Finland directing building towards energy efficiency

The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra is a public fund that reports directly to the Finnish Parliament. Sitra funds projects that seek new operation models and promote business aiming at sustainable well-being. Sitra has adopted a key role in the development of energy efficient and sustainable building in Finland. - Sitra is a co-operator in promoting and carrying out projects that are able to show that a major change in building is possible, explains Jukka Noponen, Director of Sitra’s Energy Programme. Sitra is involved in demo projects and plays a part in developing new building regulations that promote sustainable building. Noponen believes that the time has come to talk about a wide-ranging sustainability thinking, covering material efficiency, energy use as well as our living environment and way of life.

- Sustainability thinking is now given a broader meaning. What is most important is the amount of energy used and the type of energy used during a building’s life-span, from the manufacture of the materials to construction and use of the building to finally taking it down. As energy efficiency is improved and carbon emissions reduced, the significance of building materials is increasingly emphasized, Noponen says. Our living must be looked at the overall level, ranging from what materials are used in building houses, and what their material and energy efficiency is during the building’s life-span, to how people live and act in them.

Finland to become superpower in wood building

In terms of a comprehensive look at sustainability, the single most significant project has been the designing of a city block named Airut in Jätkäsaari, Helsinki. The foundation of the design lies in the Low2No concept, short for ”from low carbon to no carbon”. The idea of the concept is to create sustainable built environments enabling ecological life in the city.

The principle of Low2No is to reduce carbon by bringing several activities to the same immediate area. Services, jobs, homes and various everyday functions are situated very close to each other. What is new in this model is that it includes carbon calculation right from the start by studying building materials, building processes, the use of buildings, and the residents’ life as a whole, i.e. not just the carbon footprint of the energy used. In addition, the project will spawn new kinds of urban culture.

- Of various building materials, we looked at wood, concrete and steel, both separately and used together. We learned that rather than using one material alone, the solution is using several materials together and picking the right one for each destination, Jukka Noponen says. Wood building was seen as a very interesting alternative from the very beginning, and it was decided that the new Sitra office is to be built as a wood-frame building, 6 stories tall.

- Finland has everything it takes to become a superpower in wood building. The structural change in the forest industry forced us to rethink using wood in building. We have a great chance to create jobs and export opportunities that are based on ecologically sustainable use of natural resources, Noponen believes.

Noponen believes it is important that major Finnish cities, such as Helsinki and Tampere, have made such a strong start in wood building. More projects are surfacing in various parts of the country, which is a big step forward for industrial wood building. - Ecological and sustainable thinking will be reflected in the value of buildings in the future. As a building is always a long-term investment, it is a good idea in the changing markets to reach for the way of the future in building, so that the investment retains its value in the long run. Energy efficient, healthy and sustainable building is a safe investment, Noponen guarantees.

Consumers to drive the change

- I believe that over time consumer control will be an increasing factor. Consumers start to appreciate sustainability more and more as information increases. In the future, property advertisements should include the energy efficiency and carbon footprint information of the buildings for sale, Noponen states.

- Comprehensive sustainability is financial, social, cultural and ecological. In large building entities we can make it happen, says Jukka Noponen, Director of Sitra’s Energy Programme.

Written by Markku Laukkanen, Finnish Timber Council

Translated by Kielipalvelu Kauriin Kääntöpiiri OY / Capricorn Translations Ltd.

Further information: Jukka Noponen, Director, jukka.noponen@sitra.fi