Saturday, March 7, 2009

One example of city planning in Sweden

A few days ago Rachel and I met with the city architect/planner of Alingsås to discuss some of the zoning laws and sustainability initiatives of the city. Sweden has a lot of forests and lumber, and one initiative in Alingsås is to use wood in building because it is local and a renewable resource (I have not had to convince a single Swede that wood is a good product so far - most seem amazed that some Americans believe we shouldn't use wood!!).

Pedestrian-only shopping street in Alingsås
Alingsås is also trying to make the city more safe and accessible. Part of this means incorporating the concept of what we call Universal Design so that buildings can sustain multiple uses and generations. For example, having door handles and faucets with levers instead of knobs that turn, wide doors for wheelchair access, rocker light-switches, and all necessary amenities on one level (bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, entryway). Safety is also important to Alingsås, and now all buildings are required to have an entrance viewable from the street. Garage doors should be positioned so that they can be see from the house (to prevent auto theft).
A pedestrian open-air shopping mall alley off the main shopping street
Alingsås also has a suggested target energy efficiency of 90 kWh per square meter for its buildings – Sweden’s target is 110 kWh per square meter. Alingsås has won prizes for its preservation practices as well, and has a preserved town center with shops and pedestrian-only streets. Overall, sustainability is high priority for the city, and the people of Alingsås seem very excited about it because it makes their city a better place to live and will atract more people to it.

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