World-first self-sufficient housing planned in Jönköping, Sweden
Municipal housing provider Vätterhem is planning to construct apartment buildings that are not connected to any municipal network. Usually, the term off-grid refers to buildings that are self-sufficient with regard to energy. These buildings will be self-sufficient when it comes to energy and water, and they will also take care of their own wastewater – making them 100% off-grid.
The idea comes from Yellon
“We’ve been working with the YEAH (Yellon Environmental Aesthetic Housing) concept for over four years, in partnership with a range of expert companies in different areas. Rather early on, we realized that implementing a project of this nature would require a real estate company that builds with long-term management in focus, because the initial investment is rather substantial. We hope to show that the investment pays off over time, since a building stands for a good 80 years or longer. Our thoughts went immediately to municipal real estate companies and Vätterhem in particular. Vätterhem’s management liked the idea, and for the past year and a half we’ve been sharing ownership of the concept and pursuing the project together,” says Pär Löfstedt, Project Manager, Yellon.
Yellon is a future-oriented architecture, design and communications firm focused on making the world a little better.
Vätterhem sees it as research and development for the future
“The development of good housing with a smaller climate footprint and improved economy has to begin somewhere. The YEAH concept could possibly develop to become our new way of building for the future. We also hope to transfer parts of the technology to our roughly 9000 residences in Jönköping. It’s a matter of reducing our climate footprint while keeping our property management costs down. Our mission is to develop and manage good properties at a reasonable cost for the residents. This project is an aspect of that work,” says Thorbjörn Hammerth, CEO, Vätterhem.
Why be self-sufficient with regard to both energy and water/wastewater?
Our society is vulnerable in many ways, and our waste of resources is completely unnecessary.
Electrical infrastructure is sensitive to overloads, storms and sabotage. In sharp focus right now are the charging stations for rapid charging of electric cars, which have begun interfering with power grid stability in some areas. In addition, we have no good way of storing energy – we produce it as we need it. Our traditional means of producing electricity deplete the Earth’s resources in various ways. At the same time, our dependence on electricity is constantly growing.
Our wastewater systems are underdimensioned and outdated. Not uncommonly, we hear about E. coli bacteria in the drinking water. Often this is due to effluent leaking or overflowing into stormwater systems and then flowing into drinking water sources. Sometimes this happens because treatment plants are overloaded, other times because it flows into leaking water pipes. In addition, energy is required to pump wastewater to the treatment plants. In terms of energy, our wastewater is truly a waste. The wastewater that leaves our households has a temperature of around 27°C, having been warmed up from around 7– 10°C simply so that we can flush it out.
Even our drinking water networks are underdimensioned and outdated. The average for losses due to leakage in Sweden’s municipalities is 35%. In other words, more than a third of the load we place on our water treatment plants simply disappears. On top of that we have to chlorinate the water, in part because growth can occur in long pipelines, and in part because dirt can leak in where water leaks out. On the island of Öland, where there is a shortage of water, the leakage from the water supply network is over 40%! The water shortage on the islands of Öland and Gotland, as well as some municipalities in the highlands of Småland and in other places, can be traced to low groundwater levels. Other symptoms also stem from the low groundwater. Eksjö was recently close to being entirely without water supply. Not because they didn’t get water, but because the old water supply network was supported by the groundwater pressure. The pipes were at risk of rupturing when the supporting pressure dropped. These leaks occur because we haven’t historically had problems with access to water.
“In Sweden we’ve taken access to drinking water for granted. By way of comparison, the leakage in Holland’s drinking water network is measured in parts per thousand,” says Pär Löfstedt.
Our stormwater networks are not capable of handling heavier rainfall – this applies generally to all urban areas in the country. And the more we build, the higher the load. Our existing networks are not adapted to today’s urban densification. Moreover, we are constantly expanding hard surfaces in the form of parking lots, roads, sidewalks and flagstone, which places still more pressure on stormwater networks. This is an issue the municipality of Jönköping has long been working with.
“The YEAH concept could allow us to continue developing our cities without adding to the load on existing networks,” Pär Löfstedt believes.
44 self-sufficient residences planned in Öxnehaga in Jönköping, Sweden
Vätterhem is planning to build 44 apartments in two buildings without connections to the municipal network. They will be located in the neighborhood upper Öxnehaga in Jönköping. The project is called Vätterhem YEAH. “To be able to make relevant comparisons of operation, housing quality and construction, we’re planning another two identical houses in the same neighborhood, but in Vätterhem’s standard version,” says Thorbjörn Hammerth.
Avoiding connections to municipal networks is not a matter of course. Using common networks for electricity, water and wastewater is the traditional way of building infrastructure in our society. Discussions with both politicians and municipal officials from various bodies are thus an important part of the work to make the Vätterhem YEAH project a reality. The final decision to actually build has not yet been made. It depends in part on finances and in part on a number of applications and decisions to be made in municipal committees.
For more information:
Thorbjörn Hammerth, CEO, Vätterhem
+46 70 539 94 20