Sustainable Cities of Northern Europe: Royal Seaport Development in Stockholm, Sweden

On July 2nd, 26 undergraduate students from the United States, myself, and one UC Davis Instructor met at the Rygerfjord Hostel and Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden. Our group is exploring four countries (Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland) over the month of July. Our cause? The Sustainable Cities of Northern Europe program -- more affectionately known as (and from now on referred to as), SCONE.

SCONE is a UC Davis Summer Abroad program aimed at studying cities, systems, and plans in Northern Europe that are 'sustainable'. It involves walking, biking, bus-ing, ferrying, and train-ing across several cities and countries. We meet with local planners and experts and tour new transit systems, pocket parks, sustainable housing projects, new community eco-designs, and much more. We, of course, have a lot of fun along the way meeting new people, exploring new cultures, and comparing what we learn to how things are set-up in the United States. Our first stop on the tour was Stockholm, Sweden. We spent a week living aboard the boats of the Rygerfjord Hostel and Hotel. The hostel is quite literally three boats that are anchored in Stockholm. The location of the hostel is just south of Gamla Stan (Old Town).

Photo Credit:   Baltic Sea Cruises

Photo Credit: Baltic Sea Cruises

As part of the course students are required to develop Story Maps with a theme of sustainability across the cities we visit. The hope is to compare what we learn abroad with existing structures at home to inform future planning/development ideas on sustainability. Once the students develop the Story Maps I’ll be sure to link to them here! So, what is my role? I am very fortunate to have been invited along as an onsite coordinator. Think mother hen-role :). I stay with the students, make sure they get where they need to be, help with anything that comes up (doctors, traveling, homework, etc.). It’s a great role and something that I love doing - I remember my own study abroad programs from undergrad and how much fun I thought it would be to help plan and coordinate them in the future! Anyway, back to sustainability.

Day 1 in Stockholm, Sweden: Royal Seaport: a 236 Hectare area (~583 acres) that the Stockholm City Council decided to develop in an environmentally-friendly and sustainable manner. The area (seen in the map below) is scheduled to be completed in 2030 and will contain 12,000 new homes and 35,000 new workplaces. The project is projected to cost € 2.2 billion (~$2.6B) and has a goal of 55 kWh of energy per square meter per year (~55 kWh per 10.8 square feet). The planned community includes a mix of green space, commercial/retail areas, living options, and eco-transportation options. The Royal Seaport project is committed to reducing GHGs and moving towards fossil-free fuel. As such it promotes electric hybrid and biogas fueled buses along with ensuring strong connectivity between pedestrian, cycle, and metro options. The Royal Support proposes to meet future Stockholm growth in a climate-friendly way.

**The area highlighted in orange represents the area of development, a 10-minute bike ride from center city Stockholm.

Photo Credit:  Stockholm Royal Seaport

After spending some time with Anna Hughes Cambry, Information Officer with the City of Stockholm, in the Royal Seaport Visitor Center, we headed out for a walking tour of the community. The area boasts a great deal of green space, some of which was designed with the help of children (notice the students crawling through a tunnel formed by growing plants in the image below). Stormwater management was also carefully considered in the community - they incorporated sunken gardens to allow for potential flooding. Walkways and downspouts are angled for stormwater to flow into the sunken gardens as well. Trash and recyclables are dealt with in a much different manner than seen in most of the U.S. - community members separate their waste into several different categories including glass, metal, papers, and ‘incinerator trash’ (trash that will be burned and used to heat water that will be pumped through houses for warmth). Each category has a colored ‘collection bin/pipe’. Once it becomes full, a giant “vacuum” is activated which sucks the trash away (see picture in the top center position below). The Royal Seaport is a truly dynamic, well-thought out, and sustainable community.

Photos taken at the Royal Seaport Project, Stockholm, Sweden

Photos taken at the Royal Seaport Project, Stockholm, Sweden

To provide somewhat of a comparison (summarized in Table 1 below), West Village, a planned 222-acre development in Davis, CA being touted as “the largest planned ‘zero net energy’ development in the nation” (Chang 2013), cost about $200M to develop, including about $20M secured through state and federal funding. Sources describe the community as providing housing for between 2,000 (Davis 2018) and 3,500 people (Chang 2013) in apartments. Ultimately, the goal is to also build between 350 and 430 single family homes. In addition to housing, West Village contains between 35,000 and 42,000 square feet of commercial space as well as ample green space, a strong transportation network, and some restaurants and cafes. While the goal of West Village is ‘zero net energy’, a report from the 2013-2014 year shows that the community only met 87% of its demand (West Village Annual Report 2014). West Village does not have a fancy waste collection protocol like the Royal Seaport and stormwater management appears somewhat non-existent (although they do have some bioswales and GreenWorks claims there is stormwater treatment). Interestingly enough, Davis, CA receives on average 19.66 inches of rain a year compared to Stockholm, Sweden's 20.75 inches a year (!). I really thought Davis received way less precipitation...but maybe I'm still suffering from Drought whiplash. 

While West Village does have green space, it lacks little touches like tunnels made out of plants (!) and really any ‘child-specific’ play areas. Part of this is likely because the housing is catered to undergraduate students at UC Davis. However, with plans to construct between 350-430 single family homes it make one wonder if there are any plans to make the area more ‘kid friendly’.


Table 1. Summary of Royal Seaport and West Village

                                   Royal Seaport (Stockholm, Sweden)               West Village (Davis, CA, USA)

Cost                                                            $2.6B                                                              $200M

Size                                                      ~ 583 acres                                                        ~222 acres

Housing                                             ~ housing for 12,000                               ~housing for 2K - 3.5K 

                                                     (no single family homes)                       ~350-430 single family homes

Energy                                         goal: 55kWh/10.8 sq ft.                                    goal: zero net energy*

                                                                                                              partial development: 87% of demand

Child-Friendly                       children included in design                          nothing geared to kids

Transportation                buses, bikes, walking, min. cars             buses, bikes, walking, cars, min. cars

Stormwater Mgmt.     sunken gardens, directed downspouts,        proposed stormwater treatment,

                                                   bioswales, green pockets                    bioswales, groundwater recharge

In the afternoon, we naturally had to watch the Sweden World Cup game. We dispersed to various venues to watch the game -- some of us were lucky enough to get into the Tele2 Arena which boasts Europe’s largest screen for watching the game… what’s even more awesome is that Sweden won! Woohoo! It was a great first day!



Chang, R. 2013. UC Davis West Village falls short of zero net energy goal. The Sacramento Bee. Last accessed: 09 July 2018. <>.

UC Davis West Village Energy Initiative Annual Report 2013-2014. 2014. Last accessed: 09 July 2018. <>.

UC Davis West Village. 2018. Last accessed: 09 July 2018. <>.

Stockholm City. 2018. Royal Seaport. Last accessed: 09 July 2018. <>.