Thursday, September 27, 2012

Turning Torso: the anchor of Vastra Hamnen

you can't spend several weeks in Malmo and not take pictures of the Turning Torso.  in fact, many would argue you can't spend several hours in Malmo and not take pictures of it.  you may even recall that I took a picture of it the first night I arrived in Malmo.  once the tallest apartment building in Europe, the Turning Torso twists upward 54 stories and 623 feet, the top floor at a 90 degree angle from the ground floor.  the Torso was envisioned by the government of Malmo as a new beginning, a fresh start, and a much needed strengthening of the skyline to the north of the city center.  it rises 2 times higher than Kronprinsen, the previous tallest building in Malmo.
turning torso by Santiago Calatrava
the Turning Torso approached from the southern main access road to Vastra Hamnen from the city center.  the Torso, designed by Santiago Calatrava, rises 623 feet and 54 stories.
the Kockums crane (Kockumskranen) which was sold to a Korean company in the early 2000's was the last and highest symbol of the working class city of Malmo's shipbuilding industry.  it's last duty was to assist in the building of the Oresund Bridge, the lifeline connection between Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmo, Sweden.
looking up
looking up at the Torso from the street
in the years leading up to the decision to construct the Turning Torso, there were three major focused objectives of the city of Malmo, partly in an effort to move forward after the financial collapse caused by the shipbuilding industry abandoning the city (among other financial challenges), partly to jump into the 21st century, and partly to recreate and rebrand the city and its identity.  the three objectives were, at first blush, quite simple:

  1. improve education and heighten the focus of the city on advanced education
  2. strengthen connectivity and interconnectedness of Malmo within the region of Skane and beyond
  3. use sustainability and sustainable initiatives as a method to advance the city and its planning

these three objectives were simultaneously addressed starting in the 1990's and moving into the first decade of the 21st century.  though the Turning Torso was not, in itself, a cornerstone of any of these three specific objectives, it played a significant role as a new symbol of Malmo, the city of the future.  the Torso is an excellent example of how cities use architecture (tall, unique, or important buildings, often designed by famous architects) to promote an agenda and "put themselves on the map" as Malmo has been doing for the last 15-20 years.
the tallest building in malmo
Turning Torso in Vastra Hamnen, Malmo as seen from the neighborhood
the three most obvious physical manifestations of the three objectives are quite powerful, and together have helped shaped Malmo as a growing, changing city with an eye toward the future.

1.  one of the brightest examples of the city of Malmo putting a new focus on higher education was the creation of Malmo's first University, Malmo Hogskola.  the University, now a central hub of the Dockans neighborhood adjacent to the central train station and Vastra Hamnen, has grown to more than 24,000 students in just over ten years of operation (the school opened officially in 1998).  the school has many disciplines and areas of study, including several in sustainability such as master's degrees in "Leadership for Sustainability" and "Sustainable Urban Management".
structural expressionism
the style has been called "structural expressionism" and is most evident in the exposed structural elements on the building exterior 
2.  the most obvious physical manifestation of the idea of interconnection in Skane and beyond is the Oresund Bridge and the improvements in the train transportation into Malmo.  the Oresund Bridge, completed and opened in July 2000, has created amazing opportunities for growth in Malmo as well as the opportunity for people living in Malmo to commute easily to Copenhagen.  besides the construction of the bridge itself, Malmo created new and improved train stations and rail lines from the bridge through the city center (called the City Tunnel Project) that simplify, enhance, and speed up travel to and from Malmo as well as through it up the western coast of Sweden and beyond.
green sustainable grocery store in the adjacent parking garage
the Turning Torso sits in a pool of water at the base (the parking complex in the background contains a sustainable grocery store and restaurant on the ground floor)
3.  in terms of sustainability, the list, as you may have seen from earlier entries in this blog, is endless.  I would argue that the most notable catalyst for the physical manifestation of making sustainability part of the city's future is Bo01, brought about as part of the European Housing Exposition in 2011, and evidenced in the European Village as well as the surrounding neighborhood and corresponding infrastructure.  this neighborhood, anchored on one corner by the tallest building in Scandinavia, is a beacon of hope for the future of sustainable cities and neighborhoods.
the top twists 90 degrees from the base
the Turning Torso as seen from the neighborhood school.  the top is 90 degrees twisted from the base.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

bike repair in Malmo - Part Two - "the cycle kitchen"

if you missed the exciting beginning of the story of the flat tire, here's Part One.

Part Two:

so the all day conference on Monday ended at 17.30 and I hopped on the train in Hyllie (by the way, it's not pronounced "hill e" as I was saying for the first few days when I arrived here in Malmo.  it's actually pronounced "hill you" in a kind of french manner where they roll the tongue during the you part).  I was home in less than 35 minutes after a quick train ride and a quick bus trip.  the transport was free because the conference gives every participant a 72 hour free public transportation card!  imagine that... the conference you are attending in a city offers a free method to use public transportation.  what a nice idea... thanks Malmo!
now a hub for local non profits in Malmo, including cykelkoket, the cycle kitchen
Stapelbaddsparken building (underneath where ships were pushed out to sea from the shipbuilding port, Dockan) is now a hub for local non profits in Malmo, including cykelkoket, the cycle kitchen
I was home just past 18.00 and the cycle kitchen was open until 21.00.  I hopped on my bike with the wheel in my hand and pedaled over (five minute trip from northern Vastra Hamnen to Stapelsbaddsparken) to the center of what was once one of the largest ship building areas in the world.  this area (also located north of the city center) is in Dockan, on the edge of what is now called Vastra Hamnen (western harbor).  this used to be the home of Kockums, the center of the shipbuilding universe for much of the 20th century.  they don't make ships here any more, but guess what they currently make.  that's right: wind turbines!
bike repair space in Dockan, Malmo
cykelkoket (the cycle kitchen) in Dockan where free tool time combined with volunteer bike experts leads to an amazing experience
the building is sloped from about 5 meters to nothing where it meets the ground at the new skate park and served as the location where giant ships were pushed into the ocean when this area was a shipbuilding hub.  the area below the slope has been converted from a workers area for Dockan into an incubator/ center for local non profits (called Stapelbaddsparken) including cykelkoket (the bike kitchen).
area for relaxation and computer/ art work in cycle kitchen in Dockan
"creative space" in cykelkoket which sits immediately adjacent to the bike repair area.  looks like a great spot for lounging when there are no bikes being fixed.  it was empty when I was there because everyone in the shop was working on bikes or bike parts.
I arrived at the bike kitchen and went down some stairs into the depths.  I talked with a very nice guy about my situation.  he told me all of the tools were free to borrow and he would help me if I needed it.  as it would turn out, I needed help and about two hours to get to the bottom of this seemingly simple flat tire...
Swedish military bike in progress
work being done to fix up a Swedish military bike which are surprisingly common in Malmo.  the guy fixing it up comes to cykelkoket every monday night to work on it.  he bought it on Craigslist.  he was riding it around the city with no brakes for awhile.
Bert (Bertil), who helped me off and on for the entire time I was in the shop, is a volunteer at the kitchen.  I asked him how it worked and he said basically some people pass away without a will or relatives and their money goes to the state.  the state divides the money into a wide range of non profit organizations that help people in communities.  the cycle kitchen is one of those organizations.  it uses the money from the state to pay to rent the space, keep the lights on, and buy tools as necessary.  all of the people working in the shop are volunteers.  pretty neat!  Bert said that there are other cycle kitchens opening up around Skane (southern Sweden) including places like Goteborg (the second largest city in Sweden).
free tools at the cycle kitchen in malmo
some of the free tools available for use to fix up your bike.  the shop also collects and fixes up old bikes that have been confiscated by the city or abandoned.
so my flat was a complete pain.  I will not bore you with all of the long drawn out details, but I will tell you what happened anyways.  if you are bored by bike talk, skip the next two paragraphs or simply look through the pictures.
Swedish style valve stem in unheard of in the United States
most common style of valve stem in Sweden is actually English, called the Dunlop valve.  in the US, almost all tubes have a German or Italian style (Schrader or Presta).  I had never seen this English version before.
the wheel was a very old 26" (which was actually somewhere between a 26" and a 700), but the tire was a true 26" so it wouldn't come off without a special "heavy duty" Park Tools tire lever that Bert had to get in the back of the shop.  because the wheel was not a real size, the tube we had didn't properly fit, but we decided to use it anyway.  the rim was so old and rusty that I decided to scrape it with a brush to get off the rust burrs and then wrap the rim in homemade rim tape (really just duct tape ripped to the right width and stuck on).
trying to retrofit the old wheel to change the flat, unsuccessfully
desperate first attempt to replace the flat tire involved using a special heavy duty tire lever to remove the tire, sanding off the rust and burrs in the rim, lining the rim with makeshift (duct tape) rim tape, and two grown men manhandling the tire to get it back over the rim with the new tube.  let's just say that this method failed and we ditched the entire wheel for another one (after about an hour of effort).
after struggling (the two of us plus some other folks who were there fixing their own bikes and volunteered to help as well) to get the tire back on over the tube and rim, we inflated with a foot pump.  slow hiss.  sad face.  after fiddling around some more we decided to ditch the wheel altogether and find another used wheel that was a true 26" to replace it.  we pumped it up and it was good to go.  Bert even took the time to take apart the hub and lube it up so that it ran smoother.
recycling at the cykelkoket
recycling at the cycle kitchen
all in all it was under two hours of exploring, talking, and learning about the place as well as fixing the flat and replacing the tire altogether in the end.  Tamara got back a new (used) wheel with a smoother hub (a better feeling roll) and a more common sized setup (so if she ever gets a flat again it will be easier for the next person to fix).  I got to learn about this cool and amazing place in Malmo where community building, sustainable practices, and education are taking place.  it reminds me quite a bit of one of my favorite Boston non profits that connects people, communities, and bikes for the betterment of the local area as well as for people all over the globe.  it's called Bikes Not Bombs.  maybe you've heard of it?  if not, I highly recommend you read a little about what they do.  if you are in a giving mood, they stretch dollars (and all kinds of currency) quite far.  it is a fantastic organization!
Bert, an expert bike mechanic at the cycle kitchen
Bert, a volunteer for cykelkoket, helped me solve what turned out to be a very complicated flat tire (I don't think I have ever heard the words complicated and flat tire in the same sentence)
thanks very much to Bert and the crew at Cykelkoket (in Swedish) and the other folks who were there fixing their own bikes (including Joakim) in Stapelbaddsparken in the Dockan (also in Swedish) area of Malmo, right beside the skate park.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

bike repair in Malmo - Part One - free city infrastructure

so you borrow the old city bike from the owner of the apartment that you are renting.  you ride around town with your buddy who is visiting for a couple of days.  bam!  a flat tire.  now you have this bike with a flat that is not yours and needs a fresh tube or at least a patch and some air.  it's sunday afternoon and most of the bike shops are closed.  monday you're at a conference all day and won't get out til after 6pm at least, when all of the shops are closed again.  the repair could be simple, pop off the tire and replace the tube.  a matter of minutes....
public posted bike map in Malmo
cykelkarta of Malmo.  a map of (free public) bike pumps, bike lanes, and everything else relevant to bicycles in Malmo.  these maps are handed out like candy in the city, online for download or viewing, posted all over the place as physical maps, and at major bike intersections, etc
 so, you pull out your trusty Malmo bicycle street map - cykelkarta (they give these away free all over the city).  this map has all sorts of useful information including:

  • all bike paths and bike lanes in the city (differentiated so you can choose one or the other if you prefer - paths separate from the traffic or lanes next to the traffic)
  • "cycle tracks" - dedicated bike highways to get into and out of the city center, especially for commuting and long distance connections 
  • public water closets to change or "freshen up"
  • bathing locations (showers) 
  • free public air pumps to fill the tires
  • bridges and tunnels (for bikes) 
  • a radius that tells you how far you are from the city center in minutes of bicycle travel
free public air station
guy filling his tires at a free public bike pump station
the street map helps you locate a city pump (you don't know yet that your super new super sustainable apartment complex has a pump and bike workstation in the basement garage).  you hop on your working bike with the tire dangling off the handlebar to the nearest pump, about five minutes away.  when you arrive you set up to remove the tire from the rim and replace the tube (like a complete bike nerd you brought a spare tube from home).  unfortunately, you can't get the tire off the rim because the tire is too small and you need heavy duty tools to wrench it off.  who knew?  
guy filling bike tires at free public air station
snapped a couple of pics while waiting at a free public air pump station
so you watch the guy in front of you fill his tires, followed by a couple who fill their tires, then a family, then another guy, then another couple.  the whole time you are struggling to remove the tire from the rim to no avail.  you feel like you are the star in a show called amateur hour.  sad face

so... you take your working bike and your not working tire and go home, disheartened by the circumstance and your apparent ineptitude with bikes (but mostly because you don't have the proper tools to do your repairs).  on the way home you think about what Boston is doing to benefit cyclists, such as the new repair stations cropping up all over the city that have free tools chained to a "mobile" repair station.  pretty innovative and exciting, especially when you think about the fact that this kind of stand might have helped you in this specific situation in Malmo...

these kinds of bike repair stands are being installed all over the cities (Boston/ Cambridge)
Cambridge/ Boston is installing free publicly accessible bike repair stations for cyclists to make small to medium repairs such as a changing a flat tire, adjusting saddle height, and other repairs that can't easily be done in your office but could be done by many commuter/ average cyclists if they have access to the proper tools
allen wrench, tire lever, pump, 15mm open wrench, etc
tools available on the bike repair station next to my office in Kendall Square include tire levers, allen wrenches, screwdrivers, and of course (for the fixie crowd) a 14/15 mm open ended wrench
when you arrive home, saddened by your un-success and by the fact that you will have to admit in your blog and to your bike buddies that you couldn't change a simple flat tire, you are greeted by the owner of the apartment.  guilty, you explain to her that you have a flat that you can't fix without some better tools.  she smiles brightly (she always smiles brightly, which makes everything seem a little less bad) and tells you about a free bike shop where they allow you to use the tools for free and do repairs on your own bike.  "they even have volunteers that will help you if you don't know how to solve a problem with your bike," she says.  it sounds too good to be true.  you google it together.  she tells you to look up cykelkoket, which literally means the cycle kitchen.  sure enough, there's a website...

stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of the flat tire experience in "Part Two" tomorrow.
will I get out of the conference in time to get to the open hours for the shop?
will I be able to fix the flat?
will I meet cool and exciting people doing interesting things?

the answers to these questions and more... in tomorrow's post: Part Two!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

energy use reduction through behavioral changes

another very interesting presentation at the CLICC Conference was made by Wictoria Glad of Linkoping University.  her focus is on energy use reduction through behavioral change with a specific angle of the psychology of choice, action, and change.

Ms. Glad started with the most important, perhaps obvious, fact that people are hard to change.  we are stuck in our ways and there are many reasons for that.  then she delved quickly into the fact that much of energy use is not about behavior but about other factors such as physical factors (location, climate, building type, building systems, etc).  she also pointed out that there are studies directly correlating energy consumption to social factors such as employment status, income, etc.

after the basics were out of the way, she got into the meat.  behavior and choices are clearly linked.  she cited a psychological explanation of how we choose to buy energy consuming goods and services.  there is habitual (unconscious), rational (conscious), and symbolic (status).  one might buy the same brand of recycled toilet paper without thinking every month from the store (habitual), but one might look carefully at buying a long lasting reusable wash cloth to replace throw away dish sponges (conscious).  and then there's the symbolic prius sitting in front of your house...

then Glad started getting into some interesting explanations about choice and behavior.  she talked about the opposite of economies of scale (she called it the un-economies of scale).  she cited several examples about household consumption.  for example, some people think that there needs to be a tv in the bedroom and one in the kitchen and one in the living room.  they are all plugged in all day, wasting phantom load (more commonly called standby power).  the need to have multiples of the same thing does not end with seemingly identical items such as tvs or computers.  lots of households have more than one kind of coffee maker (french press, espresso machine, etc) or toaster (toaster and toaster oven, etc).  many households prepare multiple meals simultaneously (parents' dinner and baby's dinner, special meal due to allergy or health condition, etc).  children of the current generation won't think it strange to have several televisions, cook several versions of the same meal, or be able to prepare an item such as toast using more than one different appliance.  my parents' generation only had one (or less) tv, coffee pot, or dinner option.

Glad then talked about feedback.  she explained that feedback has been proven more successful when it is easy to understand by the user, clear in content, and timely.  if you want to give direct feedback to someone about energy use, here is a worst to best example:

  • WORST: a yearly summation of the energy use presented in therms to the homeowner
  • BETTER: a monthly update on energy use in dollars for the homeowner
  • BEST: a weekly (or monthly) comparison of energy use versus last year's use and also compared with a neighbor (or neighbors)

it sounds obvious, but most people (especially in the US) get energy bills (electricity, gas, etc) in a monthly bill that does not easily translate or compare to anything else, so the information feels like it is in a vacuum.  the user does not know if this is better or worse than last year or last month.  changing behavior cannot be directly linked to any specific improvement.  additionally, many people have changed their energy bills to be automatically deducted online, so the connection between energy use has been strained even further by technology in the 21st century.

as a conclusion to an interesting and unique presentation, Glad makes some key points.  penultimately, she describes eight (8) influential factors in decision making, choice, and behavior.  understanding these factors and using them to one's advantage can, she says, greatly improve the quality of the message as well as the rate of success, both of which are important in a campaign to influence people to change.
  1. the messenger.  it's important who gives you the information and what that person's status is.  is the person an authority, a friend or family member, someone with status in the community, a hero or star?
  2. incentives.  having incentives can be useful, especially if the incentives are explicit.
  3. norms.  these can be learned at school, work, or home.  kids often learn from their parents, but there are plenty of examples where children learn about recycling at school and come home to school mom and dad...
  4. default.  our material world (what we face every day) is, in itself, an influence.  customary procedures and standards will need to be broken for change.
  5. salience.  we are influenced by our surroundings, by beautiful things.  people pay more for pretty or well designed objects (iphone, etc).
  6. priming.  we prioritize what we talk about and we are heavily influenced by mass media and certain kinds of messages.  change doesn't typically come from nothing, it is built over time through messaging and targeted communication, as well as through consensus building.
  7. "affects".  this is really emotions.  we are driven by our emotions (some more than others)  not only logic.  emotions can sell ideas (this is common in tv commercials for example).
  8. commitments.  most people set some kind of goal or goals for life (sports, health, exercise, etc).  some people keep these goals to themselves and others talk about them.  communicating goals in an explicit fashion makes them more real, more attainable, and more likely to be reached.
  9. ego.  we aim to better ourselves and no matter what we think, there is some piece of every person that is about an attempt to be successful.  this takes many forms, but can be reinforced by simple understanding of self and desire to be what we say we are.  "I take my bike to work every day."
at the end of the presentation, Glad made a simple point that is quite relevant when talking about climate adaptation, energy consumption, and aiming toward a more sustainable future.  she said (this is paraphrased but pretty accurate): 
"we need to design the message...  maybe we should learn from other fields or parts of society.  shouldn't we learn from advertising, marketing, and industries that are aimed at influence?"
Glad's presentation was intriguing to say the least.  her work for Linkoping University falls into the category of "thematic studies, technology, and social change", but clearly it directly relates to issues that we are grappling with today as we aim toward a more energy conscious and sustainable future.

for more information on Linkoping University's work in this area, visit their website.

energy action: a UK case study on addressing fuel poverty

Rachel Jones of the Energy Action program in the UK spoke in the afternoon at Covenant Capacity about some of the projects she has worked on related to energy, comfort, and health.  she talked about something scary that is a big problem in the UK that I had not heard about before her presentation.  one of the biggest issues in the region is "fuel poverty".  fuel poverty (or energy poverty, depending on the specifics of the issue and the country/ location) takes place when a person or family cannot afford to adequately heat the home.  in the UK the figure used as a starting point to determine fuel poverty is if it costs more than 10% of the household income to heat the home.  according to statistics, approximately 20% of the UK suffers from fuel poverty.  Jones explained that not just elderly people with lower incomes, but young people and even families with babies or small children are suffering from the high cost of heat.

not being able to heat the home is more than just a little problem, especially in places like the UK.  it leads to unhealthy and uncomfortable living and actually creates significant health problems and causes thousands of "excess winter deaths".  according to Jones, approximately 25,000 people die in the UK every year from "excess winter death", much of which can be directly attributed to fuel poverty.  to me this sounds like an alarming and almost unbelievable idea, that people are dying because they cannot afford to heat their homes.

I had a chance to talk with Jones after the conference.  the story gets even worse when she explains how challenging it can be for her organization to support people.  she tells me an anecdote about how sometimes people don't want something, even if and when you think it is in their own best interest...

the government started trying to address this problem (fuel poverty) along with huge inefficiencies in older homes by offering heavy rebates on home insulation (this is a current strategy in many places, including the US).  owners were skeptical and typically refused support.  eventually the government started offering the insulation for free (much of the funding was coming from the EU and the money needed to be spent by a certain date).  still, most homeowners did not want the free insulation.  in an amazing and unheard of strategy, the government even offered to install the insulation for free and then give the homeowner a cash gift with no strings attached.  we are talking free insulation that will make your house warmer, save you money every year starting immediately, and we will give you cash in addition to the free insulation.  still, it was a struggle to spend the money down and reach the households and homeowners in need.

this story put my jaw on the floor.  I will admit that I am naive and always imagine people jumping at the chance to do good in the world, but in this case we are talking about what may be the single most influential strategy for sustainable living: saving money.  I can't imagine people not wanting to do something that saves money, especially in an extreme case like this, where the work is free.

Jones explained very simply in her presentation; it's about more than energy efficiency and more than improving the homes.  the issues need to hit the people directly and in a way that is both personal and significant.  she listed off some of the key strategies and factors for connecting people directly to their energy use:
  1. it has to be about the people (not about their houses)
  2. you need to understand the audience and their needs
  3. it has to be personal.  the message, the idea, everything
  4. partnerships need to be formed
Jones told a story about a project she worked on called "Warmer Worcestershire", which was directly related to the fuel poverty issue.  she explained that everything from the concept to the story to the strategies was about cultivating and sending a clear message, about understanding the audience and really connecting with them, and about being simple and clear.  why call it Warmer Worcestershire?  because it is about the people, about their lives, and it touches everyone, especially people who are suffering from the circumstances of cold, uninsulated homes.
warmer worcestershire home heat loss map
screenshot from Warmer Worcestershire website showing homes and their heat loss scores.  red is bad.  green is good.
one of the ideas that they came up with for this project was called a thermal flyover.    during the winter of 2009 they flew over the entire county, taking thermal images measuring the heat escaping from each home.  they compiled this information onto a gis map and put it on the internet, color coding each house.  now, any person in the area can look up any property and discover how the home performs in terms of heat loss through the roof.  red is bad.  green is good.  simple.  and on the same page where the person discovers how badly the house is performing: links to government and other sponsorship opportunities, advice and more information, and even direct connections to installers. simple.  effective.  successful.

and one last related anecdote that Jones told about energy use and conservation.  her agency asked the people to come together and help strategize ways to decrease energy use to show the effectiveness of conservation as well as more thoughtful energy use.  they picked a specific week to showcase these ideas and lots of folks got involved.  one of the ideas:  local restaurants offered "dine by candlelight dinners".  what a concept: the restaurants are saving energy (and hopefully money) and the patrons are getting what many would consider a better, intimate, more cozy experience.  simple.  effective.  genius.