Where Aura River passes the Halinen Bridge and slowly meanders towards the heart of the city, on a wide plateau, a labyrinth of low concrete residential buildings and a few modern apartment buildings dominate the view to the left bank. On this riverbank, the 4,000-inhabitant Turku Student Village will be taking steps along the forefront of environmental sustainability in city development – and you, as a resident, are invited to join in.
The five-year RESPONSE project aims to make Student Village a so-called positive energy neighbourhood and advance environmentally sustainable city development in doing so. The international project will also provide insight into how similar districts could be developed elsewhere in Europe and the rest of the world. We are in many ways on the brink of something new and exciting!
Positive Energy District (PED) is a relatively new concept and its definitions also vary a little. However, the basic premise is that a positive energy district produces more energy than it consumes. The energy produced in a PED is based on renewable energy resources, thus leading to minimal environmental impact caused by the area. Student Village aims to achieve positive energy through a rather impressive array of tools, such as modern solar panels. Additionally, central methods in their approach include storing electricity and heat along with optimizing energy flow and improving energy efficiency in some buildings. Nonetheless, positive energy is not just about numbers, kilowatts per hour, or carbon emissions. The point is to also improve residents’ quality of life and diminish the effects of climate change.
The European Union has set a goal to have a total of 100 positive energy districts in Europe by 2025 as they play an important role in achieving the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement, for example. The RESPONSE project is connected to several United Nations sustainable development objectives. It is quite remarkable that environmentally sustainable future is not just being created somewhere far away in European megacities, but also in our cozy little Turku, on the banks of Aura River.
Every one of us can do our share for building a positive energy district by paying attention to, for example, our own energy consumption. However, the RESPONSE project does not see residents as merely passive consumers of energy but as active participants and influencers. Therefore, we would like to invite all Student Village tenants to participate in the creation of a positive energy district. While the universities and research institutes participating in the project bring in their subject expertise and the participating companies contribute with technical solutions, residents provide the best insight into their everyday actions and into how and when energy and environmental issues come up in their daily lives.
Student Village tenants will have different kinds of opportunities to influence environmental concerns through the project. Peer mentorship will play a central role in the project. Volunteer mentors will, for example, get to plan and develop new environmental actions for the area and increase awareness of environmental and energy issues. The mentors will also survey and compile views and ideas from tenants. It is important to, for example, recognize what kind of factors in the lives of Student Village tenants complicate making environmentally positive choices, or what kind of guidance is needed to implement new positive energy technical solutions.
The search for mentors is open until 14th February, so you still have a few more days left to send in your application! You can apply to be a mentor if you live in one of TYS’s Student Village buildings. No particular skills are required; simply having genuine interest towards environmental issues and wanting to make a difference is all it takes. You can find more information on the search for mentors at www.tys.fi/response.
In addition to the mentorship initiative, the project aims to organize different kinds of events and hackathons. We hope to plan and move forward with the project together with tenant committees and tenants – hopefully soon enough also face to face and through in-person encounters if the coronavirus situation improves.
Turku University of Applied Sciences
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement nº 957751. The document represents the view of the author only and is his/her sole responsibility: it cannot be considered to reflect the views of the European Commission and/or the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA). The European Commission and the Agency do not accept responsibility for the use that may be made of the information it contains.