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COWI as environmental pioneer in urban development

One of Norway’s oldest port areas is being transformed into a new, vibrating urban quarter. The project is expected to be the first in Norway to achieve recognized international environmental stamp of approval.

Soon, towering building cranes will be at work.

Framed by water to the west and mountains to the east, the long quay in the Norwegian town of Skien is to house a prestigious urban development project, Skien Quay, and COWI provides consultancy services. The town’s old industrial port will be replaced by some 400 homes, shops, offices, cultural venues and open squares. 

And the future residents of the quarter may rest assured that environmental concerns have been integrated in the project right from the planning phase. Recently, the project was approved as pilot project for BREEAM Communities, the world’s leading environment certification body for urban development projects. 

“The certification helps us ensure that our brilliant visions for the project still hold true when the residents move in,” says Project Manager, Cecilie Høgden Mæle.

BREEAM ‘big brother' takes Norway

Since 1990, more than 250,000 buildings around the world have become BREEAM certified, and the scheme has become widely used in Norway. Now comes the big brother, BREAAM Communities, which specialises in assessing sustainable urban development projects.

The certification assesses to what extent an urban development project interacts with the surrounding landscape and how well it adapts the area to its future residents and their needs, by means of sustainable transportation options, state-of-the-art waste management and the use of healthy materials.

“We want to practice master planning, and we want a tool that integrates sustainability in all project phases,” says R&D Director in sustainable planning, Kathrine Strøm.

She adds that points will be given during the construction phase, ranging from ‘Pass’ to ‘Outstanding’.

Like 'Tour de Ski'

With Skien Quay, the town wants to create a quarter that is characterised by community feel and warmth – people being in focus. The public squares that are to act as a meeting point for the quarter’s residents will be tied together by a network of bicycle paths that aim to reduce car traffic and improve air quality.

Strøm believes that the project stands a great chance of achieving the coveted environmental certification.

“The basis is definitely there,” she says, and continues:

“I’d compare it to Tour de Ski. You might have a great first heat, but to cross the finish-line, you have to maintain high-level performance for a long period of time.”

By Steffen de Vries
Published 30.05.2013

LAST UPDATED: 16.09.2016