How would we do if we restarted from scratch, if we really brought ecological and social sustainability to the forefront? From that framing of a question, Hubville has emerged, with a strong ambition to succeed quickly enough to transform society into resilience
A completely new society within ecological borders, where people love to live, work and socialize. The good life in harmony with nature. Here, there is a balance between ecological social care, quality of life and the conditions for a thriving business that takes responsibility for future generations.
Hubville is a collaborative project that includes experts’ suggestions and the public’s dreams and wishes for a better future society.
A desirable lifestyle within ecological boundaries
To change the world, we need a clear direction, and to unite around a common goal. We want to create an ecologically sustainable society where people feel good, and develop socially and professionally. A society characterized by participation within the planet’s boundaries, which is kind to the earth that provides all the inhabitants of the earth with food.
A new urban development will be the foundation for a new social norm, in Sweden and internationally. The dedication of many people gives life to a social narrative anchored in the care of each other and the planet.
Vetlanda is the planned pilot municipality for Sweden’s first Hubville, a city development project that will show how a sustainable society can look in reality.
”It is honorable that we have been selected to be part of the process to develop the sustainable society of the future. Hubville’s focus on ecological, economic and social sustainability is well in line with our local councils” – Henrik Tvarnö, mayor of Vetlanda.
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Your health journey starts even long before you are born, and your health is not only physical. The list of factors that make up your total health is long. Health is a complex result of many interacting factors.
In such a complex situation, can a city really improve your personal health? Isn’t it a result of personal decisions?
We like to reverse that question and say that a city needs to do what a city can do to facilitate for its citizens possibilities to enjoy a healthy life. The examples are numerous: traffic systems that separate soft from hard (people from cars), and blend equal (people with people); facilitate and encourage natural physical activities; fight off all tendencies for limiting a diverse supply of nutritious food sources (in some countries referred to as food deserts where only mass produced junk food is available).
We also need to take the social factor serious. In so called blue zones around the world (Okinawa, Sardinia, Ikaria) where high proportions of people over 100 years can be found, the social factor has been noticed by researchers as critical for people to reach that type of ages. Not only do they get old, they enjoy it to, and the reason is that they are part of the society, even at such esteemed ages. They are asked for, invited to gatherings and respected.
Transportation is such a comprehensive concept that it should be divided into different areas and includes everything from long distance to local and people and goods respectively.
The Hubville concept was founded on the idea that a new sustainable and attractive city outside the metropolitan regions, could generate revenue from real estates to build infrastructure for maglev trains or Hyperloop (trains in near vacuum tubes). Such a transportation system would be used for both people and goods.
Long-distance transport for people, is one of the most difficult challenges of the transition to a sustainable society, on the basis that people want to continue traveling between different countries.
Aviation will not offer fossil fuel alternatives for several decades. At the same time, the transition to high-speed trains at distances requirer huge investments and cross-border collaborations.
But are the only high-speed alternatives really maglev, hyperloop and aviation? Aren’t those solutions based on old thought patterns? Currently trains weigh around 1 ton per passenger (maglevs less). Maybe it is possible to develop fast train transportation based on the current road infrastructure, with a weight that is a fraction of today’s trains, and which would therefore not be so expensive to build infrastructure for? With just two seats next to each other the trains could have a much lower air resistance and distributing its weight over a wider area. And, is it perhaps a flaw conclusion that aviation has to be replaced with just as fast trains?
If trains would create a comfortable alternative also in long-distance travel, even if it takes longer than a flight, it should provide a mandate to decimate aviation.
However, the Hubville concept will focus on short term transportation of persons and goods, although the ecological impact of long distance travel will be factored in.
The local logistics of goods is based on a society using old structures. That is why the ecological footprint from ”last mile” has such a large ecological impact. We are certain that there are more efficient alternatives that works well for both existing and new cities. This is one of the most important areas for Hubville to achieve ecological sustainability.
In addition, we see urban the connection of transportation and societal sustainability, for what if transportation and city planning can be constructed so that most of the streets were safe and accessible for social interaction?
In many cultures, paradise is described as a garden-like setting with lush gardens and lots of fresh water flowing. Therefore it is not surprising that well known cities, listed as beautiful and romantic, have implemented strategies for how to include green and blue elements in the design of the city. As always, the diversity in what we humans enjoy and regard as beautiful is enormous, a Japanese moss-garden is very different from English Sissinghurst, is very different from Grenadas Al Hambra in present Spain. The Hubville strategy is to embrace this diversity and present different types of green and blue rooms, but with a connection to regional traditions and prerequisites. We also believe that green and blue environments are best served with a richness also in other living beings than humans.
As our lives have gotten busier, our worlds have gotten smaller. Hyper-focus on ourselves, our work and immediate family leaves too little energy to support other relationships: friends, neighbors, elderly or ill extended family. We have become simultaneously more connected (superficially, through social media) and more disconnected (less meaningful personal interactions).
Social isolation causes stress, anxiety and depression. How can thoughtful urban planning, architecture, landscape architecture, and interior architecture encourage more meaningful social interaction between inhabitants in a neighborhood or building. What types of spaces bring people together and encourage more meaningful connections? How can we recreate a sense of village in a larger urban environment? Through communal dining? Shared spaces? A commitment to being a part of giving and receiving via regular community service? Shared gardens? Classes taught by community members in their area of expertise? Computer programming? Art? Woodshop? Accounting?
Social support, like care taking for children, elderly and disabled are one of six key variables when happiness index is measured.
In the latest World Happiness Report from UN from March 2019, Finland scored highest, followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands. All five well known for their well functioning formal social support systems. Sweden ended up as number seven. The biggest loser this year, falling quickly in the ranking, was Venezuela, where the social support system is cracking up, caused by economical and political turmoil, followed by social unrest and brain drain when people are leaving the country.
The challenge for the happiest countries are how to improve the system, deliver even better care, without using the taxation card.
In Hubville we strongly believe that the civil society can complement the formal social support systems to a much higher degree. It is tricky to source soft qualities like love, friendship and affection in a formal system.
A fundamental for a circular economy is its restorative and regenerative design.
As such, a circular economy redefines growth. It gradually decouples economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system. It is focusing on positive societal benefits.
It supports a transition to renewable energy sources, and as such circularity builds economic, natural, and social capital.
In a circular economy, the economic activity builds and rebuilds overall system health. Its fundamentals are to design out waste and pollution; keep products and materials in use; and to regenerate natural systems.
The concept emphasize the necessity of the economy required to work effectively at all scales – for large and small businesses, for organizations and individuals, globally and locally.
Changing to a circular economy require a systemic shift to build long-term resilience. In a global economic shift towards sustainability it will generate huge business opportunities and societies taking a pole position will have an opportunity to create a competitive edge.
In addition to the environmental and economic aspects, a circular economy comes with societal benefits, not the least the psychological resonance on treating nature with respect.
The Hubville concept deals with circular economy at the local level as well as it endorse the import of products and services with the lowest possible impact on nature. We believe that if we can show on a local level how it is possible to push a modern Western society toward circularity, it can be a role model for circularity in other societies.
If water is important for survival, air is maybe the only resource that can top water. Shortage of air kills you in minutes, polluted air kills you slowly but surely. Therefore it is not surprising that we enjoy the feeling of clean fresh air. Breathing fresh air is like breathing life.
Very closely related to air is the smell. What we experience as good smell or bad smell is influenced by both biological and cultural contexts. It is probably fair to say that a medieval city would be a nostril chock for most of us. Entering the Swedish cities of Solna or Sundbyberg when the local coffee company just roasted a batch of coffee beans is an absolute landmark in sensory place marketing.
Finally we add light and sound to this focus area. We believe that a modern city planner must pay attention to all senses, since they are the inputs that form the overall city experience. Darkness and total silence are rarely, never, experienced in cities nowadays, and yet they are regarded as medicine-like properties in many cultures. How can we improve this situation without adding element of feeling unease and insecurity?
In the past, people moved to places where industries were located. Now, persons are the assets and where they choose to settle, jobs are created.
A key for financial success is therefore to provide environments for people in which they grow as individuals as well as professionally. This is achieved, among other things, by pushing the boundaries of social sustainability, in order to fulfil a need of connection and participation in society.
Ecologial sustainability is gaining attention large corporations as a strategic key issue, but still only a few have managed to put it implement it. Most are still stuck in old business models.
However, the new generation of millennials is placing higher demands on companies. It is no longer enough for an employer to offer a high salary and stimulating tasks. Now, it shall also be meaningful and value-creating. Many people believe that these demands on employers will become increasingly important.
In addition, we, as customers, place increasing demands on suppliers. If they cannot show that the entire supply chain is fair, then we will choose to go to someone else. Alongside this, the legal requirements for companies to act within the ecological boundaries are increasing.
The conclusion is that companies that previously had the goal only to maximize shareholder value, will need to take greater social responsibility in order to be competitive in the future.
If you say Barcelona to people, many of them immediately embark on a mental journey. They move to Barcelona, in their mind. The mentioning of other well known cities and places cause the same effect. Why?
We like to believe that it is not only because of the fair climate. Instead we believe that the culture, the atmosphere, the possibilities to experience something stimulating everyday is something that people all over the world find attractive and covet.
Therefore it is important for a modern city with ambition to create an encouraging open environment for a diversity of cultural experiences. What exactly comes out of such an open mind and process is not for the city to interfere in, as long as it falls under common decency and legal frameworks.
If the development is successful, the possibilities for the city to brand itself alongside with its flourishing cultural platform. Creating potent images for future visitors, investors and residents, not to forget the positive effects for people and organizations already part of the city.
More and more this aspect comes under the microscope as cities are the places where most people live. And the urbanization trend continues.
Cities may be very efficient, but they are not designed for being resilient, especially not modern city where every aspect of costly resilience has been carved away as unnecessary redundant fat to instead make room for slim, just in time, supply solutions, based on global specialization and cooperation.
Many cities are also situated close to rising sea levels, which make them very vulnerable.
Resilience and robust solutions are cornerstones in the Hubville concept. We believe we need to invest in solutions that secures essential supply flows such as energy, water, waste and food, alongside with an ability to take local action such as fire, security and rescue. This means that we will think more off-grid and local supply for creating resilient short term solutions until long term sustainable actions can come into play.
However this is not a strategy to create self sufficient isolated islands. Global supply flows and cooperation are still what we believe the long term most efficient sustainable resilient solution.
Water is among the single most important resources for survival, in a shorter perspective, much more important than food. Water is also the key element in all living life processes, starting with the photosynthesis, that with the help from solar power, in plants, converts water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and sugar, the raw materials for life.
To protect and safe guard this valuable resource is an important mission for a modern society, like Hubville. We also want to take this a few steps further, to question what we use water for. How can we minimize the usage of such a valuable resource in situations where other options are possible and maybe more resource efficient?
“The paradox of education is this – that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” – James Baldwin
In order to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing society, we need to rethink education and how we prepare our children for jobs and industries that don’t exist yet. Education will need to encourage creative problem solving, independent thinking and collaboration.
In recognition of this, Hubville created a school project which is bringing issues of sustainability to grade schools and asking them to brainstorm solutions. The intent of this is two-pronged. One, we would like children to have a voice in building the society they will inherit. Second, taking an active role in shaping their future transforms their anxious energy into action resulting in optimism and a sense of empowerment.
Our goal is to encourage our children to challenge the status quo via a solution-based mentality versus blame-based which can result in paralysis and depression.
Some say that if we all turned vegan, the world would be saved. And it’s easy to understand that argument when you take a look on the amount of resources (energy, land, water, pesticides etc) needed to produce 1 kilo of protein from beef compared with 1 kilo of protein from beans.
We also eat food from all over the world. It is perfectly ok and easy to get hold of most of the ingredients for the much appreciated Thai food cuisine all year around in Stockholm or most other places for that matter, thanks to global trade and very well developed supply chain processes.
In Hubville we believe that proximity and relation is the starting point for understanding and conscious behavior. The food taste best if you know the story behind it. Therefore we are committed to forge food supply relations between the city and its closest surrounding suppliers, where local conditions in season and traditions set the limits on what can be found in the local food store, as a general rule of thumb. Not limiting availability of precious food from all over the world, if story can be presented and verified.
What about beef then? We need the animals, not so much for eating them, as we need them for a diverse landscape and for serving diverse availability of the plants we eat and enjoy. We should honor the animals by not making beef cheap staple food found in meter long counters at the super market. The price for that falls entirely on the animal, having a miserable life, damaging the environment. Instead we make beef a discretionary buy, enjoyed at special occasions in smaller quantities but with superb qualities and good stories behind it. Sold by the farmer directly or at the specialized butcher shop, never found at the super market.
The discussion about energy is often the sources of energy, and of course as an ecological initiative, we advocate sustainable energy sources.
However, energy consumption and whether a society can manage at least a minimum level of energy production is often outside the scope of the debate.
The consumption of energy cannot be perceived as a limitless source, and since renewable energy is still a finite resource, high consumption will effect in a higher use of fossil fuels.
Thus, energy use optimize sustainability when the sources are clean, and the consumption if minimized. Lowering energy consumption is only partly the choices made by consumers, corporations and civil society. It is also to facilitate behavior and design. One such design is to use spaces more effectively.
Another is to build infrastructure to decimate the high energy consuming last mile logistics.
Energy as a factor for resilience means that if there are disturbances in the national energy grid, a city and a municipality has the means to produce and provide at least a minimum energy to maintain a society at a minimum level. Such energy sources are pre-dominantly sun, wind and hydrogen power.
Trade and consumption, the two cornerstones for human development, and yet the two most obvious reasons for the biggest challenge human kind now faces, the climate change. We are using resources in a pace and scale that is threatening not only our existence, but most other living creatures too. The word omnicide – everything dies – is a frightening word, describing the scenario.
And yet, trade is peace, people interacting and sharing. Consumption is access to food, medicine, clothing, shelter and making life easier.
Hubville does not mean end of global trade and avoiding consumption. However we want to make it easier for our citizens to make good conscious choices, never crossing the planetary boundaries. Product and services in Hubville should all be at the very edge of best practice.
We also want to promote new ways to consume, as experiences, seeing new things, meeting interesting people, listen to music or just doing nothing, starring at the sky, enjoying free unallocated time.
What is a good living? Is it to have a lot of private space, to be close to nature, or the city pulse, a tranquil environment or a place for social activity?
How is it possible to create the fundamentals for a living making us contented and socially interactive, and at the same time staying within the planets ecological boundaries.
Of course everyone has personal preferences, and such preferences vary over time, also the space we need. During a lifetime the we might start our first adult household with a studio apartment, and maybe a growing household is in need of more space, and then again the need for space shrink.
What if our accommodations, were possible to adapt to our changing needs, and still making it possible to stay at the same place, should you so desire. A part of our concept is to enable a flexible personal space, adaptable to the different phases of life.
Another essential part of our living environments are the possibility for social interactions. Many of us benefit to have common social spaces integrated to our living environments, such as dining rooms and craft studios. Such common spaces can have several purposes during the days; perhaps a classroom or a cafe used for dining in evenings, or a textile store used for co-living community craft when the store is closed.