An innovative plus-energy block to be piloted in Finland

Finland’s highly-advanced district cooling and heating systems offer a great opportunity for developing and piloting energy-efficient building solutions.

The construction of an energy-efficient residential quarter is set to commence in Kalasatama, Helsinki, in 2018.


The buildings will be able to utilise the heat load of the sun throughout the year due to their large window surfaces. Any excess thermal energy, meanwhile, will be transmitted to the local district cooling and heating system to enable the residential quarter to serve as a source of renewable energy.


The zero-energy building concept, SunZEB, has been developed by the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT).


Sari Toivonen, a senior advisor at Finpro’s Invest in Finland, is confident that the development project will stir up further interest in Kalasatama.


“There’s been a lot of talk about Kalasatama; after all, it’s one of the most internationally interesting sites in Finland. It’s an excellent site for piloting new solutions. It has really invested in energy-efficiency,” she says.


Finland, she gauges, provides an excellent test environment for innovative building solutions for a number of reasons: it boasts one of the most advanced networks of district cooling and heating systems in the world, is witnessing a booming interest in solar energy, and offers excellent access to open data and local ecosystems.

“We have a truly open ecosystem”


“Finland’s largest cities are also eager to provide piloting opportunities, to serve as platforms for businesses. Finnish cities, businesses and research institutes, such as VTT, are working in close co-operation,” adds Toivonen.

“We have a truly open ecosystem.”




Energy-efficient housing key in combating climate change

The construction will be undertaken by Asuntosäätiö, the Fira Group and the VVO Group, with Helen, a Helsinki-based energy company, participating in an advisory capacity.


The buildings will have large window surfaces to let the heat and light of the sun indoors throughout the year. Any excess thermal energy will then be recovered and transmitted to the district heating network with low-temperature heat pumps.


“What’s key is that the excess heat produced by the sun can be utilised outside the building itself,” highlights Kim Jolkkonen, the head of real estate development at the VVO Group.


Jolkkonen adds that while district cooling is not a new technology as such, the development project will be the first of its kind to take the zero-energy concept into consideration as early as in its design phase.


“Every single building on the block will be designed to encourage the utilisation of solar energy and the recycling of excess heat,” he says.


Jouni Kivirinne, a development manager at Helen, points out that transitioning from building-specific solutions to regional, energy and resource-efficient housing concepts is crucial for the ongoing efforts to combat climate change.


The pilot project, he states, is “an extremely important step forward”.


Picture credit: Helin & Co Architects/Voima Graphics Oy, SRV.