houses

Energy-efficient experimental houses will be built in the suburb area. Two plots have been reserved for experimental building to further develop low-energy building. In addition, another plot has been reserved for an energy-efficient group building project.

Furthermore, new monitoring methods for energy consumption will be piloted in the area.

The houses participating in the project will be installed with measuring instruments with which households can monitor their energy consumption in real time.

This will allow them to see what, for example, switching on the coffee maker or the television means in terms of energy consumption. Energy blogs kept by the households will provide a way of comparing their energy consumption and improve energy efficiency as a community.

Informing residents

The municipal corporation of Porvoo is endorsing the action plan for carbon-free housing on a broad scale.

“One of our libraries houses an energy information point where in addition to information residents can borrow an energy meter free of charge to monitor the energy consumption of their own households,” says Deputy Mayor von Schoultz.

“The vocational institute Inveon has included energy efficiency as part of its curriculum, and the passive building project which was part of it has now been completed near Porvoo. These are only some of the many examples included in our action plan,” von Schoultz concludes.

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