Recently, representatives of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association (OHBA) conducted a comprehensive housing tour in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Malmö, Sweden. Their goal was to learn some new and useful concepts in regards to sustainability, urban design and building design.

They found that one should not be afraid to experiment with design, to design cities for their residents, and to in general be creative and adventuresome.

The visitors discovered that the public and private sector in Copenhagen and Malmö are brimming with innovative planning and design concepts. The Danes and Swedes saw every mishap as a natural component of the evolutionary process of city construction.

The city of Malmö introduced an infrastructure focused on cycles and pedestrians, without preceding the move with a debate or pilot program.

Pioneering urbanists such as Danish architect Jan Gehl helped instigate a 50-year transformation of how to make cities for citizens. Gehl supports the concept of sustainable cities and, during a trip to New York in 2016, he introduced a three-part plan to achieve this goal: Folks should walk more, enjoy longer intervals in public spaces, and exit their “private cocoons.”

Today’s Copenhagen is the pedestrian and cycling capital of the globe. The transformation of the city was a direct result of planning, urban design and architectural decisions where people were considered before automobiles.

In Sweden, the trend is running toward all-natural green infrastructure by way of “low-impact development” to cope with the problem of stormwater runoff. This new innovation has been integrated into designs and presented as public amenities across Sweden.

The Danish are now known for inventive, avant-garde designs; a trend currently copied in Canada and soon to catch on in Australia.

In the public sectors of these countries, some of the best designs were not those in adherence with strict zoning bylaws; but sometimes, the boldest choices are the best!