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KwaDukuza’s Chief Planner completes Helsinki study tour

KwaDukuza Municipality in South Africa has been working closely together with ICLEI as a Model City of the Urban-LEDS project. To reinforce the projects implemented locally, Chimene Pereira, the chief planner for the municipality, visited Helsinki, Finland – one of the European project cities – with the aim to study the city’s urban low emission development strategy. Mr. Pereira worked alongside Mr. Petteri Huuska, Environment Planning Officer for the City of Helsinki for a week in October 2015 to share knowledge and closely examine how Helsinki approaches low emission development.

One of Mr Pereira’s objectives was to learn from the Helsinki experience with green buildings and energy use strategies. Viikki Environment House, the most energy-efficient office building in Finland, provided an inspiring high-tech example of how clever design can effective reduce energy demand and thus carbon emissions, for example by generating energy for own use from wind turbines on the rooftop, which facilitates a simple yet effective practice like off-grid mobile phone charging. The visit provoked reflection on how the built environment can serve as a vehicle to implement and monitor climate change mitigation activities.

A further topic for study was the relationship between urban planning and environmental planning, specifically how Helsinki integrates sustainability planning into urban planning. It was found that Helsinki’s administrative structure follows a holistic approach, for example with the environmental unit distributing to departments flora and fauna, addressing events, transport, housing and other priorities. Aspects of Helsinki’s planning model could be replicated in KwaDukuza, for example by establishing a dedicated unit within the Economic Development and Planning directorate to solely address sustainability questions (this is not the case as part of the current administration).  

Details on programmes in Helsinki are available here: http://www.hel.fi/www/Helsinki/en/housing/environmental/programmes