Swedish wood construction was a key point on the agenda at the first UN-Habitat Assembly, which focused on innovations in sustainable development.

One seminar at the conference, which was held in Nairobi, Kenya from 27 to 31 May, stressed the global importance of beginning to ‘grow our cities’.

The Swedish Wood pavilion at the UN-Habitat Assembly which took place in Kenya. Image credit: SWEDISH WOOD

The Swedish Wood pavilion at the UN-Habitat Assembly which took place in Kenya. Image credit: SWEDISH WOOD

The seminar on sustainable urban development was attended by state secretary Elin Olsson; minister counsellor Michael Hjelmåker from the Swedish Embassy in Kenya; Klas Groth from UN-Habitat in Nairobi; Sandra Frank from Arvet; and Jörgen Hermansson from Södra Building System. Tove Dumon Wallsten of Architects Sweden led the discussion that was held in the Swedish Wood pavilion, designed by architectural firm In Praise of Shadows, which was represented at the event by Katarina Lundeberg.

“There’s a huge need globally to transition to sustainable cities and Sweden’s knowledge of modern wood construction, combined with sustainable forestry, can drive this transformation. The Swedish forest and wood industry offers technical, economic and sustainable solution for future cities,” stated Jörgen Hermansson, head of Södra Building Systems, who represented Swedish Wood in Nairobi.

The theme of this year’s assembly was Agenda 2030, which fits in well with UN-Habitat’s ambition ‘For a better urban future’. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the construction industry currently accounts for 40% of global carbon emissions. The discussions about sustainable construction were therefore an important part of the agenda.

Wooden housing developer Arvet presented an exhibition on how wood construction meets all of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, with sustainable forestry and the expertise of the Swedish wood industry as core factors. Architects Sweden, in partnership with the Swedish Institute and the Swedish Embassy, also unveiled ‘Woodland Sweden’ – an exhibition about the know-how that Swedish architects possess with regard to designing wooden buildings and sustainable societies of the future.

“Sweden has amassed a great deal of experience and knowledge about modern wood construction. Building cities in wood – literally growing our cities – offers a sustainable solution to challenges such as housing supply, climate change, employment and urbanisation,” says Susanne Rudenstam, head of the Swedish Wood Building Council.

From the Swedish Embassy in Kenya, state secretary Elin Olsson later posted the assembly’s message on social media, writing that the development of cities and communities needs to take account of site-specific conditions and place people at the centre of decisions. She also stated that it is possible to solve several challenges at the same time and that Goal 11 of the 2030 Agenda, sustainable cities and communities, can and must be linked up with other global sustainability goals.