Climate-Smart District – a concept for participatory urban planning
City/Region : Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority , Finland

The concept ‘Climate-Smart District’ presents a large set of concrete participatory measures for shaping low-carbon and climate-resilient urban areas. The concept focuses especially on rail transport station areas, as nodes of sustainable transport and development, but can be applied generally in planning urban areas. The concept offers a three-step path towards the development of climate-smart station areas, including 70 measures in fields of climate change mitigation, resilience, circular economy and social sustainability and health. The measures will be applicable as a participatory web-tool for planners, developers, decisions makers and citizens in urban areas.

Agendas addressed
DecarbonisationUrban mobilityWater resources and air quality
Climate changePublic spaceHousing
Social inclusion and integrationLocal economies and employment
Pathways followed
  • Involve citizens through participatory implementation
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Promote social innovation supporting inclusion
  • Nurture a sharing economy
  • Create and close local value chains
  • Pursue a shift towards a circular economy
  • Wisely select and apply smart technologies
  • Prepare policies for socio-cultural changes due to innovation
Climate-Smart District - illustration of the concept 2

The rail network in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area is completing and significant investments to rail transport are being done. There are 80 stations in total (1.2 Million habitants), 66 % of workplaces situated and 57 % of new housing built in station areas (<1km). Station areas are recognized as a priority in terms of mobility, urban development and climate targets. Major changes in society and existing infrastructure need to be identified and implemented in and between all sectors: land use, mobility, housing, businesses and services. Implementing climate targets in land use planning is currently insufficient for future cities’ needs and expertise needs to be strengthened.

The actions:

In Action

The concept has been created in a wide co-operation with regional and EU-level partners and stakeholders, facilitated by Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority in the SMART-MR Interreg project. New information on the thematic areas and wide-ranging knowledge have been utilized. A basis of the tool is the well-known Breeam Communities, LEED and One Planet Living criteria, that have been extended and targeted to station areas. The concept includes land use, housing, mobility and service sectors, that have been approached with four crosscutting sustainability themes: climate change mitigation and adaptation, circular economy, social sustainability and health.

Based on this cross-case synthesis there are 70 action cards that all have three levels of measures towards a low-carbon and climate-smart area. The created measures have been evaluated and shaped in two regional workshops with 80 participants, including transport and urban planners and climate change specialists. The discussion with regional experts was strengthened by the creation of an interactive web tool. Further, the measures were discussed and prioritized in an international SMART-MR conference in Helsinki, March 2018, with participants from 8 European Metropolitan Areas. The measures have been reviewed by professor Steffen Lehmann, Founding Director of the Future Cities Lab from Future Cities- network. The concept has been tested in a participatory workshop in April 2019 to develop a roadmap for Malmi station area in the city of Helsinki. The measures will be introduced in the form of an easy-to-use web tool in autumn 2019.

The concept has novelty value internationally as a measure kit for creating a shift towards carbon-neutral and resilient urban environment. The concept provides designers with process of learning/roadmap to develop measures for mixed and dense land use and energy-efficient and flexible housing. Further, the measures enable smooth and climate-friendly mobility and boost easily accessible services and climate-responsible businesses. The tool is for urban area developers, decision makers and residents.

HSY, Aino Hatakka/Climate-Smart District - Presentation at regional Climate seminar 2019

Key achievements:

  • measure kit (with 210 actions in three levels) to shape low-carbon and climate-resilient urban areas
  • created common vision for shaping climate-smart areas by using the measure kit as a basis for facilitating discussion among city developers, decision makers, residents and businesses
  • strengthened expertise in land use planning for future cities’ needs in the areas of climate change mitigation and adaptation, circular economy, social sustainability and health
  • strengthened knowledge sharing networks regionally and between European metropolitan regions (around 100 regional and 40 European specialists participated in planning workshops)
  • presented in Smart City Expo World Conference, November 2018, and in regional seminars and workshops  
  • piloted in a participatory workshop in April 2019 to develop a low-carbon roadmap for Malmi station area in the city of Helsinki

By developing urban regions as rail based and transit oriented urban communities, cities are able to develop more housing within walking and cycling distance of stations and along railway corridors. As a long-term impact, it will reduce car-dependency and CO2 emissions. More people are linked to public transport and it will speed up the shift to low-carbon forms of transportation.

Improving and strengthening services at station areas will increase the added value of trip chains, will make rail transportation more attractive, and will also reduce the need for travel. Enhancing the service palette of the stations makes people’s everyday lives easier and encourages movement toward low-carbon mobility and boosts the development of new climate-smart services. Last-mile transport services, low-carbon city logistics services, MaaS services and circular economy services within a station area also reduce emissions.

The liveability of the area will be strengthened by participatory process involving citizens, companies and decision makers and by developing the public space. In a long-term the actions in land use, mobility, housing, business and services will enable a climate-smart urban structure.

Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) provides environmental and regional information and collects data on key climate indicators that illustrate the progress of the climate work in the region, i.a. in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, urban structure and transportation.

Challenges and lessons learned
HSY, Aino Hatakka/Climate-Smart District - Presentation at Barcelona Smart City Expo 2018

The ‘Climate-Smart District’ web-tool will be applicable regionally and internationally. The tool provides a basis for participatory planning process where broad participation and interaction between different sectors and actors should be supported. Further, the existing infrastructure, socio-economic and political context will shape the way how urban development measures can be discussed and applied. Knowledge of the history and identity of the developed area should be recognized and integrated in the participatory development process.   



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