Kalasatama seen from the air. Photo: Tero Pajukallio

The New York Times praises Helsinki’s climate action and smart city development

The first-rate U.S. newspaper The New York Times writes about the Helsinki district of Kalasatama in an extensive article. The article highlights services that ease Kalasatama residents’ everyday life, smart city experimentation and climate-friendly energy solutions. Helsinki is presented in the article as a city with first-rate sustainable development and an outstanding quality of life by international standards.

The goals of Helsinki to achieve carbon neutrality and Helsinki’s smart city development are highlighted in an article in The New York Times published on 14 October 2020. The extensive article presents Kalasatama, which serves as a model area in Helsinki for solutions to achieve climate goals and for smart city development.

Among the many qualities of Helsinki highlighted in the article, The New York Times praises Helsinki’s approach to smart cities, whereby the city’s public data is utilized to serve citizens and to provide smooth everyday life for citizens. The paper has interviewed local residents, urban solutions developers and representatives of businesses for the article. The article presents Kalasatama’s driverless vehicles, shared spaces, mobile robots, electric car sharing, rooftop saunas and renewable energy solutions in housing units.

“It’s magnificent that Helsinki’s efforts to promote sustainable development and digitalization are applauded in the leading international media. It’s our goal in Helsinki to develop scalable solutions to global problems. The fact that the ambitious work of Helsinki is written about will attract first-class experts and enterprises to Helsinki,” says Helsinki Deputy Mayor Anni Sinnemäki.

The current themes of Helsinki highlighted in the article comprise participatory budgeting embracing all citizens of Helsinki and Helsinki Energy Challenge, in which the City of Helsinki has challenged innovators in a competition to develop sustainable solutions for the city’s heat production. The main prize is one million euros.

Smooth and versatile living highlighted

The New York Times article discusses the diversity of housing alternatives in Helsinki ranging from rental housing to owner-occupied housing. The article presents the co-housing project Sumppi of Kalasatama, in which the residents designed the mid-rise residential building of their dreams with the help of the builder and a consultant. The features that the residents introduced into the plans include renewable energy and communal shared spaces.

“Kalasatama is presented in the article as an area that provides examples of how residents are able to affect their building in the planning phase. For example, the builder has thus been able to provide them with more shared spaces,” says Maija Bergström, who was interviewed for the article in her role as the Smart Kalasatama project manager at the City of Helsinki innovation company Forum Virium Helsinki.

Smart everyday life and experiments for the future

The New York Times article brings up the goal of Helsinki to become the most functional city in the world and presents smooth everyday life in the city. For example, the article discusses the waste collection system in use in Kalasatama and in some other new areas of Helsinki. In the system, sorted waste placed in dedicated containers is sucked automatically to a central waste collection station via underground pipes.

The article also discusses experimentation carried out in Kalasatama used to produce findings and knowledge of new urban solutions before they become commercially available.

Among the experiments, the article mentions the driverless robot bus of the MySmartLife project that shuttled passengers in the area last year, as well as an ongoing experiment in which a robot delivers food from the local REDI shopping centre to the homes of residents in the Majakka residential tower.

To conclude the article, film director Mika Kaurismäki says that Helsinki has become an international city open to new ideas. He likes the fact that here is much less stress in the city these days and describes how he gets around by electric scooter.

Helsinki’s goals to become carbon neutral, tools to measure progress toward the goal, and smart city development have gained a great deal of visibility in the current year. In the autumn of 2020, Helsinki ranked second in the Smart City Index 2020 among 109 smart cities worldwide. The international media that have also profiled the smart city development in Kalasatama include CNN and Independent.

Read the New York Times article in full

Photos: Tero Pajukallio