© A R Beer,2001 Return to Home page

Greenspace Management in Denmark and Sweden

Summary

The Danish experience

The Swedish experience

Regenerating greenspace in and near high density multi storey housing -
Case Studies

DENMARK
Aedalsparken
Gillesager
Hvidovre
Lyngby - Town Green
Mortenshupvej
Taestrup

 

SWEDEN
Alingsås
Angered
Bergsjön
Eriksbo
Gårdsten
Lomma  
Malmo-Holma
Malmo Bo01
Östra Uggledal

-------------------------------

 

Greenspace Management in Denmark and Sweden

Summary

The Danish experience

The Swedish experience

Regenerating greenspace in and near high density multi storey housing -
Case Studies

DENMARK
Aedalsparken
Gillesager
Hvidovre
Lyngby - Town Green
Mortenshupvej
Taestrup

 

SWEDEN
Alingsås
Angered
Bergsjön
Eriksbo
Gårdsten
Lomma  
Malmo-Holma
Malmo Bo01
Östra Uggledal

-------------------------------

 

Greenspace Management in Denmark and Sweden

Summary

The Danish experience

The Swedish experience

Regenerating greenspace in and near high density multi storey housing -
Case Studies

DENMARK
Aedalsparken
Gillesager
Hvidovre
Lyngby - Town Green
Mortenshupvej
Taestrup

 

SWEDEN
Alingsås
Angered
Bergsjön
Eriksbo
Gårdsten
Lomma  
Malmo-Holma
Malmo Bo01
Östra Uggledal

-------------------------------

Greenspace Management in Denmark and Sweden

Summary

The Danish experience

The Swedish experience

Regenerating greenspace in and near high density multi storey housing -
Case Studies

DENMARK
Aedalsparken
Gillesager
Hvidovre
Lyngby - Town Green
Mortenshupvej
Taestrup

 

SWEDEN
Alingsås
Angered
Bergsjön
Eriksbo
Gårdsten
Lomma  
Malmo-Holma
Malmo Bo01
Östra Uggledal

-------------------------------

 

Greenspace Management in Denmark and Sweden

Summary

The Danish experience

The Swedish experience

Regenerating greenspace in and near high density multi storey housing -
Case Studies

DENMARK
Aedalsparken
Gillesager
Hvidovre
Lyngby - Town Green
Mortenshupvej
Taestrup

 

SWEDEN
Alingsås
Angered
Bergsjön
Eriksbo
Gårdsten
Lomma  
Malmo-Holma
Malmo Bo01
Östra Uggledal

-------------------------------

 

Innovative solutions from Denmark and Sweden to the design, management and maintenance of urban greenspace

Denmark

The role of the Social Housing Companies in Greenspace Management

The following notes are based on discussions with staff of the DAB Housing Company - the biggest in Denmark

There are 2,000 housing companies in Denmark, DAB being one of the biggest with 40,000 flats under its administration, mainly in Zealand. All housing companies operate within a central umbrella organisation, the Boligselskabernes Landsforening. They are run as non-profit making companies.

The population of Denmark is 5.5 million. There are a total of 500,000 social housing units - mostly flats.

The poor areas of Copenhagen consist of a mixture of private, co-operative housing and housing companies with an increasing proportion of housing to be found in the private sector. The Government is also funding much of the urban renewal in these areas and much of that takes the form of private units. The role of the housing companies remains very important, as they can raise money on the capital market for new housing.

In relation to greenspace, housing companies cannot carry out new build. For instance, they cannot create new landscape areas in housing schemes themselves - other agencies do this. They can only maintain and regenerate the greenspaces adjacent to and near their existing housing through the actions of their maintenance teams.

The Danish Building and Urban Research Institute has recently undertaken a detailed study of the costs of greenspace renovation in existing high density housing areas. See summary chart.

Changing housing types and presence of greenspace

The pattern of housing shows that in the housing built in the 1940s and 1950s there was a preponderance of single or two storey terraced houses. In the 1950s a scheme was introduced of building "Park Societies" - that is building large blocks of flats including a small adjacent park. The 1960s and 1970s were the heydays of concrete blocks surrounded by landscaped areas. All those green areas are now the responsibility of the housing companies to maintain and regenerate and this has to be paid for out of rents (or service changes where housing has been privatised).

Today, rows of terraced housing with only relatively small green areas are popular again. A DAB publication showing recent trends in renovating housing blocks which have involved residents in improving the image of these estates is entitled "From the grey 70s to the colourful 90s".

Architects within DAB liaise with local Communes and local housing societies, taking a proactive role in developing a new housing area. DAB raises funds on the capital markets to enable new developments to take place. The local commune provides 14% of the total cost of a new-build housing area, with the remainder funded by DAB. Repayment is often through long-term loans. Under legislation governing housing companies, DAB is not permitted to do the work itself - it must pay outside architects and landscape architects.
Note:
Communes are the lowest level administrative authority. Smaller in scale than the UK local authorities, these have far stronger powers, greater autonomy of action and greater control over the raising and spending finance.

All regeneration of dwellings, greenspaces and hard surfaces is undertaken on the basis of residents working together with technical experts. In the main the ideas about what should happen are developed jointly through discussion groups involving the experts and caretakers as well as the representatives of the residents. The proposals for change are then drawn up by the experts and these are then discussed again before implementation. The discussion groups are formed by the apartment block/ housing area committees which are a legal requirement for the operation of housing companies. These same committees can vote to raise rents to cover the costs of the desired changes or can raise loans repayable over several years if larger sums are needed. In relation to greenspaces the necessary work is normally implemented by those already responsible for on-site maintenance, often a caretaker and a team of paid employees - plants and other materials and equipment are bought in by the people responsible for the work. Residents are encouraged to "keep an eye" on the quality of the work and do so normally through the caretaker - they know it is their money being spent.

Maintenance of greenspace areas around housing estates

Role of the Board of Residents

It is common practice within the housing owned and managed by the housing companies for a local Board of Residents to be elected to represent those living in accommodation provided by a company. Among other tasks these Local Boards control the changes to greenspaces within their sites. They also send a representative to a Central Board which represents all the housing sites run by an individual housing company in a particular area of Denmark. This Central Board has the power to take decisions in all aspects of the running of the local associations, including their administration and such things as raising the rents and even changing the proportion of the finances which must be spent on the maintenance of greenspace.

Role of the Caretakers in greenspace maintenance and regeneration and the cost of looking after the greenspaces adjacent to and near housing

All housing company estates have caretakers living on-site. A portion of the rent is allocated for the employment of the caretakers and their team. There is one caretaker per 100 flats. Their duties include maintenance of the housing and cleaning, as well as gardening and liaising with tenants. They carry out most maintenance of the greenspace themselves, but if necessary they bring in expertise, e.g. for mending paving stones. The rents tend to go up 1%-2% per annum to allow for outside repairs, e.g. mending the roof, paths, etc. The tenants (with the aid of the housing company) can obtain a loan from the local municipality and spread the cost of specific improvements over several years, if necessary. The cost of equipment comes out of the general upkeep of greenspace undertaken by the caretakers.

A research study by DAB of a large housing area in Værløse, which includes both blocks and terraced housing, concluded that it costs 305 DKr per month (£25 or Euro43 per month) per flat for outdoor maintenance, including staff costs.
Note: Maintenance staff earn
*18.000 -26.000 DKr. a month.
• As a comparison, a school teacher (a fairly low paid profession in Denmark) is paid 25.000-35.000 DKr. and the unemployed or people on sick leave receive about 12.000 DKr. (£1,000 per month).

For the larger developments care is taken by housing companies to select caretakers who are interested in green issues and then to train them on site. Note: Only 3-4 caretakers out of the 500 working in housing areas administered by DAB have a gardening background, but training is provided on site for all those interested. For instance, DAB runs one-day courses for 20 caretakers at a time on pruning trees; courses are also run on the recognition of common trees and bushes in local areas, the eradication of weeds between paving stones and other maintenance techniques. (Tenants decided 12 years ago to stop spraying the paving areas with chemicals, so they are now used to the less manicured landscapes which result.)

It is common for smaller housing companies jointly to engage outside companies to maintain greenspaces and share the cost of equipment and machinery between them.

Tenants' involvement in the regeneration of existing landscape

Approximately one third of the Local Boards have a running agreement whereby local tenants and a landscape architect from DAB undertake a regular survey of greenspace. In large housing areas this may involve visits up to twice a month, advising on developments, assessing improvements and consulting locally. In smaller housing areas these visits may only be made once a year. Factors taken into account include a reassessment of children's needs, particularly when more children come into an area. There are constant requests for more variety and for more flowers in greenspace areas.

Costing of DAB landscape architect advice in this survey work is based on 90-100 DKr. per hour per flat per year. (Note: DAB is regarded as one of the best housing companies in general and in relation to its approach to green issues.) If an area becomes run down, then DAB liaises with the tenants to make improvements involving a new design project, and to provide some limited extra funding from their central funds.

Dealing with greenspace regeneration in problem housing areas

Varying solutions have been applied to try to solve the problem of degraded urban landscapes associated with areas of housing which have a high proportion of inhabitants with social problems. These have included:

  • Approach 1- using an on-site landscape architect to work with local people
  • Approach 2 - using caretakers to stimulate residents' involvement
  • Approach 3 - total redesign of outside areas on the basis of a thorough investigation of how residents want to be able to use the outside area

Approach 1 - using an on-site landscape architect to work with local people Ten years ago Kongeleded, Roedby, on the Island of Lolland, was recognised as a problem housing area (as measured by such factors as high turnover of tenants, percentage of single parent families, percentage unemployed, etc.) Although the buildings were in good condition, the estate seemed to be in a spiral of deterioration, which was having an adverse impact on the perceived quality of life and, therefore, on people's willingness to stay in the area. The poor level of maintenance of the estate's greenspace was identified by the DAB Housing Company as a major issue and it was decided to see whether enhancing the quality of the external areas of the estates would have any impact on local people's perception of their housing area.

DAB decided to fund a landscape architect to work from an office on site for 6 months. The intention was to enable the people living there to bring forward their ideas so that the greenspaces adjacent to and nearby their homes could be changed as a direct result of understanding local people's requirements. The scheme worked well and the local people became very much involved in proposing changes - the landscape architect then produced their ideas in a format that could be implemented by the housing company's on-site maintenance teams.

Crucial to this approach were the skills of the on-site landscape architect, who enabled the local greenspaces to be reorganised so that they would work better for the local people, creating landscapes which supported what they wanted to be able to do outside their homes and the image they wanted for the place in which they lived. To work effectively with a local community the landscape architect needs to have a broad knowledge of the design process (plant material and construction) and the maintenance possibilities, as well as the long-term implications of choosing a particular design solution in preference to another. The result of this scheme was that new shrubs and trees were planted, taking account of tenants' wishes and the outside areas were "re-engineered" to meet the residents' stated needs.

It was important to the success of this scheme that the ideas developed by the landscape architect from the local peoples' involvement happened on the ground almost immediately. The implementation was financed in the main by using the existing maintenance budget. The only real extra cost was the funding of the landscape designer's post, with the first 6 months paid by the DAB Housing Company and the second 6 months paid by the municipality. The housing company's own maintenance people, who were already responsible for the greenspaces of the site, together with the on-site caretakers, did the work. Their involvement in a learning process from the initial changes onwards was regarded as important. They helped in the identification of which changes met the local people's needs, as well as developing a broader understanding of what was technically possible.

The local people were happy from the outset that the proposed changes would improve their quality of life. The impact was so strong that after one year there were no longer any empty flats on the estate. This is a good example of using an existing budget in a different way. More recently the appearance of the greenspace has declined again and the budget is now being used to fund a caretaker with an interest in plant material.

A common feature of renewal of housing areas is the creation of small fenced gardens on the ground floor of tower blocks. They have proved popular and successful in encouraging tenants to create flower areas and take responsibility for their upkeep. The local board decides whether to create these small gardens.

Approach 2 - using caretakers to stimulate residents' involvement

In one example where DAB actively encouraged a caretaker to become involved with local people in regenerating their local landscape (a substantial area where the caretaker and his team have 400-500 flats in their care), the caretaker keeps tight control of his staff and is so proud of the improved environment that he put up signs on a bridge saying "You are now leaving ****" or "Welcome to ****" . On this site the difference in the housing area is marked - outside it there are graffiti, smashed street lights and unkempt spaces. DAB invested a lot of resources in this project and the residents were very interested in being involved in the renovation of their greenspace through discussions with their caretaker. However, they were not interested in active participation themselves, on the grounds that they already paid for maintenance of greenspace, so why should they do more.

The lack of evidence of the occupiers being involved in maintenance in any of these housing schemes is one of the major differences between Denmark and Britain or The Netherlands, where attempts are being made to involve residents in the upkeep of their adjacent greenspaces.

Approach 3 - total redesign of outside areas on the basis of a thorough investigation of how residents want to be able to use the outside area

In one run down estate Gillesager the housing company opted for a radical renovation of both the housing and greenspaces. The result has been a great success with the inhabitants. The greenspaces lie inside a wall of housing (blocks of flats built in the 1950s - the courtyards have all been totally redesigned with little meeting areas (seats and a play feature, and cycle parking) outside each entrance to the blocks, with small private gardens on the opposite sides of these entrances. The gardens are slightly raised to signify the extent that they can be left open, or hedged or fenced by the tenants. They are well used. There are larger play spaces within the courtyards. There are symbolic entrances such as pergolas or carefully planted trees and shrubs and enough planting to distinguish where the courtyards start and the more public open space begins.

A special feature of the site is the green spine which runs through the middle of the development. This walkway, although in a straight line, has been most carefully designed so that it appears to flow in and out of the vegetation - there are pergolas across it in places to break it up and small meeting places and play areas (including a sports field and a play space designed to attract older children, off one side). The planting is of a high quality, with many flowering plants to attract the eye.

Following the initial major renovation implemented by the housing company, the caretakers maintain the greenspace areas, bringing in outside contractors only when necessary, all paid for through the rents.

Enhancing urban biodiversity

The enhancement of a city's biodiversity and water management are issues not specifically covered by these initiatives. However, some local schemes have succeeded in encouraging a variety of environmentally sustainable maintenance of greenspace. For example, there are bird areas where trees are not pruned.

12-15 years ago caretakers in the housing schemes started to plant a wider variety of shrubs, including roses, to provide ground cover and reduce weeds. Wood bark chippings are used in a thick layer to reduce weeding wherever there is open earth.

Hedge cutting takes place in early summer and autumn, and overall weeding has been reduced substantially over the last decade. Tenants have had to accept that there will be weeds in the summer months. This has produced a semi-natural look with thistles, etc. and even though it was not planned, the result has been an increased range of plants, and the insects and other life that they support.

However, there are drawbacks to some of these schemes. For instance, a new green plan which was implemented in one housing area in 2000 so that the area was provided with a more garden-like external environment near the houses and with areas of wilder planting 5-7 meters from the entrances, resulted in a reduction in grass cutting. This has caused residents to complain of an increase in hay fever, although otherwise they appear to be satisfied.

 

© Anne Beer, 2001

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Latest update : 3 Oct 2001