Brownfield development of Merwede in Utrecht, aiming sustainability

Brownfield development of Merwede in Utrecht, aiming sustainability

Merwede is a neighbourhood in Utrecht, one of the fastest growing cities in the Netherlands. An old industrial area, it is now undergoing a transformation process based on urban planning criteria that puts clean and shared mobility ahead of the existing prioritisation of road traffic.The demolition works have begun in 2020 and the final project includes sustainable housing for around 12,000 people (the first residents are expected to move in by 2024). The new neighbourhood of Merwede will enable residents to access all the services on foot or using bicycles. It aims also to become the most sustainable city possible. The key elements of this smart, sustainable urban development initiative are the following:

To become a car-free neighborhood

In Merwede, it is estimated that there will only be three spaces for every 10 households reserved for cars and 300 of these will be for shared vehicles. There will be networks and services in place for shared cars and bicycles, with plans for an entire public transport system that will connect the neighbourhood with the whole of the Netherlands. The challenge is obvious: instead of one (or more) cars per household, there will be one car for every three households, which will free the streets of traffic and parking spaces. The heart of the district itself will be a car-free zone.

Walking, cycling, public transport

Instead of cars, the project designers are looking to further boost the use of bicycles in Merwede. The new city district of Merwede is a good start for a shift from cars to cycling and walking and from private ownership to sharing. Apart from reducing pollution, cycling can help to reduce stress and the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type-2 diabetes and strokes. Furthermore, bike-friendly cities can also increase the safety of cyclists. Therefore, the city council wants cycling to be even more attractive for these and other citizens and Utrecht’s mobility policy has this transport system as its central theme.

Gardens and solar panel rooftops to save energy

Instead of areas reserved for parking vehicles, Merwede will have lots of green areas and public spaces. In fact, every block that is built in this area will have an interior garden and the idea is for many of them to be accessible to all residents. All services are planned to be within a short distance, so people can go shopping, work and practice sports in the neighbourhood and relax on a terrace in one of the city’s squares without having to use their cars.Greenery and solar panels will be installed on roofs, with the aim of making the neighbourhood more sustainable.