By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population- 6.5 billion people- will live in urban areas. In order to achieve sustainable development, the way in which we build and manage our urban spaces should be significantly transformed. Achieving SDG 11- Sustainable cities and communities- means creating career and business opportunities, safe and affordable housing and building resilient societies and economies. Today, 85% of Sweden’s population lives in urban areas. Slums do not exist in any traditional sense, as virtually all houses are equipped with functioning water, sewage, waste management, heating and street networks are lit. However, there is a certain level of overcrowding, especially for households with limited income, and according to the norm applied in Sweden, “a household is considered overcrowded if more than one person per bedroom lives in the home”. In this sense, one of the challenges regarding sustainable urban development in Sweden refers to satisfying the need for more housing.
Sweden’s transformation towards sustainable cities and communities is already underway and is taking place throughout the country. For instance, many cities in Sweden implement the strategy for wooden construction, but Växjö municipality is furthest ahead by the strategy The Modern Wooden City. The responsibility to evaluate and update the Wood Construction Strategy lies in the hands of the Wood Construction Council.
The positive impacts of wooden buildings on the living environments in cities are undeniable. Due to their sound-absorbing qualities, they can reduce noise in cities and create a pleasant atmosphere. Moreover, wooden buildings are renewable and recyclable, they are easy to transport and fix due to their lighter weight. It is also important to mention that the amount of time for building a wooden construction is significantly reduced and they emit less when being produced compared to other building materials such as steel and concrete. In 2015, 25% of new houses being built in Växjö were made from wood, and this number is expected to increase to 50% by 2020. One of the projects in Växjö is Smart Housing Småland (SHS), an innovation environment that creates eco-friendly constructions based on glass and wood. SHS addresses several challenges, such as the need for new housing or the need to build space in an efficient, flexible, modern, energy-efficient and sustainable manner.
It is safe to say that this model can also be exported to other countries, such as Romania. Eurostat data from 2017 shows that Romania registered the highest overcrowding rate among the EU member states, 47.8%. By adapting the strategy for wooden construction to the national level, Romania can also create inclusive communities and affordable housing. However, one constraint of this idea would be that timber buildings are not very popular among Romanian population. The executive director of Doxar Grup, a company specialized in wooden buildings from Gura Humorului, Romania, stated that “it takes time for the beneficiary to document him/herself. In our country, the price prevails. In addition, we face many prejudices, such as: wooden houses are not durable, they are more exposed to fire etc”. Moreover, the director of Litarh, another company specialized in wooden buildings in Romania stated that “there is demand, there are many people who ask questions, but they are confused. There are many amateur companies on the market that build on very bad structures […] It is an unfair market. People are interested but they don’t know what to choose”. However, if these problems are solved, wooden constructions will not only solve the challenge of overcrowding, but will also contribute to achieving sustainable cities and communities.
This media content was created as a part of Nordic level youth project about SDGs and youth media, supported by Norden 0-30 programme and a a partnership between Norsensus Mediaforum (Norway), Awesome People (Sweden) and City of Helsinki (Finland). Read more about the project here!
Source: Åke E:son Lindman, Swedish Wood. https://www.swedishwood.com/publications/wood-magazine/2018-2/vaxjo-bygger-hallbart/
- UNDP Oslo Governance Centre, Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities, https://www.undp.org/content/oslo-governance-centre/en/home/sustainable-development-goals/goal-11-sustainable-cities-and-communities.html
- Government of Sweden. (2017). Sweden and the 2030 Agenda — Report to the UN High Level Political Forum 2017 on Sustainable Development.
- Växjö Municipal Council. (2013). Växjö- The Modern Wooden City. Växjö Municipal Council.
- Wooden construction – The future in Urban Planning. (2020, February 20). Retrieved from Smart City Sweden: https://smartcitysweden.com/wooden-construction-the-future-in-urban-planning/
- Smart Housing Småland. (2020, April 17). Retrieved from Smart City Sweden: https://smartcitysweden.com/best-practice/357/smart-housing-smaland/
- Eurostat. 35% of non-EU citizens in overcrowded households. https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/products-eurostat-news/-/DDN-20190228-1?inheritRedirect=true
- Case de lemn. Programul “Prima Casă” a dat o şansă şi caselor din lemn. (2013, April 01). Retrieved from Bursa Construcțiilor: https://www.constructiibursa.ro/case-de-lemn-programul-prima-casa-a-dat-o-sansa-si-caselor-din-lemn-2818311