Just when you thought Scandinavia couldn’t get any more eco-friendly, Helsinki ups the ante. The Finnish capital recently announced some major environmental initiatives aimed at making the city smarter and greener. The coolest of these may be the installation of a giant underwater reservoir tank built 100 yards below the city center to store 9 million gallons of cold lake water that will be used to cool homes connected to the city’s rapidly-expanding district cooling network. After the water circulates through the cooling system during the day, it’s cooled in the tank overnight using heat exchangers to prepare for its next run the following day. According to a City of Helsinki press release, this latest addition to the city’s smart cooling system means it now emits 80 percent less greenhouse gasses from cooling, compared to conventional cooling systems.

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Also on Helsinki’s list of improvements is a new intelligent public transportation system called Kutsuplus (“call plus”), an on-demand minibus service that lets riders book pickups and pay their fares on smartphones or computers. The riders share the minibuses with riders going in the same direction – with requests for pickups combined using an app that calculates the optimal route that best accommodates all the riders. This system is part of a city planning process that could make private cars a thing of the past in Helsinki via an evolving system of on-demand public transportation system made up of private, competing “mobility operators” based on the telecommunications model.

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Finally, Helsinki is also developing whole new areas of the city that are model districts for intelligent and eco-friendly lifestyles. It’s new Kalasatama district that’s currently under construction is a shot at a whole smart city, complete with customized services for each household, sharing services for electric cars and bicycles, and a smart grid that involves building and unit-specific solar energy production. Heck, the design is even set up to save residents a whole hour each day on conventional chores.

Via City of Helsinki

Images via City of Helsinki and Flickr Creative Commons user miguelvirkkunen