Key to sustainable urban development is to improve the energy-efficiency of housing and construction, both in new construction and in conjunction with renovations. The energy-efficiency standards of Helsinki are more ambitious than the national standards.
From 2021 onwards, all new buildings in Helsinki should be close to zero-energy buildings, that is, buildings with close to zero net energy consumption.
This goal is related to Helsinki’s larger goal to become carbon neutral by 2035. Helsinki plans to reach carbon neutrality by reducing greenhouse gas emissions generated within city borders by 80 percent from 1990 level and by offsetting the rest.
Helsinki is a showroom of striking and ecological Finnish wood construction
Energy-intensive materials including concrete and aluminum are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, so their use should be restricted in construction until they can be produced with lower environmental impacts. Wood offers one solution. Wood construction is less energy-intensive, and wood is a carbon sink.
The architecture and material choices of Helsinki Central Library Oodi, completed in 2018, have attracted wide international interest. The skin of the building apart from the top floor is Finnish spruce. The balcony and much of the interior are also clad with wood. The energy-efficient library building is a showcase of Finnish architecture and construction. Architectural design is by ALA Architects of Helsinki, the winner of the open international design competition for the building held in 2013.
New residential areas built with wood can be found in Honkasuo and Myllypuro. The first wooden passive house in Helsinki can be found in Honkasuo, and one section of Myllypuro is dedicated to wooden houses. Wooden multi-storey residential buildings can be found in Viikki, Omenamäki and Pukinmäki.
Examples on energy-efficient solutions
Viikki is a district with 12,000 residents and over 4,000 jobs, developed at the Viikki Science Park of the University of Helsinki. Eco-Viikki in the southern section of the district is an area for ecological housing. Eco-Viikki was one of Europe’s leading sustainable housing projects in the 1990s.
Kuninkaantammi and Honkasuo
Kuninkaantammi and Honkasuo are new climate-smart residential districts. The detailed plans of the districts emphasize climate themes including energy-efficiency, renewable energy, wood construction, the green-factor planning tool, and stormwater solutions at properties, on streets and in green areas.
When complete, Kuninkaantammi (“King’s oak”) will be a cozy home to 5,500 people. The pedestrian is King here – the blocks, streets and parks will be recreational and inspire action. The district is right next to the Helsinki Central Park and the Vantaa River valley. Special emphases are put on ecological solutions and a communal lifestyle. Some of the blocks will be built with wooden multi-storey housing. The core section of the area will have a community well and urban gardens.
Honkasuo is Helsinki’s largest new area for wood construction – a green urban village of wooden houses. The former Honkasuo forest and meadows will house 2,000 residents by the mid-2020s.
Read more about Kuninkaantammi
Read more about Honkasuo
Suvilahti solar power plant
The Suvilahti solar power plant was commissioned in March 2015. The power plant comprises 1,194 solar panels, which can be leased by the company’s electricity customers. The panels’ solar power production can be monitored online in real time.
Katri Vala heat pump plant
Katri Vala is the world’s largest heat pump plant producing heating and cooling.
Mustikkamaa hot-water storage caves
Helen is building Finland’s largest energy storage facility in former fuel-oil storage caves in Mustikkamaa. Hot water to be stored in the caves will be used for district heating. The hot-water storage facility will help Helen to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 21,000 tonnes per year.
Esplanade heat pump plant
The Esplanade heat pump plant producing heating and cooling, commissioned in 2018, reduces Helen’s carbon dioxide emissions by 20,000 tonnes per year.
Viikki Environment House:
The Environment House, used jointly by the City of Helsinki Environment Services and the University of Helsinki, was completed in 2011. This five-storey building uses less than half of the energy used by conventional office buildings. Viikki Environment House is Finland's lowest-energy office building.
Suvilahti electricity storage facility
The Suvilahti electricity storage facility consists of 15,000 lithium-ion battery cells, which correspond to 100,000 mobile phone batteries. The facility is used to store electricity to be discharged during peak demand.
Salmisaari wood-pellet heat plant
The heat plant produces district heat from wood pellets. The 100 MW plant produces enough heat to cover the annual consumption of 25,000 one-bedroom apartments.
Kivikko solar power plant
The solar power plant placed on the rooftop of the Kivikko indoor ski hall is one of Finland’s largest solar power plants. The plant comprises 3,000 solar panels leased to consumers.