Project Description

Aims and Objectives

The project supports the transition from a city district facing significant socio-economic and environmental problems to a city that incorporates a holistic approach to sustainable urban development, enabling residents to take a leading role in the ideas, design and implementation of the project.


Augustenborg was built during Sweden’s post-war prosperity in the early 1950s. At the time it was one of Malmö’s first public housing areas and was almost self-sufficient, supported by its own coal-fuelled central heating power plant. The district featured an overall layout designed to ensure optimal conditions for sunlight, and apartments were spacious by 1950s standards. Despite original enthusiasm, by the 1980s it was a very different city district: the 32 ha neighbourhood consisting of 1,800 apartments in low-rise buildings had become physically dilapidated, economically challenged and socially deprived. Numerous residents had moved out to more modern flats leaving unoccupied apartments. Additionally, the area suffered from unemployment, energy inefficiency in the buildings and severe environmental problems, particularly seasonal flooding due to an inadequate drainage system, clay soil and increasing number of impermeable ground surfaces. In addition to the costs associated with previous periods of flooding, there were also significant health problems related to untreated wastewater. Augustenborg needed a new, integrated approach to solve some of the greatest challenges in the area, which deterred investment and interest from small businesses and residents alike.

Key features

In 1998, the Augustenborg District in Malmö, Sweden initiated an extensive urban renovation programme under the name of Ekostaden (Eco-neighbourhood). The Ekostaden approach sought to address the area as an integrated whole and to transform it into an ecologically, socially and economically sustainable city district. It sets high priority on working with the local residents in this process, as well as a range of stakeholders in the public and private sectors.

Extensive renovation work was carried out on Augustenborg’s 1,600 public rental apartments (89 per cent of the total housing stock in the area) to improve their energy efficiency. Thirteen centres for waste collection, reuse, recycling and composting were built throughout the neighbourhood. They have set themselves the target of recycling 90 per cent of all neighbourhood waste. Surplus energy is fed into the district heating system as a result of 400 m2 of solar collectors, a ground source heat pump and 100 m2 of photovoltaic cells. The cost was met primarily from local funds with some additional funding from Europe.

A series of community workshops, formal design information sessions, festivals, cultural events and informal chats on street corners were carried out initially to involve residents. Thus, they shaped the whole waste management system and have dictated how the outdoor open spaces should be arranged for water collection. Other ideas emerging from residents’ demands included Malmö’s first carpooling scheme and the district’s new green energy system. It is estimated that one fifth of all residents actively participated in the various planning activities. The Local Agenda 21 office has trained 40 people in sustainable practices and has helped them find jobs. Reconfiguration of public spaces between housing blocks has provided allotments for residents, play spaces for children and increased biodiversity.

The flooding problems were solved with the addition of green roof vegetation and an integrated open storm water management system. The green roofs intercept half of the total runoff over the course of a year. A botanical roof garden covers 9,000 m2 of the industrial area. It was opened to the public in 2001 and is the largest green roof in Scandinavia. In addition, all new developments in the neighbourhood have green roofs, covering 2,100 m2 and including MKB (Malmö Housing Company) properties and public buildings.

Covering costs

Funding for the project came from a variety of sources at local, national and EU levels, as well as from MKB. In total about SKr 200 million (US$28 million) has been invested in the area, half of which has been by the MKB in improving housing stock. The project also received SKr 24 million (US$3.4 million) from the LIP initiative (Local Investment Programme) as well as an additional SKr 6 million (US$840k) from EU funding in the LIFE-programme, and the remaining SKr 70 million (US$10 million) came from the local government.

Ongoing management and maintenance work is jointly funded through the housing company (which incorporates costs into rents), the water board (through the water rates), and the city council’s standard maintenance budgets.


  • Augustenborg has become an attractive, multicultural neighbourhood in which the turnover of tenancies has decreased by almost 50 per cent and previously common environmental problems (such as flooding, energy inefficiency, etc.) have decreased significantly.
  • In addition to improvements in recycling rates, composting, incorporation of green space, storm water management and energy efficiency, the social processes, changed perspectives and increased participation are key outcomes of the project.
  • Augustenborg has also become an international example of retrofitting and incorporating participatory solutions and green space within a city, and consequently, the benefits have reached beyond Malmö.

Why is it innovative?

  • An integrated approach used throughout a neighbourhood to address issues of mitigating and adapting to climate change.
  • The involvement of the community on such a large scale in the environmental renovation of the neighbourhood.
  • The world’s first botanical roof garden and a locally-crafted solution to improve storm-water management which takes its inspiration from the natural flow of water: rainwater seeps slowly off of green roofs and then drains into small open channels that fill larger channels and ultimately feed a number of small ponds, supporting local biodiversity.
  • Augustenborg was a pioneer area when it was built originally in the 1950s and through the Ekostaden project it is again playing a leading role in sustainable city development, integrating innovative techniques and processes.

What is the environmental impact?

  • The project makes use of existing infrastructure and buildings, retrofitting them to high environmental standards. New buildings are carried out to high environmental specifications, both in terms of energy efficiency and the use of sustainable materials.
  • Augustenborg produces solar energy, providing 10-15 per cent of hot water in the area, and has recently incorporated small-scale wind production. It also featured a pilot project to test Malmö’s production of biogas from food waste. In addition to renewable energy production (80-85 per cent of district heating is from renewable sources), Augustenborg focuses on energy efficiency, with individual metering of apartments to reduce energy consumption and the upgrading of building façades.
  • Augustenborg residents have initiated a carpool in which residents can sign up to use local community cars, all of which run on environmentally-friendly fuel alternatives, namely biogas.
  • The project has incorporated a unique open storm water system designed by local residents, which incorporates natural principles of water flow and collection. Rainwater no longer causes flooding, but instead is an important asset for the area, improving its aesthetic value and supporting biodiversity – many collection ponds now feature fish and other creatures.
  • Augustenborg features the world’s first botanical roof garden, with a demonstration area of some 9,000 m2, providing local habitat and helping to absorb rainwater. Green roofs are also used in new MKB developments and schools. Overall green space has increased 50 per cent since the initiation of the project, attracting small wildlife and increasing biodiversity by 50 per cent.
  • Augustenborg has a recycling rate of over 50 per cent compliance and is supported by 13 waste-separation facilities, to which families take their household waste, and the district also is active in food composting.

Is it financially sustainable?

  • Funding for the project has been obtained from a range of sources and the project has been successfully running since 1998. Augustenborg continues to be an important area in Malmö, and related projects are planned, with the necessary funding sources in place.
  • Residents have initiated a number of local small- and medium-sized enterprises, increasing employment opportunities. As a direct result of the Ekostaden project, three new local companies have started: Watreco (working with open storm water management), the Green Roof Institute and Skåne’s Car Pool.
  • The Local Agenda 21 office has trained 40 people in sustainable practices and has helped them find jobs.
  • The notoriously high unemployment rates in the district have dropped by approximately 15 per cent.
  • The quality of life in Augustenborg apartments has increased – in terms of improved public spaces and reduced urban flooding, as well as improved energy efficiency and comfort in the retrofitted apartments. While these have been welcome improvements, the cost has not risen substantially and the previous problem of abandonment has been replaced by a new sense of pride among both new and long-term residents. Consequently, affordability has not changed, but quality of life improved.

What is the social impact?

  • The residents of Augustenborg have played a fundamental part in the process. Approximately 20 per cent of the local residents in the area have participated in dialogue meetings about the project and some have become very active in the development of the area both in terms of volunteering and through different forms of employment related to the development of the district.
  • Examples of projects that have been directly initiated by local residents include the development of an open storm water system to circulate rainwater through a more natural process that enhances the district’s urban biodiversity; a centre teaching children how to take care of and respect animals; the community carpool programme; active engagement in recycling and composting as well as energy metering; Café Summer, which functions both as a café and a space for residents to meet and share ideas. Dinners, lectures and outings are arranged. The guests play canasta, practice qi gong and have sewing groups as well as a variety of other activities.
  • At the local school, students are active in waste separation, composting and can visibly watch the process of change in their community – their school features a green roof, solar water heating and a local windmill. Students have been an important part of the process from the beginning and Augustenborg’s transformation is incorporated in their learning.
  • Augustenborg is a vibrant, multi-cultural neighbourhood, with 65 per cent of its residents from non-Swedish backgrounds, and active community involvement was key to addressing the area’s social challenges – such as unemployment, abandonment and segregation, and consequently the need to support social integration, from the beginning.
  • Two housing projects specifically for older persons have been created, with over 100 apartments and extensive garden.
  • Residents have taken an active role in making key decisions regarding their community – for example, in improving infrastructure and community facilities, increasing energy efficiency and creating spaces for community interaction. Participation in local elections increased dramatically during the project: from 54 per cent in 1998, to 79 per cent in 2002.


  • As with most projects, it was difficult to try to engage various stakeholder groups in a common process at the start. While cultural diversity is a noted strength inherent in Malmö and amongst Augustenborg’s residents in particular, it creates challenges, for example in terms of language and communication, but also continuity and trust – to get the various groups on board and challenge social segregation, which is an ongoing issue in Malmö. Importantly, having residents actively participating from the beginning helped to ensure that a diverse range of views were included.
  • Additional challenges include trying to get the various stakeholders to agree in terms of what would be beneficial for Ekostaden Augustenborg’s transformation. As the project evolved, it did not always evolve the way everyone thought it should. Though challenges remain, engaging the stakeholders continually has helped to ensure a higher rate of acceptance.

Lessons Learned

  • Participation is crucial to ensure success. In this project, the residents are the real experts.
  • It is important to ensure a holistic approach to sustainable city development, considering social, economic and environmental aspects.
  • Support, enthusiasm and understanding from key politicians and decision-makers are vital. Timing is crucial.
  • Communication and access to information throughout the process is key to ensuring a good understanding of the project.
  • Testing new innovations and supporting local initiatives and small businesses can help in redefining the city as a whole.


The project was initiated in 1998 and is ongoing. Rather than a project with a set completion date, it is a process that continues to evolve, building on past lessons and pushing new notions of holistic approaches to sustainable urban development. The Ekostaden project has been extensively monitored, with improvements in energy efficiency measured, evaluated and analysed and information about Ekostaden Augustenborg discussed with local residents, as well as published on Malmö’s homepage and in related materials about the district. The Green Roof Institute, also in Augustenborg, monitors increases in urban green space and rainwater movements.


Following on the success of the Ekostaden project, the City of Malmö is testing many strategies simultaneously, particularly in terms of energy efficiency and sustainable city planning (e.g. Malmö’s Western Harbour), retrofitting existing areas and post-war buildings (sustainable regeneration of post-war housing) and engaging citizens in urban development processes. The most recent focuses in Augustenborg include climate change adaptation strategies, wind turbines and urban and organic agriculture. Locally, certain key features first piloted in Augustenborg have since been applied in other areas of Malmö, including use of green roofs on new buildings, green points in urban areas, production of biogas to fuel city buses, incorporation of open storm water management, citizen-initiated car-pools and the installation of renewable energy systems. Nationally, the innovations and strategies implemented in Augustenborg and other parts of Malmö stand as an example of sustainable urban development in new and existing areas and the City provides guidance and support to help push forward similar programs elsewhere. Over 15,000 study visits have been carried out to the neighbourhood (national and international). The project serves as an example of how to transform existing neighbourhoods into more eco-friendly alternatives. Visits to the Green Roof Institute in particular have influenced roof design and demonstrated possibilities for architects and developers in different parts of the world.  Augustenborg was featured as a case study for good practice in urban climate adaptation at the United Nations COP15 climate change conference in Copenhagen in December 2009.


Local government, Academic/Research, Local community