As Tórshavn Grows It Goes Green


The Faroese capital Tórshavn — in fact more than a millennium old — celebrates its 150-year anniversary as a Municipality amid healthy population growth while going green as it continues to attract tourism and international business.


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The Faroe Islands’ capital Tórshavn has undergone accelerating development during the past decade and a half with its population rising from less than 18,000 (2000) to about 20,500 (2015). Contrary to losing its sense of cosiness, the town has taken on a rather metropolitan atmosphere while simultaneously consolidating its distinct local touch and rediscovering its deep historical roots.

Amid strong growth prospects for the busy Port of Tórshavn, meanwhile, a significant extension of the East Harbour has been planned to accommodate increasing container traffic as well as to make room for more cruise ship calls (see separate article elsewhere in this publication).

At the same time Tórshavn has accepted the challenge of further stepping up its policies to protect the environment, with a target of achieving carbon neutral status by 2030.

Back in 2012, the completion of the Boðanesheimið, a 64-apartment retirement home complex heated by water-to-air heat exchangers, was widely seen to raise Tórs­havn’s green profile.

The green trend has continued and accelerated with the local bus service being offered free of charge to passengers, whether residents or visitors, as part of an initiative to encourage people to make more use of available public transport.

Increased use of public transport is supported by Tórshavn City Council’s environmental policies. Furthermore, as presented in May during the Green Week awareness campaign, these policies envision all vehicles in Tórshavn to be running on renewable sources of energy in the coming years with fossil fuels replaced by biogas or electricity. There is also the goal of making all lighting in publicly owned real estate, indoors and outdoors, energy efficient.

“Clean energy from renewable sources and maximum energy efficiency is the key concept in our strategy to become a truly green municipality,” Mayor Heðin Mortensen said.

He added that the City Council wants to encourage all citizens to participate in the discourse on how to achieve the envisioned result.

“When we discuss the idea of going green, we want to engage people at a whole new level to help make sure we raise awareness so that more ideas can be shared and taken a step further. There are generally many ways of addressing environmental issues and we know there are many skillful and creative individuals and groups who are able and willing to contribute towards this process. The City Council will of course assume a leading role where applicable; but even if quite a lot has already been achieved, there is always more that can, and perhaps should, be done by the people themselves and their communities, by organizations and businesses.”

More foreign visitors

As the Municipality of Tórshavn celebrates its 150-year anniversary this May (2016), the well-nigh 1,200-year old community has increased 41-fold in the course of the last 215 years. During the same period, the capital’s share of the total population of the Faroe Islands has increased from one-tenth to more than 40 percent.

A series of ambitious projects have been embarked upon under the watch of Mr. Mortensen, including the 1,300-student collage Glasir (previously Marknagilsdepilin), a contemporary designed building currently under construction and expected completed by August 2017. Another project underway in the educational department is the new á Fløtum 850-student primary and secondary school.

In recent years, major sports facilities have also been added and existing ones upgraded, including an athletics field and a 9,000-seat football stadium.

Less spectacular but nonetheless popular, is the large number of new pedestrian sidewalks that have been created throughout the town of Tórshavn and between it and the nearby communities within the municipality.

At the same time, the town center has been slightly shifted to the waterfront at Vágsbotnur, where a flurry of new cafes, shops and offices occupy a row of refurbished buildings next to the West Harbour’s marina.

In fact, new cafes and restaurants have appeared all over central Tórshavn, much to the delight of foreign visitors, who seem to arrive in greater and greater numbers.

Although most tourists travel by air, part of the influx has to do with cruise ships calling at the port. With the coming harbor development primarily intended to increase the port’s container capacity, the number of these cruise ship calls is set to increase, too, beyond the current level of 50 or so per annum.

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