With unique solutions and creativity it is possible to reduce our energy use even in cold places like Canada. Marie-France Stendahl from Sweden based White Arkitekter addressed Ontario architects this week at their annual conference sharing her companies' unique approach to reducing environmental impact in northern climates. Marie-France was presenting live from Malmo, Sweden, at essentially the same latitude as James Bay.
She received a grant to study permafrost and found that in the north, climate change is acting 4x faster than elsewhere in the world. The reflectivity of ice vs the absorption of other surfaces (ground and water) is one of the factors speeding this process. The reduction of permafrost is having a big impact on human habitation of the north.
In Kiruna, Sweden, for example a whole city had to be moved because of the reduction of permafrost and mining of iron ore under the city. The city launched an international competition and her firm won. They employed strategies to make sure the residents felt connected to their city while it moved slowly over time.
For a pyschiatric hospital in Greenland, where Marie-France's design work was put to the test. It was discovered that connection to nature significantly improved patient outcomes. Even the smell of a forest for example can create feelings of relaxation and reduce cortisol levels indicating reduced stress. The research is in progress but it appears that the human brain is 50% calmer and depression and anxiety levels are reduced by living in nature. Marie-Franced summarized by saying "let nature lead". Use of wood in buildings can similarly improve human well being.
Marie-France's firm has designed several bath structures in Sweden and Denmark, alllowing democratic access to bathing in lakes and in the sea, all with the goal of improving human connection to nature. Her company also focusses on buildings made of wood because of the positive impact on human health.