Process and policy development project for joint building ventures.
Current Swedish housing construction is a complex process, usually spanning at least 3-4 years, involving municipalities and a handful of building contractors at the very least but, perhaps more delicate, requiring the participating construction companies to co-finance the process long before the first buildings have been erected. Alternatives to this system are rarely tested, which risks jeopardising the well-needed acceleration in sustainable construction over the next decades for the rapidly growing Stockholm region. Moreover, although housing may indeed be satisfyingly built, procured companies may be less keen to secure a diverse and equal community and functioning local services for the residents. When comparing Sweden with, for example, Germany, where alternatives such as joint building ventures (Swedish: byggemenskap, henceforth JBV) are well prominent, there is a perceived need of experimenting and developing policies concerning housing and construction in order to improve the prerequisites for a just and sustainable city.
JBV is a model in which users – the intended residents of a house or neighbourhood – participate in the planning process as a co-operative society and exercise influence over all or most of the decisions. They are currently rare in Sweden and are also largely unknown to the banks that can fund them. Individual co-operative societies usually lack the sufficient funds and organisational stability to be regarded as reliable project partners from the perspective of Vinnova. Instead, the Society of Joint Building Ventures (Swedish: Föreningen för byggemenskaper) is the coordinating actor of the Divercity project initiated in 2016. The goal of the project is to create leverage for more JBVs in Sweden, using their co-operative societies as testbeds while experimenting with construction process design and construction policy development.
There are several indicators as to why JBVs are worth strengthening. If end users are included from the start, their commitment to the constructed neighbourhood is stronger, promoting a socially sustainable area. Moreover, as end users share the costs of materials and processes, JBVs are more likely to contribute to a resource efficient construction, more lasting materials and thus better potential for sustainable buildings. Furthermore, JBVs potentially constitute an addition to democratic participation in urban development.
Good practices & solutions
“What we seek to achieve requires several actors”
Co-creation between architects, urban planners, joint building venture co-operatives and researchers is a fundamental feature of the process. The project has 18 organisations participating altogether and the various stakeholder groups had hitherto had limited understanding of one another, which demands a conscious process design in order to guide each actor towards a common vision. Several workshops have been conducted to foster a common view of the challenge and the funding application was written collaboratively. There is also a regularly maintained ambition to involve stakeholders – the co-operatives – on the same terms as project partners in the co-creation process, as they are formally asymmetrically involved due to Vinnova’s requirements.
There is, moreover, a generally accepted view among the participants that a process needs to be framed by a particular methodology. In order to facilitate co-creation, the Step Dialogue is used, a process design allowing several spaces for reflection individually and in groups, gradually aiding the participants in becoming more conscious about their common core values guiding the process and their main objectives.
During step 1, a process description was developed, providing an initial overview of what needs to be done in order to realise a construction project with JBVs. The description is partially used as a supporting tool for architects, often unused to working with JBVs, but primarily for the municipalities to better understand their own operational conditions. The description covers core issues for the project, such as regulations excluding JBVs and important steps included in construction processes. It is used as a basis for step 2, in which the JBVs become testbeds for trying out various solutions and evaluating the JBVs’ potential for sustainable urban development, while municipalities are experimenting with policy labs. RISE is responsible for these policy labs as well as evaluating the JBVs and their role in sustainability aspects, whereas researchers from KTH are conducting evaluation research, for example jointly with the City of Stockholm. One notable case is the city’s pilot project Fokus Skärholmen, in which one land assignment is designated for testing a JBV project.
Divercity uses a bottom-up perspective, in which different working packages deliver output to a steering group assigned with the task of developing and spreading jointly created knowledge within the project.
Outcome & opportunities
The main long-term potential for the project, if successfully conducted and scaled, is a systemic change of Swedish housing construction policies, in which end users participate and influence the process on a broader scale than previously known.
Lessons learned & recommendations
The constellation and choice of participating actors is crucial and needs to be consciously thought-through, with particular regard to achieving a satisfying breadth of expertise. Involving the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning (Boverket) gives Divercity a credibility otherwise not gained, member-governed bank Ekobanken provides the financial perspective and Coompanion contribute their expertise on and experience from all forms of co-operative organisations.
Utilising these different knowledges separately needs to work parallel to establishing a common ground between all actors, as well as each part acquiring a driving force on their own as a result of appreciating the common benefits of the project.
Engaged partners and stakeholder groups
Alsikebolaget, Nils Söderlund Architects, Boverket, Coompanion, Ekobanken, Föreningen för Byggemenskaper, City of Gothenburg, inobi, KTH, City of Malmö, omniplan, Orust kommun, Region Gotland, RISE, Röd arkitektur, City of Stockholm, Theory Into Practice, Uppsala Municipality.
Project: Stockholm Co-creation