QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Awareness, Balance & Creativity
THE CONCEPT AND THE LOCATION
The innovator of ALDIN Biodome is Hjördís Sigurðardóttir, CEO
“I’m driven by a passion for creating a healthier future. I was raised in the Icelandic countryside, but have lived in many places, home and abroad. I can vividly remember the magical springtime evenings of my youth when my mother stayed up late to tend to her garden. I can still remember the smell, the beauty and taste of freshly picked carrots and turnips that I ate straight from the soil. I have always used nature to find peace and invigoration. I love plants and I dream about owning a greenhouse.
I lived in Holland for three years, from 2010-2013, where I was doing my masters in landscape architecture and planning at Wageningen University and I am a certified urban planner. I am a single mother, and I settled there with my four children while I was studying. It was an informative time for me, both in relation to my studies but also in regards to learning about a new country and culture and gaining a fresh perspective on my own country. My vision became clear regarding the opportunities our green energy provides in Iceland and the challenges we face regarding weather conditions, lifestyle and sustainability.
I have a B.S. degree in food science and environmental planning and my MSc thesis was about combining the two fields through study on urban agriculture. It was while writing my thesis that the idea for ALDIN Biodome came to life and it has since its conception developed and matured. Sustainable planning, reducing transport of fresh food and the concept of circulation where everything is re-used was a guideline throughout my studies in addition to creating an environment that promotes joyful and healthy lifestyles.
I worked for over a year in a design studio office mostly on projects involving planning and environmental analysis.
One thing led to another and I started working on ALDIN Biodome in late 2014. I applied to the business accelerator Startup Reykjavík in 2015 and my company; Spor í sandinn was accepted got in. It was there I got to know the key people working on the project still to this day. We initiated a conversation with Reykjavík city about a location for the project and it got a positive, conditional promise for Stekkjarbakki in autumn of 2016. Formal planning between the city of Reykjavík and Landslag landscape architects started in early 2017.
The project got a special award for exceptional innovation and social capacity building (EUWIIN/GWIIN) and was nominated for a European innovation award by the same organization. Partially as a result of that we started collaborating with WilkinsonEyre Architects in London which are leading in designing climate-controlled buildings. In addition to that we have an outstanding team of advisors. Both the building and operations of ALDINAldin Biodome follow strict standards about properties concerning sustainability and wellness (BREEAM and WELL)
Numerous workshops and meetings have been held with stakeholders and collaborators over the past years. In the development phase of the concept we have listened and responded well to criticism and made adjustments accordingly. An important milestone was reached when we made an agreement with the city of Reykjavík on July 4th. At that time it was four years since the conception of the idea and two and a half years since the site planning process started.
We aim to start construction in 2020 and for ALDIN Biodome to open its doors to the public two and a half years later.”
The main goal of ALDIN Biodome is to connect people with nature and support sustainability and a healthy lifestyle.
ALDIN Biodome is a new and exciting gathering place in the city which offers an invigorating experience for body and soul, both for guests and employees. Healthy green food the enticingly beautiful surroundings are inspiring and promote balance in peoples lives. Under one roof it’s possible to attend to your daily tasks and enjoy the moment. Mother nature is magical and by being in closer connection with her our sense for nature is enhanced which leads to a more respectful relationship with her and a sustainable lifestyle.
ALDIN Biodome will be in a central location close to Elliðaárdalur valley easily accessible via pedestrian and cycling paths.
ALDIN will be an ideal rest stop for people enjoying outdoor life in the valley or anyone passing by on their way to or from work. The harmony between the Biodome and its natural surroundings promotes exercise and for people to absorb the Icelandic nature outside and the exotic environment in the Biodome which will be a warm and welcoming haven during the dark hours of wintertime.
Urban agriculture reduces transport of fresh goods and allows for the freshest ingredients on people’s plates. Increased supply and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is positive in many ways; it reduces carbon emissions and promotes a healthy lifestyle.
Research has proven the positive effect nature has on health and wellbeing and doctors and health advisors are increasingly prescribing the “green prescription” to their clients. As an example, green nature improves mental wellbeing, increases creativity and efficiency.
ALDIN will create many jobs in the field of personal growth, gardening and a wide variety of service and education. It will be a constructive centre for intern students in those fields. Its operations will create and promote prosperity for the city and society.
You can in many ways describe humanity today as if there has been a disconnection between man and nature. This is especially true in urban environments where man stands alone and far away from nature. This disconnection has brewed climate change, unhealthy eating habits and lifestyle diseases.
Change in weather and climate have a negative effect on ecosystems and therefore people’s quality of life. The environmental and lifestyle problem is sprung from the same roots. Obesity and mental illnesses such as stress and depression are a common problem in western civilisations. The modern person attends to many tasks and every day they struggle to harmonise their lives. It can be difficult and, in a way, overwhelming to get everything done while at the same time enjoying what life has to offer.
Despite priceless natural resources in the form of clean energy, Icelanders as a nation are, compared to other nations, energy heavy with one of the largest carbon footprints of all nations according to the “Global footprint network” methodology. On average, the footprint of an Icelandic person is double that of other Europeans. Careless extravagance is considered to be one of the main factors (according to Sigurður E. Jóhannesson, expert in environmental studies, 2017)
The most common cause of death for Icelanders are chronic diseases that could be prevented by a change in lifestyle such as diet and exercise. The sad fact has arisen that 27% of the population are overweight according to an article in Iceland’s Medical Journal (June 2019). According to the Directorate of Health, stress and depression are common with children and teenagers, and a quarter of young people experience anxiety and 6% of them have serious symptoms. Loneliness is also a common problem, particularly amongst senior citizens.
The city of Reykjavík has approved a site-plan for ALDIN Biodome in the southern exterior of Elliðaárdalur in Reykjavík, north of Stekkjabakki in an area called Langagróf. See site plan (ALDIN plot is no.3) The site-plan was approved in city council on July 4th 2019. The old Vatsnveituvegur road is attached to Stekkjarbakki, south of the area designated for ALDIN Biodome and marks the southern edge of the plot. An elevated and steep bank in the land marks the plot on the Northern site but on the East site from the plot, community gardens from the Icelandic Horticulture Society are located. An open green area is on the west side of the plot and a small creak in the land. The steep bank is an ancient seashore and formed by the ice age glaciers.
At one period in time the site was used as a gravel mine that the city authorities used for road construction. Small farms were located at the area called; Hraunprýði, Laufás and Dalbær. In this series of aerial photos it is shown how the area has changed by time, how different the infrastructure has been at different times in the area. It is also possible to see where some geothermal wells and gravel areas are situated in and around the site. (The old Vatnsveituvegur road is apparently on all the images and therefore a good reference point). The farms have vanished with time but the last one, Laufás was torn down in 2013, but that farm was situated next to Stekkjarbakki road. The site has grown with vegetation and in some areas the site it is relatively attractive with heather and moss.
The micro climate at the location is good and the views up the valley towards East and Mount Esja in the North and towards the city centre in the West are spectacular.
Vegetation at the site will be protected as much as possible and new areas grown.
OWNERS AND FINANCING
The company is still mostly owned by its original founder. Hjördís Sigurðardóttir founder and CEO owns 84%. A company owned by Ágúst Freyr Ingason owns 7% and Startup -Reykjavík Invest owns 6%.
ALDIN Biodome is a privately funded innovation project. For the first years most of the investment has been in the form of a lot of work by the founder and collaborators. Financing is still in process but a conditional promise has been made for a part of the financing. It should also be mentioned that a lot of individuals have contributed by donating their work and inspiration which is invaluable in itself. Here are a few interviews.
FRIENDS OF ALDIN BIODOME
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