Previous initiatives and research projects.
Copenhagen Community Backyards
In 2001 Re:Solution carried out a study trip of ecological housing projects in Denmark and Sweden.  One of the outcomes of this trip was the documenting of the Copenhagen Community Backyards project, which was the inspiration behind the set-up of the Edinburgh Community Backgreens Initiative, and then later Edible Estates.

During the 1990’s, the Kommune of Copenhagen, ran a scheme which upgraded tenement backyards in Norrebro, a run down neighbourhood in the centre of the city.  

The project demolished the workshops, storehouses, etc within the backyards to landscape them as ‘community backyards’ open to all residents living around each square.

The community backyards are shared community greenspaces.  Each site is owned and managed by a Yard Association which is made up of the owners around the site.  All of the owners pay a monthly fee for the sites management.  The spaces are managed by a Green Caretaker service which maintains the landscape and recycling stations. 

Creation of Community Backyards
The community backyards project is located in Norrebro; a neighbourhood in the centre of Copenhagen.  Norrebro; is a densely populated community, tenements of up to six storeys are common.  Norrebro; has traditionally been the area in which lower income workers lived, but it now attracts a mix of students, immigrants, workers, and the upwardly mobile, the regeneration of the backyards has played a significant role in the regeneration of the area. 

In the 1980-90’s the Danish Government and the Kommune of Copenhagen (local authority), were very progressive. During this period many best practice urban sustainability projects were established. The Kommune proposed a scheme which sought to upgrade the tenements around tenement squares, and to demolish many of the buildings within the squares (workshops, storehouses, etc) to create landscaped gardens for the use of the residents around the sites.

Grants were made available to regenerate a square, but the grants were dependent upon the owners giving up tenure of the parcels of land within the square.The land is then held in common by a Gard Lau (Yard Association). Regeneration work was carried out by private contractors under the management of the Kommune, following a design exercise involving local residents.

One Site Approach
The community backyards were landscaped as pocket parks open to all residents living around each square. The community backyards are not however public space, most sites are accessed by residents through the stair door, whilst there is street access through a vennel this is gated.The sites are broken up into smaller spaces, landscaped trees and bushes but the whole site is linked by a network of paths around and through the site.

Whilst this type of design is attractive and defines a sense of community and connectivity around the square, such layouts aren’t unique to Copenhagen and can be found at many sites in Britain, (for example the recent Crown Street development in the Gorbals, Glasgow) – what is particularly interesting is how the community backyards are created, managed and maintained. 

Whilst all of the ‘community backyards’ are different, they share common features:-
common ownership and management by a community backyard association;
play facilities (sandpits, climbing frames, ball courts);
‘outdoor rooms’ defined by planting or fences which provide semi-private spaces for BBQs, relaxation etc.  They are often equipped with benches and tables;
larger open greenspaces for recreation;
paths throughout site linking tenement square;
a community recycling facility.
Management of Community Backyards
Each tenement around a square appoints a representative to the Gard Låu (pronounced yard lhow), and makes monthly payments towards the maintenance of the community backyard. How each resident pays their fee will depend upon the tenure of their flat. Private owners pay directly to the Gard Lau, private renters through their landlord, and co-operatively owned flats, through their tenement committee.  In the case of rented and co-operative apartments, as non-payment can mean eviction there is usually prompt payment. 

The management committee of the Gard Lau decides how the maintenance funds are spent at their site, contracts the Green Caretakers (see below), and decides proposals for the installation of new features in the site or replacement of broken equipment. Gad Lau’s can also raise loans from a bank to install new features. At one site visited, the Gard Lau are currently planning the renovation of the play facilities around their sites at a cost of 2 million Krone (200k), they have received a 50% grant from the Kommune, and raised the remainder from a bank loan. Because the site is so large (700 households) the loan can be maintained with only a small increase in the monthly fee.

The Yard Associations:-
give residents a say in the planning of their local greenspace.
gives residents a vehicle to manage and improve their local greenspace.
Green Caretakers
The maintenance of the community backyards is contracted out by each Gard Lau to a Gron Gardmand (Green Caretaker).One Gron Gardmand will normally maintain several sites. The Gron Gardmand (pronounced Groin Goarman) role was developed by a local NGO – The Agenda 21 Centre during the 1990’s as part of a European LIFE funded project. 

In the first couple of years, the primary role of the Gron Gardmand was the management of community recycling stations (see below) in the community backyards, however the Gron Gardmand now also carry out maintenance throughout the community backyards, this includes:
landscape maintenance; 
emptying litters bins throughout the sites; 
and repairs to facilities.
The Green Caretakers are employed by a local NGO which charges the Gard Lau for services.  Most Green Caretakers are part-time typically they would work 10-20 hours a week.  The Green Caretakers are currently in discussion with the representatives of the Gard Laus towards setting up a new body owned by the Gard Laus which contracts the Green Caretakers directly. 

Living Spaces
The most striking thing about the Copenhagen community backyards is how well the spaces are used by the residents which live around them. The study visit was carried out in May, as the photographs show it was a period of sunny weather, but it appeared from conversations with residents that it was not at all unusual for residents to step out and spend some recreational time in the backyards.

In the evening and weekends it is common to see several family groups and friends in the community backyards sharing a meal or a picnic. The creation of living spaces is an important goal of the design and management of the community backyards.Whilst the sites are open access for all residents, smaller spaces are created within them as outdoor rooms which offered some semi-private social space.Picnic tables, benches, chairs are provided around the sites.

Most sites also have an extensive path network with a paved area around the perimeter of the site which provides access around the site, to the bike sheds, community recycling station and other features.

Play Spaces
Each community backyard has a play area for children. The facilities differ from site to site, in a small courtyard there may only be a small sand box, in a large community backyard of 700 households there will be the type of playground that one would expect in a public park in Scotland. 

The play facilities are normally funded by a mix of local authority grants and private finance raised by the Gard Lau on behalf of the households around the site.The facilities are maintained by the Green Caretakers.

Community Backyards are the natural place for children from the surrounding tenements to play.Children do not need to cross roads to reach the playspaces, the backgreens are overlooked by many flats providing high levels of surveillance. As the playspaces are on the doorstep, it is reasonable to assume that the children and parents will be able to visit use the play facilities much more often than a park which may require a walk or a trip in the car.

Community backyards reinforce a sense of neighbourhood for the children as they can play with neighbouring children and neighbouring parents can share childcare, socialising children in a much more healthy social environment than children that are shuttled to a play park and back to the safety of the home.

Recycling Stations
Community recycling stations are located within the community backyards, they house bins for the separation of waste into recyclable fractions, and bins for conventional waste bound for incineration.  All bins are 1280 ltrs. Posters around the stations inform residents where to put recyclate. There are also compost bins for household biodegradable waste.  The Green Caretakers visit each site on a weekly basis to maintain the stations which includes cleaning up any litter, and rotating the bins. It has been found that if the bins aren’t rotated some lazy residents will throw potential recyclate in a waste bin.

The recycling bins are collected by a NGO called R98 that processes the recyclate and sells it on.  The remaining waste is collected by the Kommune for incineration.  The Kommune charges each Gard Lau for the number of land-fill bins it uses. Therefore by increasing reuse and recycling the residents can reduce their maintenance payments, or spend the saving on other facilities.

The current diversion rate is 50% at most sites.  The Green Caretakers argue that an increase of the cost for collection of incineration waste would motivate higher levels of recycling.