Weeknotes

41. Week in Review

BIM model screen shot of Sitra's timber office ©Arup
BIM model screen shot of Sitra's timber office ©Arup

Back on the job here at Low2No. Work has been proceeding at a blistering pace in London and Berlin as our design team prepares to deliver our L2, or design development, drawings next week. This is a significant point in the project's progression as "end of L2" is when the local designers will take a leadership role in project implementation.

Interior BIM model screen shot of Sitra's timber office ©Arup
Interior BIM model screen shot of Sitra's timber office ©Arup

This month is the moment when the client team will step back and perform two critical tasks: costing and project review. Even in strong markets, a €60M investment can cause some consternation. But as the euro's stability decreases with every news cycle, we have some difficult decisions ahead of us.

We are committed to a triple bottom line plus carbon (TBL+CO2) approach and will review this next phase with this principle as our top level priority. It is increasingly clear that planning requirements and real estate costs make development in Helsinki difficult, especially without basic government support instruments (such as feed-in-tariffs), but we hope to find a way to make a low carbon, mixed-use development economically viable. 

BIM model screen shot of Sitra's timber office ©Arup
BIM model screen shot of Sitra's timber office ©Arup

Interior BIM model screen shot of Sitra's timber office ©Arup
Interior BIM model screen shot of Sitra's timber office ©Arup

The client team is working to develop a joint company (landlord/janitor company) to own and manage the block's common infrastructure, energy infrastructure (PV), commercial space, and parking. When developing a block-wide sustainable solution, shared ownership provides critical synergistic benefits and is necessary to manage the block's shared resources as one entity. A joint management company solution is a new step toward social sustainability in Finland.

Sitra is also organizing a meeting with leadership from the real estate industry who are involved in writing new legislation for "3D" real estate formation (mixed-use code)—possibly to be implemented for the first time in our block. A mixed-use code will allow challenging ownership conditions to be overcome more easily, such as the one we face in our block, where the basement can have property lines independent from above ground property.

Word comes from Jukka this week on two projects he is shepherding: the European 11 Competition (he is a jury member and will tell more once it is public) and a board meeting of the LAICA project which helps individuals commercialize innovative energy solutions. The Energy Programme has continued to expand its impact and we look forward to more.

October 7th, 2011

Posted by: Justin W. Cook

Category: Weeknotes

22. Week in Review

Some great video from Demos at Low2No camp in Berlin:

Nice work! We hope to have a guest post from the Demos folks once everyone has had some time to reflect.

Low2No Informatics Workbook
Low2No Informatics Workbook

Also this week, it is time that I catch up on some overdue news. I am very happy to announce that Dan Hill of Arup and City of Sound fame (among others) has brought his family to Helsinki and joined our team! Dan was instrumental in framing and delivering Low2No’s informatics workstream on the design team side (see some of his Low2No Informatics Workbook below). We are lucky to now have him on the client side, although I am sure he feels a bit of whiplash. As he settles into his role at here at Sitra, look for him to uncover realization of the informatics workstream and Sitra’s organizational evolution into its new HQ through his future posts. In addition to being a tremendous ambassador for the project, he will be key in developing what’s next for Low2No. Welcome Dan!

Low2No Informatics Workbook
Low2No Informatics Workbook

Low2No Informatics Workbook
Low2No Informatics Workbook

June 5th, 2011

Posted by: Justin W. Cook

Category: Weeknotes

21. Week in Review

This week, a reminder of one of principal motivations for this project:

Ruoholahti Coal Delivery from Sitra- Finnish Innovation Fund

What you see is coal from Eastern Europe or Russia being offloaded into hoppers that carry the coal into one of the world's largest underground coal storage facilities. Ruoholahti used to be home to another "world's largest." See the 8 story coal pile that used to be stored above ground before the cavern was completed. 

Jätkäsaari as seen from the south. In the white box is one of the city's largest combined heat and power plants and it's coal pile in the background
Jätkäsaari as seen from the south. In the white box is one of the city's largest combined heat and power plants and it's coal pile in the background

There are many issues raised by this footage: carbon emissions, climate change, energy security, wealth transfer, independence, etc. In some ways, it is unfortunate that Ruoholahti's coal pile has been pushed underground, out of public view. 

May 27th, 2011

Posted by: Justin W. Cook

Tags:  

Category: Weeknotes

16-20. Week in Review

It's been a busy four weeks:

  • The design team delivered the schematic design document set.
  • The client team pored over the drawings and Arup's very useful Basis of Design documents to find out just what the last year of work has lead to and where changes/clarifications need to be made.
  • Comment sets were issued to the design team by each client.

The design team has now taken the comments and begun the arduous task of incorporating them into the design to produce the final schematic design of the Low2No block. This level of design basically locks-in the overall design of the project (massing, structures, MEP, etc) and its performance targets. The project will soon shift into a mode more focused on implementation with upcoming goals including permitting and detailed costing.

Design of the "public bits" of the project has also been ramping up. Facades, landscaping, community areas and retail are all taking shape in very exciting ways! Check out some of the landscaping diagrams in the next post!

Low2No Camp on the ferry back to Helsinki [Demos Helsinki 2010]
Low2No Camp on the ferry back to Helsinki [Demos Helsinki 2010]

In other news, our Energy Programme has initiated a project with Demos Helsinki and Experientia called Low2No Camp (their blog is here). The aim is to mobilize a group of city activists who are already carrying out actions which support low-carbon living, food, and services and attempt to develop groundbreaking projects in the spirit of Low2No. The project began mid May in Berlin at the DMY Berlin International Design Festival.

Low2No Camp in Berlin [Demos Helsinki 2010]
Low2No Camp in Berlin [Demos Helsinki 2010]

In order to kick-start the projects, a roundtable will be held in the coming months, gathering various stakeholders to whom the ideas will be presented with the hope of mobilizing local businesses to start developing opportunities for sustainable urban living.

Also, last week I participated in a panel discussion on integrating design into city planning at the New Finnish Design Scenarios event held in NYC and hosted by the Finnish Consulate. Together with Rick Bell (Executive Director AIA NY), Hannu Kähönen (CEO of Creadesign), David Resnik (Deputy Commissioner NYC DDC) and moderator Peter MacKeith (Associate Dean, School of Design and Visual Arts Washington University), we tried to tease out some similarities between NYC and Helsinki (of which there seem to be few!) and share our experiences working in the often difficult city planning machinery. One theme that received the most attention was the degree of control that cities exercise over their spatial evolution. NYC seems to rely more on the carrot than the stick, incentivizing developers and architects to pursue spatial, social and environmental goals by providing special conditions that are favorable to their bottom lines. The City of Helsinki, on the other hand, rigidly defines the "areas" in which an architect or developer can work, carefully circumscribing what is possible in the city. For a panel interested in introducing/preserving design in city planning, you can imagine which side we favored. 

May 25th, 2011

Posted by: Justin W. Cook

Category: Weeknotes

14-15. Week in Review

Low2No is developing greater detail on many fronts: from cost estimates and coordination studies to synergistic mechanical systems and sky lights in the sauna. The volume of work is growing exponentially putting pressure both on our ability to apprehend the state of the project as well as the efficacy of our archiving systems (our Basecamp site is ballooning!).

As we close on summer, many of our outstanding design decisions should be made, allowing me to share publicly more project images and information. Check back! 

Project output is piling up!
Project output is piling up!

April 19th, 2011

Posted by: Justin W. Cook

Category: Weeknotes

12-13. Week in Review

Design continues in Helsinki. We have been working to coordinate building components such as air handling equipment and photo voltaic panels on the buildings' roofs, fresh air intakes and facade build-ups, etc. Energy modelling is becoming more refined for the apartments and Sitra's offices. It seems likely that we will be able to achieve our progressive energy targets. Simultaneously, Arup has begun a cost effectiveness analysis of our energy strategy that under-girds our energy targets. Taken together, the strategy and costing will provide a valuable reference for future projects in Helsinki that will be looking to blow past regulations and current industry practices.

Eat&Joy © Dan Hill
Eat&Joy © Dan Hill

Sauerbruch Hutton is turning a bit of its attention to design of the retail spaces. Our retailers/service providers needs are being collected and coordinated by Eeropekka Rislakki, one of Eat&Joy's founders. One of our designers' challenges will be to translate the retailer's specs into spaces that are specific, yet adaptable for future alternative needs. Of all of the Low2No block's potential benefits, the vibrancy it will add to the Jatkasaari neighborhood will likely be the most evident and talked about by Helsinki's residents. It is our hope that this will make clear that carbon mitigation is yes, an abstract, difficult goal, but in realizing it, we can enjoy a better more delicious life.

Eat&Joy © Dan Hill
Eat&Joy © Dan Hill

Week 13 also marked the first full push toward a new low2no.org! We have contracted with local firm Muotohiomo to provide graphics and user experience and Austin, Texas based XOXCO building the site and reusing some of the backend they originally developed for helsinkidesignlab.org. Exciting! 

April 5th, 2011

Posted by: Justin W. Cook

Category: Weeknotes

11. Week in Review

Week 11 marked the beginning of our co-location scheme described last week. While I was not there, this method seems to already be bearing fruit. The design of the block is beginning to "click" according to Marco, and the disparate needs of the client partners are being translated into the project in a more robust and rapid way. Good news for everyone as we are closing in on our June detail design deadline.

One challenge has been Finland's still somewhat mysterious floor area measurement unit: the "kem." Kem boils down to a way of calculating a development's square meters minus a deduction for mechanical systems and a standard dimensional deduction for insulation/wall cavity. As an unusual Finnish construct, this has caused some confusion among the design team, but through an aggressive auditing regime, we all seem to now share an understanding of exactly what "22,000 kem of allowable development area" means and that the Low2No block will meet this allowance.

Sketch of the block plan and detail of interior "deck" over the basement
Sketch of the block plan and detail of interior "deck" over the basement

Detail design is a flicker between scales. The designer is at once designing at the scale of a city block and the detailed scale of material connections at key interfaces. The simultaneous flood of sketches and plans on our project's Basecamp site is testament to this exciting phase that separates architectural design from so many other disciplines. Here we are endeavoring to transform abstract ideas into concrete, purpose-built things. 

March 25th, 2011

Posted by: Justin W. Cook

Category: Weeknotes

07-10. Week in Review

basecamp is blowing up
basecamp is blowing up

The last three weeks have had a pace that is at times blistering and occasionally seemingly at a stand still. This is, I think a product of this phase of the project where teams are working out specific issues in focused, small teams. Arup has been tackling structural and ventilation issues while Sauerbruch Hutton has been finalizing detail design of the apartments, service areas and Sitra's new HQ. Experientia continues to push forward our demand management systems and low carbon retail and service offerings.

Communication between teams (both client and design) continues to be a challenge. This is partially due to the technical nature of the work at this stage as well as the diaspora that is the project team, but there are many other factors as well. To improve communication and mitigate the impact of miscommunication, we have initiated a co-location scheme where representatives from each firm will work together in Helsinki 2-3 days each week. This is bad news for our carbon footprint, but good news for our aggressive project schedule and ambitious scope. The days in Helsinki will mostly be spent in focused working sessions, but each week will conclude with an all-team meeting chaired by Marco, with an exciting output for those of us working abroad: meeting minutes! It seems likely that we will realize progress on the project's most complicated challenges much more quickly and effectively over the coming weeks. Hopefully I will be able to post more fresh content from the project to this blog as well. 

Marco, using our geotechnical report to point out the block's position over one of the original granite islands of Jätkäsaari
Marco, using our geotechnical report to point out the block's position over one of the original granite islands of Jätkäsaari

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, work has commenced on site. And the results are in! Well, geotechnical results anyway. But exciting nonetheless. Our assumptions about our site's location over one of Jätkäsaari's original granite islands were correct. This will translate into a smaller foundation (read lower embodied carbon) and an interesting condition for our geothermal pre-heating/cooling system. But more on that later.

Also, exciting news! Low2No.org will be refreshed soon. Finally we will be moving on from the site's current competition focus to one that covers not only the city block in Jätkäsaari, but also the continued development of Low2No as an idea about how to transition our cities to a low carbon future. We hope to have more rich content streams, both visual and textual, as well as guest authors writing on related issues. Stay tuned. 

March 16th, 2011

Posted by: Justin W. Cook

Category: Weeknotes

A little local press (in English)

We are Helsinki (the city's free culture magazine) published this interesting take on the Low2No project. Take a look!

Screen shot from Low2No's writeup in We Are Helsinki
Screen shot from Low2No's writeup in We Are Helsinki

Project update coming soon, I promise.

Interim sketch of the block's interior
Interim sketch of the block's interior

March 4th, 2011

Posted by: Justin W. Cook

Category: Weeknotes

06. Week in Review

Other than the Low2No conference covered in the previous post, this week's big news: work is commencing on site! A detailed geotechnical evaluation was conducted to determine just where our site sits above one of Jätkäsaari's original 3 islands, and to what degree we will need to contend with fill or steeply sloping rock when it comes time to building our foundations or drilling geothermal bore holes.

Jätkäsaari is starting to grow: note the rubble piles that will become part of the harbor's massive regrading project
Jätkäsaari is starting to grow: note the rubble piles that will become part of the harbor's massive regrading project

Sitra, SRV and VVO together with an outsized legal team began the painful legal wrangling that will determine exactly how the shared infrastructure of the block will be managed. In this case, we are extending "infrastructure" to include soft things like the retail and services that will be a part of every building on the block, as well as more traditional forms of infrastructure such as the parking level. In this case we will also be adding photovoltaic and geothermal systems to the infrastructure list.

As it is not within the normal business purview of any one client partner, these critical components that enable us to create a truly mixed-use block that leverage synergies between elements to productive effect, such as reducing per capita carbon emissions and improving enery efficiency, will need to be carefully developed and safeguarded. First and foremost, a legal framework has to be developed that sets the conditions of ownership and partnership, especially among the retailers. Risk must be handled in a way that makes each client partner comfortable in investing in the block's non-standard components. And tax issues and future liabilities must be imagined and addressed. This is no small task. But if done right, it could be one of the most transferrable products of the Low2No project thus far.

Carbon mitigation via investments in renewables organized at the district scale.
Carbon mitigation via investments in renewables organized at the district scale.

This week we also broke ground a short study that will hopefully shed some light on the potential for financial mechanisms as a carbon mitigation tools working at the district scale. One of the many compelling ideas in the Low2No competition was turning Jätkäsaari into a carbon neutral district by creating a revolving fund that would invest in renewable, carbon-free electricity generation. The idea was strong, but Jätkäsaari's long development time frame made it quite difficult to implement as residents and business will be trickling in over the next 15 years. So, together with GreenStream Network here in Helsinki, Sami Tuhkanen from Energy and I will do a quick survey of what's happening now in Finland in this space and provide a set of recommendations for future initiatives. 

February 15th, 2011

Posted by: Justin W. Cook

Category: Weeknotes