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Which carbon footprint language do You speak?

Now that we are celebrating the World Green Building Week it is good to take a moment and think what has been done to develop the solutions of our built environment towards carbon neutrality. The mindset for carbon neutrality and reaching the ideal of circular economy is stronger than ever. Yet it is hard to understand which concrete action has been taken in building projects to reach the ambitious goals set for international, public, commercial and private building projects.

I have been asked several times at different seminars and conferences to name Finland’s most environmentally-friendly building, but I still cannot answer the question. I think one of the reasons is that the calculating principles and standards available on the market are manifold. The final result of carbon footprint calculations varies tremendously depending on the chosen method. To simplify the situation, we could say that the buildings speak different languages depending on the individual method chosen for calculating their carbon footprint: one speaks French, another Mandarin Chinese, while a third one speaks Finnish, even if the buildings were located next to one another.

Since it is hard to discover the concrete action by comparing one project to another, one way of understanding sustainable development is to compare the starting point as per the standards to the final outcome according to the finalised designs of one’s own project. Our property development team has used this method for following up the development of our We Land project in Ruoholahti, trying to come up with concrete examples on how the carbon footprint was reduced, the user experience improved, social inclusion promoted and the technical and financial feasibility developed.

We Land will be a 37,000 square-metre building by its gross area to offer services for working and events. The high-quality cafés and restaurants on the street level and top floor will offer services also for the city dwellers and tourists along with the in-house customers using the services every day. According to the available information, We Land would become the first building in Europe to receive the highest environmental rating BREEAM Outstanding as per the certification version of 2018.  BREEAM measures the projects from 9 different viewpoints of sustainable development economically, socially and ecologically. The carbon footprint is only one, albeit essential part of the comprehensive approach that the BREEAM uses.

Below is an outline and clarification of three concrete measures which, in my opinion, have considerably reduced We Land’s carbon footprint:

A 40% reduction in carbon footprint

Optiplan has calculated We Land’s carbon footprint by the Bionova One Click LCA method, in the same way as the carbon footprints of all other NCC Property Development’s projects are calculated since 2012.

Over the design phase of two years We Land’s development team managed to lower the target for the carbon footprint by approximately 40% by the good standard initial criteria of 1400 CO2e kg per floor-area square metre down to 1000 CO2e kg per floor-area square metre, which I think is impressive. Among the concrete measures to reach such reduction are the façade which is built with recycled copper, the roof-mounted solar panels, the recycling degree considered in purchasing, the 95% recycling target set for the site as well as the increased occupancy rate of the spaces achieved by encouraged sharing of spaces; flexible space solutions enabled by raised flooring as well as choosing energy class A for the project as per the latest issued standards of 2018.

Supporting biodiversity

The building was designed considering the risks related to the climate change; its the material selection accounts for personal hygiene; natural light is ensured in all workspaces, and biodiversity is supported by means of roof-mounted bug hotels, birdhouses and offering a roof cultivation possibility for the restaurant.

Different stakeholder groups are included throughout the project

The key participants and influencers of the area were interviewed in the conceptual planning phase, building systematic co-operation with the local operators of the area. Participation of the residents was ensured along with the City’s participation process in collaboration with Chaos Architects in the design process using the tools provided by the company for receiving the results of questionnaires and the residents’ views regarding the design and the services welcomed by them. The design team and tenants are also included in the development of the user experience. We also want to show an example to others, which is why we have decided to involve the tenants in the achievement of BREEAM Outstanding during operation of the building.

The targets for We Land are set high. The project has been successful in developing solutions towards a more environmentally-friendly direction owing to good planning and design. However, this is just one step further in our journey towards carbon neutrality. We must do this together with all players in the business, making rapid and big leaps to reach the targets for carbon neutrality, which are included, for example, in the Carbon Neutral Helsinki 2035 initiative. Luckily we have already taken the first steps in the right direction.

-Eelis Rytkönen, Urban Developer-Hippie, NCC

More information on We Land: https://welandruoholahti.fi/

PS:

We also think it is great that the different parties encourage companies to develop their circular economy performance and carbon neutrality towards a more goal-oriented and uniform language regardless of the business line. A key player in Finland is Sitra which organises interesting seminars discussing these topics on a regular basis. This week I participated Sitra’s seminar called Kiertotalouskunto (’circular economy performance’) at which the different digital tools related to circular economy were promoted, among them Calcilytics and Ctitool. They are definitely worth checking out:

https://www.sitra.fi/tapahtumat/kasvata-yrityksesi-kiertotalouskuntoa/https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/resources/apply/circulytics-measuring-circularity

https://ctitool.com/