Ecobay, Estonia's new sustainable masterplan

the schmidt hammer lassen architects firm is currently designing the masterplan of ECOBAY, a new town situated on the Paljassaare peninsula near the Estonian capital Tallinn.

With its vast vistas out over the Baltic Sea, the site has huge potential, given its proximity to the city centre and the Nature 2000 nature reserve.

The intention is to create a modern, multifunctional, mixed use development with all the possibilities and services required of a diverse and vibrant community, including housing, schools, local shops, businesses and daycare centres.

Sustainable living

Sustainability is the driving force behind ECOBAY for the team of architects, urban planners and consulting engineers working on this ambitious masterplan.

“We are convinced that we must find solutions to the challenges we have in our society – both social and environmental challenges. How do we for instance create a sustainable masterplan? How do we ensure a diverse city with an appropriate social mix – and a city which is active around the clock? And how do we create buildings that are essentially open to the outside world? These are some of the challenges we have been working to solve in ECOBAY,” says Morten Holm, partner in schmidt hammer lassen architects.

This sustainability agenda has led to a number of concrete initiatives. For instance, a multiple mix of many different functions within the community dramatically minimizes the need for transportation – most key destinations are just a walk or bike ride away. Also geothermal energy (i.e. earth’s heat), wind energy from small scale wind farms and surplus energy from nearby wastewater facility will all be utilised in ECOBAY.

In addition, the masterplan will address transport infrastructure in detail, specifically looking at the possibility of providing a new tramline.

An organically shaped masterplan

Another factor which will ensure low energy consumption is the careful spacing of buildings, maximising solar gain and at the same time minimising heat loss due to overshadowing. This has created a masterplan with buildings of varying heights. In other words, climatic studies of sun and wind have been taken in to account from the very start to ensure a sustainable basis for the new community.

Though the masterplan seems organic and almost romantic in shape, it is actually quite rational in the way it deals with the harsh winds blowing in from the Baltic Sea. Instead of a rigid urbangrid, a system of “dunes” spreads across the entire site.

The actual housing in ECOBAY will have different degrees of energy-saving features – some houses will achieve as much as 70% energy reduction.

City of the future

The overall aim at ECOBAY is to collaborate with all relevant decision makers to set new standards for future sustainable urban development.

The developer, ECOBAY OÜ, is planning a full scale development of the 481.000 sq meters masterplan within a period of the next 15-20 years. The scheme will accommodate up to 6.000 people, living and working in ECOBAY.

The ECOBAY masterplan is developed by schmidt hammer lassen architects in close collaboration with Buro Happold Consulting Engineers and Møller & Grønborg.

Still, such idealized modern developments are hardly new, and even le Corbusier designs such as these have been subject to controversy. The presentation of an organized and efficient vision of modernity has staunch critics (most notably the late Jane Jacobs) raising concerns that they may limit the organic self-organizing capacity of a city when left to grow on its own accord. Since these super-funded cities are currently in the process of creation, it has yet to be seen how their communities will grow and develop.

Above pics credited to Bustler. Except for the maps, those two were all me and MS Paint.