Long regarded as a pioneering area for sustainability, Stockholm promotes green living in all aspects of its society. And now, in the midst of a citywide construction boom, the Swedish construction industry is staying green. At the major Swedish construction group Skanska, the climate challenge is considered at every step of the construction process.

Commissioned two years ago, Skanska was instituted by Stockholmshem–Stockholm’s largest housing company–to embark on a unique climate-smart project to life.

In 2014, Stockholmshem won a contest hosted by Stockholm City that emphasised aesthetics and energy consumption due to its holistic approach to energy efficiency and clean environments via an innovative architectural expression. Skanska was developed to realise this vision.

The resulting development, situated in the sustainability pioneering region of Norra Djurgårdsstaden in Stockholm’s Östermalm borough, was called Backåkra 2. In accordance with its goal to guarantee quality and execution while also achieving energy targets, the development, which consists of a pair of tenement buildings, is unique in a number of ways. For example, both buildings offer twisted roof-ridges and produce more energy than is needed for their operation.

Niklas Leveau, Green Business Developer at Skanska, said that the visual uniqueness and a number of technical solutions like garbage disposal and energy recovery heat exchangers, render Backåkra buildings as being different from previous projects. And both come complete with indented, glass-encaged balconies to cut down on energy waste. And thanks to its abundance of solar panels (730 square meters), south-facing roofs, and borehole energy storage, the buildings qualify as plus energy houses that sell some of the energy generated on the electricity grid.

Leveau says that Backåkra 2 is sustainably successful in that it blends a number of small environmental elements together in the interest and promotion of energy consumption and carbon footprint.

Another Stockholm developer, JM AB, which recently constructed single-family housing and apartments in Norra Djurgårdsstaden, also embraces the concept of absolute sustainability in its building practices—opting for climate-friendly solutions whenever they are beneficial and applicable.

JM instituted its work with energy-efficient building in 2000. Now their buildings make use of, on average, 50 percent less energy than a decade ago. Now all of JM´s ongoing building projects are “Svanen-certified” – the construction business’ top recognition for the employment of climate-smart materials.

Kjell-Åke Henriksson, Head of Energy and senior advisor Installation at JM, says that this company has reduced the energy consumption of buildings by half by making their technical aspects standard and streamlined. The company imposes centralized orders on anything not directly value-creating for the client, such as heat pumps, insulation, windows, and energy forecasting systems.

Henriksson says that a climate-centred agenda does not necessarily equate higher building costs for developers; and that a focus on energy-efficiency and climate-friendly materials is actually economically beneficial.

These measures can reduce the operating costs of the building, says Henriksson, citing solar panels as an example.

Also in Stockholm, the Swedish real estate firm Vasakronan is taking a fresh new approach to sustainable construction by remodeling of standing buildings.

Anna Denell, Sustainability Manager at Vasakronan, says that the most ecofriendly action to take in the construction industry is to retrofit old buildings, especially when one factors in the substantial climate impact of concrete. Her company is currently applying this approach to Sergelhuset, the old SEB offices in Stockholm. The company became committed to modernising and adding solar panels and rooftop gardens to buildings.

Vasakronan’s Sergelhuset project, says Denell, is a needed step for the firm to attain its objective of becoming completely carbon neutral by 2030—as applied to both the maintenance and the production of buildings. The whole idea is to maintain and re-envision standing buildings.

Furthermore, the exalted sustainable standards maintained by Stockholm’s construction companies aren’t for houses only. At Stockholm Arlanda, the international airport north of the capital and one of 30 airports across the globe to have achieved a top score on the global carbon management programme Airport Carbon Accreditation, the sustainable building work is also revolutionary. The recently finished Office One, a new office space constructed for minimum energy waste, is an example of how sustainability can be made normal on an organisational level in the building business.

Stefan Stenberg, CEO Swedavia Real Estate, says that sustainability is a chief consideration for Swedavia’s commercial buildings, with Office One a prime example of the firm’s BREEAM-certified sustainability assessment method. The company, says Stenberg, is concerned with the issue of sustainability and aims to attain excellence by way of state-of-the-art techniques.