4. Sustainable Land Use

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4. Sustainable Land Use

4A. Present Situation

Present Situation

Green Urban Lahti and Ecosystem Services

City of Lahti has set ambitous targets for protecting the green and blue urban areas and their valuable functions. Due to a specific geographic structure, the Ice-Age ridge “Salpausselkä”, there is a green spine-like-structure throughout the whole city (Fig. A1). This provides easily accessible green urban infrastructure for the citizens and provides an ample of ecosystem services. Regional green network connects the recreational and sport facilities of Lahti Region (Map 2).

Salpausselkä ridge forms a green corridor for urban area of Lahti.

Figure A1. Salpausselkä ridge forms a green corridor for urban area of Lahti. Click to enlarge map.

Ecosystem services are being mapped for the entire Lahti area. The Master Plan requires evaluation of impacts on ecosystem services, when developing new areas. Green infrastructure is kept and improved with future wildlife over- and underpasses (4C). Wetlands are used for managing stormwater in new developments or added to old urban areas. A system of meandering streams, a retention pond and a wetland have been built in Karisto. Approximately 10-20 green roofs or other green structures (e.g. rooftop gardens) exist in Lahti.

The quality of the green and blue infrastructure is monitored and progressively improved. City of Lahti annually publishes an Environmental Review with the key blue and green infrastructure indicators. These key indicators are, e.g.:
• Areas protected, percentage of the municipal land area (%)
• Habitat sites protected under the Environmental Protection Act (ha)
• Traditional landscapes (ha)
• Percentage of lakes in good or excellent condition (% of total lake surface area)
• Lake water chlorophyll a, measured in August (µg/L)

Accessible Blue and Green Areas of Lahti

• Blue and green areas cover over 80% of Lahti (Fig. A1).
• In 2015, Lahti had 164 playgrounds, 39 kindergarten yards, about 30 schoolyards, 40 sporting grounds and 8 communal gardens.
• Urban green areas are mostly forests with extensive path networks and other recreational structures (huts, bonfire sites).
• All forests and meadows, in Finland, are freely accessible for roaming or picking wild berries and mushrooms (Everyman's Right).
• Forest paths have many information signs, but more need to be installed.
• Forest paths are often covered with wood chips (soft, for running).
• In winter, some forest paths are managed for skiing. Lakes have managed skiing and skating paths.
• Nature conservation areas have good and accessible infrastructure: information signs, wooden paths and bird watching towers.
• Lake Vesijärvi and smaller lakes are actively used for swimming (16 public beaches), fishing and skiing.

Growth of Lahti

In 1868, Lahti had merely 18 houses but then, a railway was built and a canal to Lake Vesijärvi was constructed. These transport routes spurred development. New residential and industrial areas were rapidly built. Only 10 years later, Lahti received market town rights and a first urban plan was devised. The City of Lahti was established in 1905. In the 1930’s, Lahti was one of the fastest-growing cities in Finland (Fig. A2). The population grew exponentially until 1975. Since the mid-1990’s, the population has slowly increased. Since merging with the neighbouring municipality of Nastola in 2016, Lahti has about 120 000 residents.

The population growth of Lahti City.

Figure A2. The population growth of Lahti City.

Urban Structure

The urban development is compact, but green, and the city centre is densely built (imperviousness approx. 65%) (Figs. A1, A3). Large and continuous forests on the Salpausselkä ridge reach into the centre. This important green connection will decidedly be conserved and has been improved. In 2016, 754 new dwellings were built: 22 apartment buildings, 21 terraced houses and 131 detached houses.

The amount of sealed surface was calculated by the Finnish Environment Institute in 2010, but current data is not available, due to the lack of a monitoring tool.

Continuous Master Planning

The City of Lahti has developed a continuous, strategic Master Plan process, with four-year cycles. This enables a long-term view of urban development, while allowing adjustments for pressing development needs and challenges. During each Master Plan cycle, various impacts of the proposed plan are assessed by city officials and qualified academic experts (e.g. economy, walking and cycling, children, climate change, ecosystem services and ecological infrastructure). Residents of all ages are encouraged to actively participate (4B). The implementation of the Master Plan is programmed for each four-year period. It is followed up with many indicators. During the next cycle (2017-2020), a Master Plan covering the whole new Lahti will be devised, including the creation of a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (4C).

Smart growth is a key goal of the Master Plan. The projected population growth is 1% annually, and roughly two thirds of this growth has been planned for existing built-up areas (Fig. A3). This is achieved through consolidating the inner urban area and controlling growth in the outer areas. A new underground parking structure, in the city centre, has freed land for new developments. In recent years, brownfields, within 3 km of the urban core, have undergone regeneration, with many projects underway (Fig. A4). Lahti strives to keep urban sprawl under control and only limited areas are developed for detached houses. Local services are accessible by public transport, bicycling and walking in these fringe areas (e.g. grocery stores, kindergartens and schools). Master Plan follow-up includes measures of liveability on a city-wide level.

Population density

Figure A4. Population density in 2025 compared to year 2017.

Redeveloping Brownfields

Brownfields along railways and near Lake Vesijärvi have been or are being re-developed (Fig. A3). The former industrial harbour area is now very popular. In 2000, a modern extension was added to an old factory to build, Sibeliustalo, a concert hall. Apartment buildings were constructed and cafeterias opened in old buildings. Similar areas of mixed land use are planned for existing brownfields. The areas of Sopenkorpi and Radanvarsi areas are close to a new transit hub (trains, buses) and the city centre (≤ 1 km); the areas are currently under detailed planning, and over 110 000 m2 of mixed-use and residential buildings will be constructed in the next ten years (Fig. A5). The Niemi industrial area is undergoing renewal to become a mixed-use area.

The travel hub of Lahti (completed 2016 ) started a large-scale brownfield development along the railway.

Figure A5. The travel hub of Lahti (completed 2016 ) started a large-scale brownfield development along the railway.


Urban farming

• The City rents allotment garden plots for its inhabitants use. There are 8 different allotment gardens areas. In 2017 there were 171 allotment gardeners. In spring 2017 and 2018, the City offered free education for gardeners. Information and tips on gardening as well as knowledge about alien species was given at the education day.
• Lahden Ruokaosuuskunta, ROK, is a community supported agriculture group, established in 2013. Currently there are about 150 members.


  • Provide a land use map that indicates (Map 1)

a) the municipality boundaries delineating the overall city area;
b) the inner city area;

  • Provide additional map(s) showing green and blue areas in the city, and their connectivity and coherence (Map 2);
  • Provide map(s) of the location of brownfield sites (derelict zones) that (Map 3):

c) Have been regenerated in the past ten years;
d) Have not been redeveloped (yet).

Land use within the City of Lahti.

Map 1. Land use within the City of Lahti.

“Overall city” defined by YKR (Finnish division of densely and sparsely populated areas) [1].
Due to YKR urban division, data in the table above could be misleading.
“Inner city” defined according to the Master Plan of Western Parts.
“Other” represents municipal buildings and structures, including roads.



Salpausselkä ridge forms a green corridor for urban area of Lahti, while forests and cultural landscpes connect the rural and urban areas.Map 2. Salpausselkä ridge forms a green corridor for urban area of Lahti, while forests and cultural landscpes connect the rural and urban areas.

Brownfields: already developed and being developed. Below: close-up of brownfield re-development along the railway.Map 3. Brownfields: already developed and being developed. Below: close-up of brownfield re-development along the railway.

4B. Past Performance

Green Urban Lahti and Ecosystem Services

Green urban areas provide important ecosystem services, with clean air, clean water and recreational services for the residents being most valuable in Lahti [7]. To increase this green infrastructure and the services, new management protocols for urban forestry were created and implemented [8]. This protocol stresses the importance of ecosystem services as an integral part of forestry management. The City of Lahti owns is a large forest owner in the inner city area, which has a significant positive impact on the green infrastructure.

Green area accessibility has increased thorugh improved route markings, new nature paths, improved maps and continuous information given to residents. Approximately 40 000 residents visited e.g. the Lapakisto nature area in 2017.

Water – Creating Wellbeing

In 1970, Lake Vesijärvi was highly polluted. Restoration started in the mid-1970s and continues today. Measures included controlling pollution and biomanipulation. The lake was restored in co-operation with several municipalities, universities and other research organizations, and funded by the Lake Vesijärvi Foundation. About 250 000 € was covered by the Lahti City Group, with the remainder is covered by other municipalities, private companies and persons. The lake is now actively used for swimming. Other waterbodies have been subject to pollution, but their condition is improving. Sustainable stormwater management also enhances the visual quality of different areas (Fig. B1).

Retention pond of a large stormwater management system in Karisto.

Figure B1. Retention pond of a large stormwater management system in Karisto.

Your Green City

Residents are involved in Lahti’s planning. In the current Master Plan, residents were able to affect the outcome through online-feedback enquires (1 340 responses): four ”Our Lahti” evenings (107 participants; nearly 400 comments/ideas), a ”Dream playground” event (36 children, aged 7-10, drew their dream playground and 10 were interviewed) along with other options (Fig. B2). Children requested places for adventures and climbing places that were safe. Residents’ opinions are often requested for other plans. We use Maptionnaire, a mapping tool, and the Porukka mobile application. Maptionnaire has been used for collecting local experiential knowledge and getting feedback for urban plans.

In 2014 and 2016, all the urban natural areas used in Lahti’s early childhood education in Lahti were mapped using Maptionnaire. Findings were incorporated into the city’s GIS system. All 59 day-care units responded to the questionnaire. Urban nature is an important element in early childhood education and its use is frequent and varied.

Figure B2. Lahti is full of diverse nature areas that are all important for environmental education and recreation. Children are especially prioritised.

Knowledge gained together with residents is stored in the city’s GIS system and is actively used in planning. We have evidence that this local experiential knowledge affects planning outcomes. The Porukka application was developed to ask residents more general questions. Lahti monitors residents’ satisfaction of green spaces: e.g. residents desire more trash bins, benches, fitness equipment and nature trails. Lahti attempts to fulfil these wishes (e.g. Liipola).

Local inhabitants participated to forest walking and co-creation session in 2017.

Figure B3. Local inhabitants participated to forest walking and co-creation session in 2017.

The forestry department and residents walked together in the woods to gather information about residents’ forest experiences and what it means to them (Fig. B3). This walk was part of the planning and participation process of building a new main road 12.

Maintaining a high-quality environment for children and youth is one of Lahti’s priorities. Socially important locations for children/youth are monitored. Walking and cycling safety, near schools and residential areas, is very important. Nature in Lahti is an excellent setting for learning about biodiversity (Fig. B5) and lessons are held outdoors. In 2015, UNICEF declared Lahti to be a Child Friendly City.

The University of Helsinki’s ADELE research project, which is underway in Lahti, studies the links between biodiversity and human immune system strength.

Ensuring Sustainable Land Use

Our Master Plan is based on the Päijät-Häme Regional Plan, which safeguards sustainable development of the entire region. Although Lahti has reserved areas for urban growth away from the centre (Fig. A4), these can only be developed after areas close to the centre have been completed. Short-term development is directed by land acquisition and housing policies that are in line with the Master Plan.

As a rule, recreational and urban natural areas are excluded from urban development. To safeguard the most valuable natural areas, Lahti has designated new protected areas, almost yearly. In 2017, 995 ha of land is protected under national legislation, and 1933 ha of land is protected as sites of local conservation value. No development is allowed in these areas. The basis for conservation is not only in the strategy, but also in public opinion, where the results of public participation, questionnaires and surveys, e.g. in the master planning process in 2014, indicated residents valued urban green areas.

In recent years, the city centre has been mainly developed (infilling, underground parking, replacing old inefficient buildings). Compared to the 1990s, the population of the city centre has doubled. In 2015, an underground public parking facility was built at the market square (1.3 M€).

Contaminated lands have been mapped to start restoration and re-development. Re-development has started in the Sopenkorpi, Niemi and Radanvarsi areas (Fig. A5). The harbour area was under development in 1995-2000, and within the recent 5-10 years, additional tens of hectares have been re-developed.

Although, the city centre is emphasised, development of a few detached-housing areas, about 5 km from the centre, helps to meet the needs of families with children. New neighbourhoods are developed with sustainable mobility in mind (Fig. B4). Child-friendliness is a key goal for Lahti, including children’s independent mobility.

We develop new neighbourhoods with sustainable mobility and child-friendliness in mind.Figure B4. We develop new neighbourhoods with sustainable mobility and child-friendliness in mind.

Developing Lahti is partially based on urban zones (Fig. B5). Zones are defined on measures as distance from the city centre, frequency of public transportation and distance to a bus stop. Development can be planned by concentrating on areas close to the centre, with good existing public transportation.


Figure B5. Urban zones of Lahti. Click to enlarge map.

Lahti has started using a new eco-efficiency tool, KEKO. It estimates the impact of development plans and plan alternatives on GHG-production, use of natural resources, biodiversity and ecosystem services. Lahti has used KEKO for development projects (e.g. Radanvarsi) to compare alternatives and their impacts.

From Sealed to Green and Functional: Green Infrastructure of Lahti City Centre

Currently Lahti transforms and important part of the city center “Ranta-Kartano area” from parking lot to an urban residential and recreational area with integrated green infrastructure. This brownfield area has been completelty sealed but is currently changed to permeable or semipermeable surface with major stormwater management facilities (Fig. C4). The project cuts approximately 30% of phosphorus load from urban areas to nearby Lake Vesijärvi.

Urban Farming

City of Lahti has provided urban gardening lots for residents for over 50 years. During the last 10 years, increasing interest in guarilla gardening has increased. Different local citizen communities take part in urban farming. The local farming groups are multi-cultural communities that may support the integration of newcomers.

4C. Future Plans

Future of Green Urban Lahti and Ecosystem services

The Master Plan (2016) emphasizes the need for improved ecological infrastructure in the city and along the Salpausselkä ridge. Two wildlife overpasses are planned along the ridge for use by wildlife and for recreation. Existing ecological connections are improved with additional vegetation. Already fragmented forests are developed for recreation, to meet the increasing number of residents. More paths will be covered with boardwalks to protect nature, while providing better access for people (Fig. C1). We have initiated a project to receive the status as a UNESCO Global Geopark for the Salpausselkä region (Figs. A1, A3). A wider geographical has also been started to apply for UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status, of which Lahti would be part.

Accessible boardwalk in the Lapakisto nature conservation area.

Figure C1. Accessible boardwalk in the Lapakisto nature conservation area.

Management of Green Urban Areas

The ecosystem services approach will continue. The Green Factor Tool (green factor = scored green area/lot area) will be used in groundwater areas. The Green Factor Tool has been tested (e.g. Kortteli) and will be soon used for Radanvarsi. New building in groundwater areas is discouraged by Master Plan regulations.

To adapt to climate change, sustainable water retention systems are built, where possible. Laune Central Park will have a retention pond and channels for stormwater. Flood areas have been mapped for the city and this data has been incorporated into land-use plans. Stormwater issues are covered in Lahti’s Stormwater Management Plan. The drafts for the Invasive Alien Species Management Plan, and Green Networks Plan are almost completed. Also children are invited to develop the playgrounds (Fig. C2).

Children evaluate the playground of Laune Central Park

Figure C2. Children evaluate the playground of Laune Central Park.

An annual budget of circa 1 M€ is used to support the green infrastructure by the city Lahti. Several schemes are applied for monitoring the performance. The main indicators are reported annually.

Sustainable Land Use

The City of Lahti has started a rather unique process to unite the city strategy, master planning and transport planning. Master plan work for 2017-2020 (Fig. C3) is integrated with making a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan, SUMP. The forces of the city are combined; all administrative sections, along with other stakeholders and residents, jointly strive for a more sustainable city entity. At the time of this writing, the participation and evaluation plan is finished, and the objectives for Process 2017-2020 are being formulated in collaboration with the participants.

Continuous master plan process of Lahti 2017-2020.

Figure C3. Continuous master plan process of Lahti 2017-2020.

One showcase of sustainable urban mobility is the Aleksanterinkatu Street renewal project, completed in November 2016. Nowadays, the street is primarily a pedestrian area, with a high-quality cycling route. Cycling path widening covered two blocks. Investment 3.1 M€.

Brownfield Areas Under Sustainability Transformation

The core urban areas need to be consolidated and new development must be close to services. There are several brownfield areas that will be developed into residential/mixed use areas (Fig. A4, C2).

Sustainable stormwater management systems must be incorporated into new development areas. In one of these areas most of the stormwater will be infiltrated on site and some water will be directed into a retention pond. In other areas we highlight the importance of green roofs. Plans for the renewal of the Hennala old military base are in the initial stages but, areas are reserved for natural stormwater systems. Contaminated land will be removed/cleaned. These new blue-green structure also provide an R&D platform for universities, companies, the city and citizens on which to collaborate (Fig. C4). The new solutions in urban planning are supported by the political leaders of Lahti and have also received external funding from the National government and local ERDF. The progression of sustainable land use development is continuously monitored through a master planning process (Fig. C3).

Figure C4. New stormwater management structures of Ranta-Kartano area also provide an R&D platform.

Future of Urban Farming in Lahti

Currently there are several future-oriented approaches for urban farming in Lahti:
1. Schools and kindergardens
Schools and kindergardens are becoming increasingly interested in gardening. Last summer, one primary school in Lahti organised a community gardening for the summer and included it in ther used learning program. Further school projects could be arranged to provide unemployed youth with new working opportunities.

2. Community gardening in Lahti’s city centre
We expect to continuously increase urban farming also in the heart of Lahti’s downtown. These will, however, only occur if the citizens of Lahti increasingly request such possibilities. Currently, there is a community box garden in the Lake Vesijärvi’s central park, in close proximity to the city centre.




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