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Photo Essay: Sustainable Neighborhoods in Malmo

By Adele Peters

On October 29, I had a chance to explore two internationally leading examples of sustainable urban neighborhoods in Malmo, Sweden, on a tour led by city official Trevor Graham. The tour was part of the Sustainable Innovation '08 conference. Graham guided us through the newly built Western Harbor as well as a 1950s tenement district that was transformed in the 1990s.

As Graham said at one point, the most important thing isn't that Malmo is using cutting-edge technologies, but rather that the city has invested in demonstrating that successful sustainable neighborhoods are possible. What they've done is a good model for cities around the world.

Below you'll find photos of interesting points along the tour, including a look at the latest project, yet to be developed.

(Editor's note: Worldchanging's Alex Steffen spoke at the Sustainable Innovation conference in Malmo. See video clips here)

On the roof in Malmo, Sweden, at the International Green Roof Institute. Faced with a rundown 1950s housing development, the city decided to make it an eco-neighborhood in the 1990s, and built several green roofs, among other improvements. City officials traveled to Germany and Switzerland to learn about green roofs at the time, but couldn't see anything, because the roofs were inaccessible; this was the inspiration for the Green Roof Institute, a research center.

Trevor Graham, Head of Sustainable Development for the City of Malmo, explains features of the green roofs to a group of designers and others from the 'Sustainable Innovation 08' conference.

From parking lot to park.

Solar panels serve a dual purpose here, providing energy and shading office windows from excess heat. The artificial stream below helps collect water in an area prone to flooding.

Pebble-shaped bumps in this ditch help direct water most efficiently. After the area experienced severe flooding, a local resident began studying water flow patterns and helped the city design several water management devices.

In the city's Western Harbor, a former landfill was cleaned up and developed as a sustainable neighborhood. The buildings nearest the sea were designed to be high enough to block the strong winds from the rest of the neighborhood.

The area is primarily car-free inside, with ample space for biking and walking.

"Salt & Brygga," an organic, slow-food restaurant in the area. It runs on renewable energy and uses local food sources.


Inside the neighborhood, a variety of architecture. The area is run on 100% locally-produced renewable energy. The houses are designed to be energy-efficient, and some use passive heat.

These sustainable buildings echo the traditional architecture of this part of Sweden.



Parks were added throughout the neighborhood to support biodiversity.

A large greenhouse provides a good spot to sit and watch the sea in cold and windy weather.

Because the view of the sea is blocked by the first row of buildings, waterways were added throughout the neighborhood.

The newest project: a large, rundown warehouse district is set to be remodeled as a sustainable space for artists, designers, businesses, neighborhood kids, and others to work together on projects for the environment.

Inside an old bus depot, the team from Able Global Solutions ( talks about their plans to use the space. The city initially planned to sell the area to developers, but is allowing for three years to plan the potential sustainability incubator instead.

Adele Peters is currently earning her Master's in Sustainability at Blekinge Institute of Technology in Karlskrona, Sweden.

Photos by author.

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