News

NordicPATH in the Nordic Smart City Network

A few days ago, the Nordic Smart City Network published an article featuring the activities of NordicPATH in Kristiansand. It echoes our aim to generate a participatory community of citizens, decision-makers, urban planners, and scientists that co-designs a healthy and sustainable future for the city.

In particular, the writing highlights the involvement of citizens in this strategy, mentioning the air-monitoring and urban-planning activities as concrete enablers of a “new participative planning culture in the Nordic countries that will not just reflect the democracy that the Nordic countries represent in the world, but also the progress towards deliberative democracy, involving and shaping important local and global issues (such as air quality) together with citizens’ input on decisions”.

 

Read the whole text here and follow on the Kristiansand activities here.

Wood burning perceptions in Kristiansand – infographic from survey results

During the early months of 2021, 255 Kristiansand citizens participated in the survey launched by the municipality in collaboration with NordicPATH about the use and perception of wood-burning for heating at home. The survey not only addressed practical issues on the frequency of use of fireplaces at households but also gave the opportunity to the respondents to step in the shoes of city planners and reflect upon ways to prevent the particle emissions from these practices.

The results were shared and discussed in a workshop during spring, and now have been gathered in an infographic that aims to encourage the reflections of citizens and decision-makers on the topic. As shown in the visualization, wood-burning practices are strongly rooted in the daily practices of  Kristiansand citizens. Yet, there is still a considerable crowd that remains unaware of the safest way for wood-burning in terms of health, and of the effect of not doing it correctly. This data is already being studied and considered by the Municipality for coming policies and urban planning. 

First (physical) NordicPATH Consortium Meeting

On the 19th of October, after a year and a half since the project started, most of the NordicPATH consortium finally reunited in person. Screen sharing was never easier, there were no forgotten muted microphones interrupting the conversation nor digitally raised hands. Maybe because of the last reason, our meeting extended so long through the day 🙂

Taking advantage of being physically together and the less-demanding meeting conditions in terms of concentration span, we did an intense activity of zooming out and looking at the big picture of the project. Aligning with the project aims, we worked on a model for citizen participation in environmental monitoring and urban planning to co-create sustainable and healthy cities, considering the evolution of our activities from the last months, the current challenges of the different work packages, and the next steps from a holistic perspective.

In the afternoon, we also had the opportunity to hold our second workshop with the municipalities of the project. Following a hybrid format, we discussed the challenges and opportunities of citizens’ involvement and participation, particularly in regard to air quality initiatives. We are currently analyzing the data and inputs that emerged during the discussion, which we will happily share with you soon.

Research stories from the Kristiansand Urban Lab

A couple of weeks ago,  the Municipality of Kristiansand published an article about the research taking place in our Kristiansand Urban Lab we are immensely proud of.

The article presents a human-centered view on the participation of the different groups that are involved in the monitoring and research activities in the city, both from the municipality and from the citizens’ perspective. With a combination of scroll-telling and media, you can dive into the investigation on wood burning, and hear from the researcher citizens, their first-hand stories using sensors to monitor the air quality around them, as well as their perceptions and insights.

Take a look at the full article (in Norwegian) and reach to us if you want to contribute to the project!

Lappeenranta in the EU Green Week

Some weeks ago, the NordicPATH Urban Lab in Lappeenranta (Finland) participated at the EU Green Week. The opening session of the event, dedicated to Citizen Science for Zero Pollution, was focused on shedding light on the citizen-driven research and planning activities that target towards Zero-Pollution future of Europe.

During the opening session, Sara Piutunen from Lappeenranta presented the Case Study of the city. The presentation, called Reducing street dust by co-operation with the municipality and residents in Lappeenranta, was supported by this video, created to show the topic and the collaborative activities and actions taking place within this goal.

 

 

Mapping air quality, uses and experiences at Kungsparken

In Gothenburg, we have located 12 sensors in Kungsparken to explore, at the same time, the air quality, the use and the experience of visitors in the area. Is there a connection between the quality of air and a good or bad experience in an outdoor area? Can the air we breathe play a role in improving our outdoor activities? How can the use of city parks be enhanced by taking care of the air quality? How can the city officials work to reduce the air pollution exposure of the visitors in the parks? 

The collection of data from the citizens’ experience with a more detailed air quality mapping can play a significant role in the planning of parks. Together with the municipality of Gothenburg, we have started a series of initiatives that will provide us with information to nurture discussions and co-creation of solutions for urban planning with citizens, city officials, and scientists.

On one hand, since April, we have measured NO2 (Nitrogen Dioxide) with passive samplers place at 12 sites in Kungsparken. Every month we change the samplers, so this week we collected the samples for June and put out new samples for July. 

This month we also added active sensors for the measurement of particles and measurements of O3 (Ozone).  In autumn, the mapping activities will be extended, as citizens will be able to borrow a sensor and become active participants in the air quality monitoring.  

On the other hand, we have recently launched a survey open to everyone in Gothenburg that uses and wants to contribute to improving Kungsparken. The questionnaire focuses on the experiences occurring at the park and is aimed to provide additional sensorial information to the air quality data collected by the sensors so together they provide a solid base for further urban planning. 

We will keep you posted on the findings. Anyhow, if you wish to collaborate in the monitoring and/or ulterior dialogue, you can register your submission at this link or send an email to jenny.linden@ivl.se

Wood-burning seminar in Kristiansand

The past month of March, our Living Lab in Kristiansand hosted its first webinar on wood-burning practices. Due to the higher level of fine fraction particulate matter (MP2.5) during wintertime, the municipality of Kristiansand’s concern on the topic raised. As wood-burning is crucial to Norwegian culture, making the discussions about the reduction of PM2.5 emissions a touchy topic. Therefore, the municipality has started campaigns to raise awareness on this issue amongst its inhabitants. The activities have included the dissemination of 25 air-quality sensors distributed to volunteer citizens to measure particulate matter in key areas of the city, an online survey on wood-burning practices and house heating that has run during the winter and spring months, and, most recently, a webinar to discuss the issue and start co-imagining solutions on how to reduce the PM2.5 levels during wintertime without banning wood burning.

22 people registered for the webinar. In addition, 2 representatives of Kristiansand municipality, 3 representatives of the NordicPATH project, and 3 experts from NILU, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and the Norwegian Asthma and Allergy Association were participating in the workshop as experts. The first half of the session included short contributions from the aforementioned experts about preliminary results from the ULL activities (air quality measurements by citizens and the online survey) and knowledge on wood-burning (emissions from different stoves, health aspects, correct use of wood-burning facilities to reduce indoor exposure). The second half left room for an open discussion that touched upon key areas of concern for the participants, including:

  • The importance of the cultural aspects of woodburning in relation to health effects;
  • The emissions from woodburning in relation to other emissions. The importance of a “nuanced” discussion;
  • Energy efficiency and the need to spread the information about a “best practice” of woodburning;
  • The need to upgrade old wood burners in relation to costs and possibilities of getting financial incentives.

The wood-burning webinar was one of the initial ULL activities in Kristiansand. We are happy to see that this first attempt by the municipality to engage on a controversial topic turned to be an open dialogue with all participants at the same level. Instead of frightening citizens about data or potential measurements restricting their leisure activities, the session was open for participants’ inputs on the topic.

The participants acknowledged the importance of wood-burning and agreed it has to be kept balanced between cultural habits and detrimental health effects. Suggestions for improving the efficiency of woodburning stoves and how to improve the municipality’s communication routines were also made. These ideas have also been reflected in the replies provided through the Menitmeter© shared after the webinar and filled up by the participants.

Despite the majority of participants were already somehow connected to the project activities, and it was challenging to recruit people that are not already engaged in the topic or the Living Lab, this event proved to be a suitable tool for the municipality to gain inputs and feedback from those that do not work in the municipality. Both the municipality and we at NordicPATH are very positive about the constructive discussion and the insights they received. This knowledge, together with the results from the wood-burning survey, will be used in the upcoming work on the action plan to reduce emissions and improve air quality in Kristiansand.

As a follow-up, a co-creation workshop is planned to take place before the summer, where representatives from the municipality, from the private sector, and other actors (e.g., wood stove producers, retailers of firewood, fire brigade, etc) will discuss how they can work together to reduce emissions from woodburning in Kristiansand in the future. The format for such a co-creation workshop has to be planned together with the NordicPATH partners that are experts in participative planning in order to “get the most out of it”. We will inform you of the dates and further details soon through our project channels. Stay posted!

 

You can find the full report of the workshop in our ‘Resources’ section

Workshop Learnings: Integrating Air Quality in Urban Planning in Nordic Cities

Despite the overwhelming evidence that urban air quality has an important impact on the liveability of cities and the health of citizens, it is not yet an integral piece of the development of future urban transformations. The air quality has a potential impact on vast areas and includes the entire population young and old alike. For this reason, it requires everyone to contribute to knowledge awareness to limit the impacts; in this sense, the air quality is ‘deliberative’ in its essence. This means that it is a good driver for advancing a participatory urban planning method to sensitize, engage and involve citizens in the production of knowledge and to join efforts in shaping future healthy, liveable, and sustainable smart cities. In this context, public participation is a key element in this approach.

Air quality is a value in Nordic cities and a signifier of the quality of their urban environment. Reflecting advanced welfare state democracies, Nordic cities show the capacity to expand the concept of public participation towards a progressive and integrative model of participatory urban planning, providing a favorable context for integrating air quality in urban planning through participation.

In order to start digging into the concept of participatory urban planning, the public authorities engaged in the NordicPATH project (Aalborg, Gotenborg, Kristiansand, Lappeenranta) joined a workshop organized by Aalborg University on March 11th (2021). The meeting focused on bringing together the diversity of experiences on public participation in the participating cities and sharing knowledge across research and practice through a digital dialogue.

The workshop was particularly meaningful to advance a common understanding of participatory planning in Nordic countries. The four municipalities met and exchanged their experiences provoking, facilitating, and exchanging knowledge about what participation means in the Nordic cities, which mindsets and tools are at use, and which challenges can be addressed through NordicPath. All municipalities have good experiences with citizen participation; however, a series of present and future challenges that need to be addressed emerged from the conversation:

  • The Nordic municipalities underlined the challenge of public participation through digitalization and questioned the readiness of public authorities to facilitate participation in a post-pandemic time with increased social distancing.
  • Silos-thinking and internal fragmentation of knowledge along diverse departments impede a consensus synergy on methods and logic of participation.
  • Meaningful participation also depends on the visibility of its impact and the materialization of the diverse contributions on cities and urban identity formation for the future. As such, there is a need to anchor participation in the identity of the city as a way of fostering meaningful public debate, to establish local citizens associations and match expectations between planners, citizens, and public officials, and then to materialize and visualize the results of participatory planning in cities.
  • There is the need to create new methods to involve the voices of communities often excluded by formal public hearings, such as children.

This can prove to set a discussion for long-term transformative work in urban planning and was an essential first step to start designing collaborative strategies for the livability of cities, ensuring an integral combination of air quality and urban planning through participation. After all, the aim of NordicPATH is to create a new model to address the various needs and challenges identified during the workshops on how to look at air quality for urban development from a participatory perspective.

Actionable steps to reduce the impact of wood-burning on air quality

NordicPATH is all about facts and solutions.

A great example of this approach is the recently published article by Kristiansand Kommune. In there, not only they provide state-of-the-art PM pollution mapping with data collected from citizens’ air monitoring through sensors. During periods of unusually low temperatures over several days, the cold air has led to high levels of air pollution in some areas due to elevated levels of airborne dust, including wood burning. The cold winter weather, in combination with a rise in the time we spend home and the increase in the price of electricity, has contributed to more wood burning.

As part of a series of activities for awareness and co-creation of solutions to minimize the impact of wood-burning practices, the article also collects some good practices and actionable tips that we can all consider to make wood-burning less damaging for air quality. These tips will be extended and complemented in a collaborative workshop on wood-burning impact and practices next month. Stay tuned!

Kicking off Kristiansand Urban Lab

While a little virus paralyzed the whole world last year, NordicPATH not only kicked off but can already show a considerable amount of engagement in the Urban Lab activities in Kristiansand.

Before the summer of 2020, we started identifying stakeholder groups that could be interested in the NordicPATH activities or that would be able to support the project one way or the other. After summer, the activities in Kristiansand were officially launched during the “Sustainability Festival” (“Miljøuka”). Solvor B. Stølevik and Alena Bohackova from the Kristiansand municipality presented NordicPATH at a stand, handing out information materials and invitations to interested citizens to join the project activities.

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Their work paid off, and many citizens volunteered to host a sensor for air quality monitoring at their home and to get involved in further project activities. In autumn 2020, we could distribute about 30 sensors to interested citizens who wanted to measure particulate matter pollution in the Kristiansand air.

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“The participants have been following closely the air pollution values on their sensors. Many expressed their surprise when they discovered how much wood burning can actually affect air quality”, tells Solvor B. Stølevik.

In addition, we launched a survey about woodburning and air quality in Kristiansand where people also had the opportunity to contribute their views and ideas about how to improve urban air quality. Until now (January 2021), we have already collected over 200 responses.

Both measurement data and survey results will be presented at an event early this spring to both, the municipality and interested citizens. The event will be hosted by NILU, together with the Kristiansand municipality, and the Norwegian Asthma and Allergy Association. We also plan to invite the Norwegian Institute of Public Health to inform about the health effects of wood-burning and other particulate matter air pollution. Interested citizens will then have the opportunity to discuss results and pressing issues with the municipality and other groups attending.

“So far, the NordicPATH activities in Kristiansand seem to have found favor with our citizens. We are looking forward to continuing our good cooperation and hope that many citizens will continue their participation throughout the project period”, concludes Stølevik.

Even though the project has been running for less than one year, we have already engaged with numerous citizens in the project activities in Kristiansand. It seems they truly care about the city they live in and we are looking forward to planning and carrying out more engagement activities to raise awareness of the citizens about environmental issues and to plan a healthy Kristiansand together with them.