Розбір 15:28 15 Mar 2023

Sustainable reconstruction and democracy: How Ukrainians can ensure a green future

The war isn’t over yet – but Ukrainians need to start thinking now about how to rebuild what has been destroyed. How could Ukrainian cities, flattened by war, transform into some of the most livable in the world? Rubryka takes a look at the potential for sustainable urban planning reform, investment in green rebuilding projects, and citizen engagement in discussions of new projects.

What is the problem?

Ukraine estimates the damage or destruction from russia's war against Ukraine at almost 150,000 residential buildings, including 17,500 apartment buildings throughout the country, at $54 bln.

The rebuilding process can be quick and cheap, but it still requires a lot of resources and is unlikely to use materials that are eco-friendly or even suitable for comfortable residence. The old Soviet design and layout of many Ukrainian cities is less than ideal for modern pedestrian and car traffic,  with infrastructure problems and a small number of green spaces, making them uncomfortable to live in. 

However, this doesn't have to be the case – it is still possible to make the new cities more sustainable. 

Херсон фоторепортаж

A house destroyed by russian shelling in Kherson

What is the solution?
Rebuilding cities is a chance

Urban planning is now a major concern in completely destroyed cities that need total reconstruction, such as Mariupol or Maryinka in Ukraine's Donetsk region. According to Nazar Bench, a development and construction expert, this challenge also presents opportunities. Ukraine's urban environment mostly does not consider the needs of modern society and is characterized by the distribution into residential and business districts, which leads to "pendulum migration" and traffic jams as the day is structured around the commute back and forth from home to work.

If reconstruction can be done right, it can turn cities that have been flattened by war and completely reimagine them for comfortable modern living by combining modern energy-saving standards with design that avoids congestion. To accomplish this, Ukraine will need to review and adjust building regulations to EU standards and put the benefits of comfortable living at the center of its reconstruction strategy.


A private apartment complex in Lyman, in the Donetsk region, after being hit by a russian missile strike

Investments in reconstruction are implemented only at the training stage

While the war continues, and it seems it is too early to begin comprehensive reconstruction, government officials of various cities in Ukraine have already started training in the investment program.

11 Ukrainian cities have already become participants in the "Sustainable rebuilding of Ukrainian cities" program implemented by the Association of European Cities "Eurocities" together with the Association of Cities of Ukraine with the support of the "European Climate Foundation." In general, "Eurocities" plans to unite more than 200 large European cities in solidarity with Ukrainian sister cities, to implement reconstruction projects in cities damaged by russia's war.

The program intends to create favorable conditions for investments in the restoration of Ukrainian communities per the European Green Deal and accelerate Ukraine's coordinated accession to the European Union. The project will make it possible to better understand the needs of Ukrainian communities, check work methods, and develop a reconstruction project guided by climate neutrality and sustainable development practices, clearly reflecting the goals of the European Green Deal.

The result of the collaboration will be to draft a green urban regeneration strategy will be created, which will include the following aspects:

  • Clean energy and energy efficiency;
  • Liveable and inclusive public spaces, including integrated urban planning;
  • Sustainable urban mobility, in particular, Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans;
  • Eco-friendly skills, and management of urban projects;
  • Circular economy and waste management.

So far, selected city representatives are undergoing special training on these topics.

A new approach to urban reconstruction: urban planning reform of 2022

In the spring of 2022, the Parliament adopted Law No. 7282, which concerns priority measures to reform urban development.

One of its key innovations is the introduction of programs for comprehensive reconstruction of the settlement. Each affected area — city, town, or village — will draw up and adopt such a program. It should address key questions and offer specific solutions.

Legislators predict that now the planning of updated settlements or their parts should become more rational and efficient, and the cities themselves should be safer and more comfortable. It concerns bomb shelters, public spaces, green areas and plantings, energy-efficient buildings, etc.

Північна Салтівка Харків

Northen Saltivka is Ukraine's eastern city of Kharkiv the most destroyed district

Not to go back to the USSR, the public needs to pay close attention to new projects 

In October 2022, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine approved a procedure for applying reusable blueprints in construction projects. That means that a new school built in Donetsk could use the same sustainable architectural and building plans as one in Kyiv, given the same conditions. According to Nataliia Kozlovska, Deputy Minister for Communities and Territories Development of Ukraine, this will allow to shorten the time and reduce the cost of construction and allow for quicker reconstruction of the destroyed social and residential infrastructure of communities affected by the war.

However, cookie-cutter building projects are already a familiar experience for Ukraine. During a housing crisis in the 1950s, the Soviet Union introduced a type of house colloquially referred to as the "Khrushchevka," after Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev. These were low-cost, concrete-paneled or brick three to five story apartment buildings that could be

built cheaply and quickly. As a result, the "temporary" solution became permanent, and Ukraine currently has a surplus of old, low-quality housing. 

But this may not happen if the public takes the most active part in discussing new projects.

Північна Салтівка Харків

Kharkiv's northern district Saltivka was destroyed by russian occupiers

How can anyone influence reconstruction: participation in public hearings and project discussions

How reconstruction programs will be implemented by local authorities, rather than according to a centralized national plan. That means that  active community representatives will be able to take part in reviewing the reconstruction program because it must undergo public discussions. The local government must announce public hearings on its website.

According to Ukrainian law any citizen of legal age can initiate public hearings themselves. In Kyiv, a certain number of votes must be collected: 500 for the city-wide level, 300 for the district level, and 100 for the local level. You can find the best way to involve people in supporting the hearing here.

Solution in action

The Energy Efficiency Fund helps Ukrainians to restore their houses

The city of Irpin in the Kyiv region has more scars than the capital. The fiercest battles against russian invaders took place there at the beginning of March 2022. Some houses were burned to the ground, while others were more fortunate and were only sliced open by shrapnel. In many cases, Ukrainians restored houses on their own. Recently the state introduced the VidnovyDIM Energy Efficiency Fund to support the restoration of homes, with support from the International Finance Corporation (IFC).The "Zatyshnyi 2020" and "Novo-Oskolskyi" condominiums had damaged facades, thermal insulation of walls, deformed windows and door frames. In November 2022, condominiums applied for participation in the program immediately after the launch of its pilot phase and received a total of about $352 thousand.

After two months, the facades of the buildings were repaired, the destroyed engineering systems were restored, and the blocks of window and balcony doors and external and internal vestibule doors were replaced, allowing residents of the buildings to return to fully restored, energy efficient homes. 

Applications for funding from the VidnovyDIM program have already been submitted by 58 housing cooperatives. The expected amount of grants for them is more than $3.5 mln, and the total amount of the pilot stage provided by the EU is €5 million.

How to take part in the "VidnovyDIM" program

The VidnovyDIM Energy Efficiency Fund is available to condominiums in the Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Chernihiv, and Sumy regions to cover 100% of the cost of works and materials for the restoration of war-damaged buildings. A simple and effective implementation mechanism allows to organize the process as quickly as possible: the condominiums receive 70% of the funding in advance, and the remainder after the work is completed and reviewed.

If you want to apply to the VidnovyDIM Energy Efficiency Fund, contact them by phone at  +38 (044) 222-95-90 or by email at [email protected]


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