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Image: Elin Berge

Published: 2018-07-02

En route to a sustainable university town

FEATURE A time-saving cycle superhighway, chargeable cargo bikes and an out of the ordinary bus stop hub. In the next few years, a great deal of climate smart actions will take place on the Umeå University main campus.

About 40,000 people commute daily to Campus Umeå out of a 123,000 population. Only 3,000 stay overnight. Sometimes the area can therefore feel somewhat desolate. However, since 2013 great plans are developing to make the area more attractive.

Many stakeholders invest over a billion SEK per year into buildings, accommodation, infrastructure and sustainable energy consumption. Umeå has also been granted EU funding for Ruggedised – a Smart City project focusing on the University District.

"Within 10–15 years, Campus Umeå will become a place bustling with life around the clock," says Carina Aschan, project manager and strategic developer at Umeå municipality.

"Many of those who strive for a sustainable life will be attracted by new kinds of accommodation that render cars unnecessary. Rent could include space in a stairwell fridge to which food can be delivered by the supermarket."

Some important keystones in the climate venture will be practically invisible, such as a geothermal storage for heating and cooling, and a sensor system registering how people move to optimally distribute energy between buildings. A new web platform for open data will also be set up to collect data on energy consumption, travel data, and crime and accident reports across Umeå.

What will be more noticeable are the new transport routes on and through campus. On a regular working day in 2019, you can shorten your commute by minutes thanks to a new, wide cycle superhighway through campus. If you wish, you can also borrow an electric cargo bike to do your weekly shopping. The bikes – charged by solar cells and special batteries – will first of all be available at three stations.

"But the idea is for the cargo biking network to expand in time," says Carina Aschan.

For electric cars, here will be two large clusters of charging stations. If you instead choose to travel by bus, you will have a remarkable experience at the Universum bus stop. When the electric bus halts, the transit hub attaches to the bus like a jetway to an airplane. This reduces heat loss, and the bus can run longer on one charge.

"The idea is also to increase the status of travelling by bus and to give passengers an experience while waiting. Although, the challenge of designing a bus stop that feels both safe and attractive remains. Having a good dialogue with members of staff and students is therefore important," Carina Aschan points out.



means 'robust', and is also an acronym for Rotterdam, Umeå, Glasgow Generating Exemplar Districts In Sustainable Energy Deployment.

Photo: Malin Grönborg


Text: Camilla Bergvall
Translation: Anna Lawrence
Photo: Elin Berge

This article was first published in the magazine Think no. 1 2017.