North Sweden Cleantech

Green Zone – a Unique Model for Circular Management of Waste, Water and Energy

Green Zone is a unique pioneering project, proving that it’s possible to create an almost waste-free environment even when building and operating services like a car wash and petrol station. The synergy-based solutions for air, light, energy and water make Green Zone a centre for learning about circular sustainability.

Green Zone in Umeå was the first of its kind when it was established in 2000, and it’s still a role model when it comes to energy efficiency, environmental sustainability and a circular approach. Green Zone includes a car dealership, a petrol station with grocery store, and a fast-food restaurant. The area was planned and founded as a collaboration between Ford Motor Company, McDonald’s and Statoil with the aim of creating a service area that was a model for circular-system thinking.

Holistic approach to sustainability

The key to Green Zone’s circular sustainability is a holistic approach, with a mission to develop a system in which buildings work together to create a waste-free environment and minimise the negative environmental impact. Various forms of clean-tech solutions are applied, such as the recovery of excess heat and cooling , green roofs, reusable and recyclable materials, and filters purifying indoor air. The entire facility is supplied with waste heat from the various businesses.

Innovative lighting, heating and ventilation

One example of its approach is the smart use of sunlight and daylight. Daylight is provided through special lanterns and sunlight is harnessed and combined with electrical lighting. Solar heat is used to preheat air on the south facade, an inexpensive, smart solution that works well even in a cold climate. One of the most innovative solutions is the use of passive air cooling methods that use underground pipes to preheat and precool indoor-bound air , reducing energy consumption.

Smart water consumption and circulation

Water use is another area in which Green Zone excels. Car repair garages, filling stations, car washes and restaurants are usually among the worst polluters. But at Green Zone, only a very small percentage of the waste water goes into the municipal sewerage network. The grease and oil removal system allows most of the grey water to be filtered locally.

All storm water in the area is also handled locally, with the help of green roofs and a pond. Other examples are living plants that filter water to provide better indoor air quality, and 10,000 plants that filter the water reused for toilets. Last but not least, the car wash water is processed and recirculated, reducing fresh-water consumption to 30 litres per wash, compared with 300 litres in a conventional system.

Social and economic sustainability

Green Zone also demonstrates the economic benefits that come from building and planning for sustainability. The production cost of the area was about 20 percent higher than for the cheapest possible conventional option, but electricity consumption is around 60 percent lower than in conventional energy solutions, at only 45 kWh per square metre per year, and the electricity is generated from wind power. The energy efficiency and other smart solutions resulted in the project reaching breakeven in 2010.

Green Zone has also contributed to social sustainability. The number of sick-leave days is one of the lowest among similar facilities, due to a healthy work environment, good indoor air quality and closed systems for chemicals.

Educational destination with many visitors

Green Zone shows that it’s possible to combine human activities in loops, both biologically and technically. This has made it a popular destination for visitors who want to learn more about how to create circular, waste-free systems.

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