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"Our sustainability ambitions have grown with every building we've worked on. Every office building can help lead the way. We are engaged in a continuous development effort, as a response to the growing interest of property investors and tenants looking for premises," explains Eelis Rytkönen, Head of Sustainable Development and Digitalization for NCC Property Development .

Rytkönen takes a worldwide perspective on what it means to build responsibly. Over the next 40 years, it is roughly estimated that the square mileage of one New York City will be built every month, and one Japan per year. In turn, the entirety of the building stock in Finland is roughly equivalent to one New York City.

"The world's building stock will double by 2060, and the population will increase from the nearly eight billion we see today to ten billion. At the same time, a guiding factor in future development is the rising average world temperature, and the aim of limiting the total warming to less than 1.5 °C," Rytkönen describes.

"These are some rather daunting numbers. In order to meet our climate targets, the carbon footprint from current activity in Finland and other wealthy western countries should be considerably reduced by 2050 – potentially by more than 90%."

Solutions implemented in 2018 have proven to be ahead of their time

To confront issues of worldwide sustainability, it is necessary to raise worldwide standards of responsibly ambitious property development. According to Rytkönen, every building can potentially help lead the way towards construction practices that are in line with sustainable development.

One such leader is the NCC-developed We Land office building, which has already made history despite still being under construction, as Finland’s first office building designed for a level of "Outstanding" on the BREEAM environmental rating scale.

We Land is located in the Ruoholahti area of Helsinki, and is due to be completed in the spring of 2024. At the outset of the design process, in 2018, solutions were implemented that, in view of the upheavals and crises of the last several years, have proven to be ahead of their time. During the design phase, work has been done with an eye to the demand and values of the future.

"In just a few years, there has been a rapid growth of interest in ESG and sustainability. Today, it can be difficult to find an investor or potential office tenant who is not interested in these. Sustainability has become an increasingly important part of our employees' values as well," Rytkönen says.

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We Land, located in Helsinki's Ruoholahti area and due to be completed in the spring of 2024, is a unique and innovative site built around the values of community, experience and sustainability.

Emissions savings equal to the carbon footprints of 25 Finnish citizens

In Rytkönen's view, sustainability is not limited to environmental matters, but also involves caring about others, protecting future generations, having a driven mindset and clear objectives, and doing things collaboratively. "In this respect, we are trailblazers."

The plan is to have We Land's sustainability recognized in the form of the top BREEAM certification, covering many focal areas of the property's development. Namely: the land on which the building is located, transport to and from the site, and other aspects of the built environment and its services. The property developer is also currently thinking about matters such as energy supply in 2030, the material efficiency of the building, carbon footprints, building technology, distribution of office space, and employee amenities.

"During the design phase, we managed to reduce We Land's carbon footprint by 30% through various energy-saving measures and sustainable solutions. As a result, We Land has an energy rating of A. Our emissions savings for 2021 were equivalent to the combined carbon footprint of about 25 average Finnish citizens.

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The BREEAM environmental ratings are always developing, continually raising the bar for environmental standards and promoting ever more responsible property development practices. Property developers have a significant role in all of this, one that requires considerable farsightedness. Above is an illustration of what We Land’s lunch restaurant will look like.

We Land is a trailblazer in sustainability, by both national and international standards

The BREEAM system is an entrenched, built-in element of NCC's practices – NCC has more than ten years of experience using it. Achieving the highest rating requires a multidisciplinary team that is well acquainted with the certification and its myriad of details. The top rating is still uncommon, internationally.

NCC’s carbon footprint targets include, among other things: sustainable management of resources, responsible use of natural resources, reduction of their carbon footprint by 60% by 2030, halving of material emissions during the production phase of their fully-managed projects during the period of 2020-2030, achieving a calculated total energy use for their fully-managed projects that is 25% below what the national regulations stipulate, and achieving climate neutrality by 2045.

"We Land is a sustainability trailblazer in many respects, including efficiency of materials and life-cycle thinking. Our approach is exemplified by features such as the façade, made from recycled and recyclable copper, as well as the 95% waste-utilization rate and the solar panels, which produce 24,000 kilowatt hours a year," Rytkönen describes.