Helsinki Makes Sustainability a Guiding Precept for Improvement

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Every building in the neighborhood is connected to a network of compressed air hoses that transport seven categories of waste at a speed of 70 kilometers per hour to a central collection point, where the materials arrive pre-sorted.

And no parent has to walk more than 300 meters to reach a free daycare.

Until recently, another feature in the neighborhood was a driverless “last mile” electric bus that would get passengers to a subway station in under five minutes of traffic.

“The area was designed to reduce the need for cars,” said Kimmo Tupala, a communications manager from UNICEF Finland who lives in the area. “Maybe they did too good a job because I hardly see any cars on the road. Before moving here, I spent at least 40 minutes a day in my car. I’ve barely used my car since last September and I’m thinking of selling it. “

Ryan Weber, a 30-year-old software programmer from Minnesota, moved to Helsinki six years ago. Together with his Finnish partner, he bought a two bedroom unit in Kalasatama.

“At home, we spend a lot of time investigating data about what’s going wrong or we create neighborhood apps that can save us a minute here and there,” Weber said. “What I love here are all of these features that should improve my life. There’s a lot of trust in the government here to make smart decisions, and it just feels like everything is going smoothly compared to back home. “

To improve services, Kalasatama District is now collecting and distributing public digital data for 21 buildings, including information from water meters, heating systems and elevators.

“Data like this is the glue of a smart city, and like many other cities Helsinki is dedicated to experimentation,” said Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “What’s interesting is that, unlike Google’s Sidewalk Project in Toronto, which generated a populist backlash, Helsinki took a bottom-up approach to using data to improve residents’ lives.”

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