Exporting the Nordic Model

28 September 2017

What is the Nordic model and how can it be used in other parts of the world? This was a central discussion at the Nordic Edge smart cities conference in Norway.

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Neel Strøbæk

Neel Strøbæk

Senior Group Director, Sustainability & CR and Group Market Director for Planning & Urban Design
T: +45 5161 8641

By Andrew Somerville

There has been significant focus recently on the role of the Nordic model in urban development and how it can help contribute to developing to more sustainable and liveable cities in other parts of the world. But what exactly is the Nordic model? This question was up for discussion at the Nordic Edge smart cities conference in Stavanger, Norway this week.

There has been significant focus recently on the role of the Nordic model in urban development and how it can help contribute to developing to more sustainable and liveable cities in other parts of the world. But what exactly is the Nordic model? This question was up for discussion at the Nordic Edge smart cities conference in Stavanger, Norway this week.

Herbert Dreiseitl, Director, Liveable Cities Lab, Ramboll was among invited speakers to a special session ‘Exporting Nordic Cities’ and for him the key to the Nordic approach to urbanisation is taking a long-term perspective. “It is about bringing the social, health and liveable aspects of a city together,” he says. “And it is about having a more holistic view when you approach projects and trying to bring people together as early as possible.”

Is there something particular about the way of thinking in the Nordics? “It is hard to generalise but perhaps as someone who is German but has great experience and a love of the Nordics, I can say that there is a way of being more humble in the Nordics – a more human and more honest approach.”

He sees clear advantages when using such an approach outside the region. “At Ramboll, we are conscious of the fact that we are different in the services and solutions we can bring to cities outside the Nordics. In the US for example, we move things away from the political and try to put them on a human level,” he says. “We don’t just see technology in isolation but embed technology in a social quality and express it through an aesthetic design.”

Award-winning Norwegian architect Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, co-founder of the architectural firm Snøhatta, argued that we should be careful in thinking we can simply export the Nordic model outright. “Everything should be seen in the context of its surroundings; we cannot just impose what we think of as Nordic on a particular city. But we can exchange some of the ideas that we think are unique. We should share or exchange the Nordic model, not sell it,” he said.


A blue seal for a green approach

In 2016 Ramboll’s green approach got a blue seal of approval from independent experts at the National University of Singapore, Zeppelin University in Germany, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The experts delivered input to a study spearheaded by Ramboll’s Liveable Cities Lab, and revealed the multiple, interrelated benefits associated with blue-green infrastructure:

  • It improves water quality and very effectively controls stormwater and flooding.
  • It increases urban resilience and adaptability to climate change compared to traditional grey infrastructure.
  • It creates enhanced spaces for mental and physical recreation and social activities, thereby also attracting residents, businesses and tourism. 
  • At its best, blue-green infrastructure contributes to a city’s symbolic capital.

Ramboll Group A/S

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