Viikki

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An ecological housing area of Viikki in Helsinki

Name An Ecological Housing Area of Viikki
Place Helsinki
Country Finland
Topic Residential Environments, Urban Ecology
Author(s) Virpi Vertainen
Completion The year of completion 2004
Client '
Project costs '
Viikki raportit (Large).jpg

Rationale: Why is this case study interesting?

Viikki is a district in the inner city area of Helsinki, near an extensive area of open farmland and wetland nature reserve of Vanhakaupunginlahti. It is situated 8 km to the Northeast of the centre of Helsinki. Viikki is a neighborhood of about 7 000 inhabitants. The population is still rising and the construction of apartment blocks for housing will continue until the year 2010. Public spaces will be completed by the year 2012.Viikki also hosts for example four faculties of the University of Helsinki. The Viikki Science Park is a centre for research, study and entrepreneurship focused on biology and biotechnology. In the middle of the Viikki district there are housing blocks, which are known as ecological housing area. The Eco-Viikki is home to some 1,800 residents. The building of the housing area of The Eco-Viikki began in the spring of 1998 and was completed in 2004.


Ecological housing area's establishment was linked with several programmes of ecologically sustainable development and experimental building among others. The main objective was to implement design and construction according to ecological building trends and gain experience for future projects. There was design competitions held to get ideas for the Master plan and to some of the ecological building blocks. During the planning and construction of Eco-Viikki exceptionally strict ecological criteria were set by the City of Helsinki as conditions for the housing construction companies.


The eco neighbourhood blocks are the result of long-term work aimed at putting ecological principles into practice. The master plan is based on a finger-like structure with alternating buildings and green open spaces. Ecological objectives have also been realised through projects related to municipal engineering and green spaces.


The Eco-Viikki project can serve as a useful example for ecologically sustainable construction projects in the future. The eco area is also a display window of Finnish know-how. There has a lot of monitoring made to evaluate the results of the ecological housing area project: the impacts of the project has been assessed through questionnaires and evaluations to see how well environmental objectives have been achieved. Also biodiversity of the area has been examined as well as the use of storm water.

Author's perspective

Focus of my case study is in ecological engineering solutions on public space and gardens for residents. Projects have involved for example uses for storm water, using clay to form roadbeds, landscaping of the Viikinoja Ditch and composting, allotments and collecting surface water run-off in gardens for residents.

Landscape and/or urban context

The size of the ecological housing area is 24 hectares and there are around 800 apartments in there. The housing area is located next to the green area of Viikinoja valley, which is part of the green finger leading from Vanhakaupunginlahti to Kivikko. The green finger of Vanhakaupunginlahti-Kivikko is a green backbone of the whole Viikki area. There are housing blocks, university buildings, play area for children and good sport facilities in the suburb.

The eco area is marked to the Master plan as a housing area and it is densely built with green, finger-like garden system. Typical feature in the gardens of the eco area is, that there are allotments and a lot of edible plants, such as fruit trees and berry bushes used in there.


Viikki 1.jpg
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Cultural/social/political context

The aims of sustainagle development was included in Finnish building legislation in 1990. Interest to develop environmentally friendly living environments raised and research programmes were initiated. The results of the reserach and development projects needed to be tested in practice. The Ministry of Environment and the Finnish Association of Architects created a project of the Eco-Community in 1993. In 1994 Viikki was selected as a pilot area, where the ecological principles of building will be tested in practice.

The eco area was planned to be as nature-preserving as possible. But the desire in project was not only ecological but also economical. Modern tehchnology is used to produce and to save energy. The need of vehicles is minimised: good public transportation, services produced locally, working is possible at home. The housing area is located near cultivated land and nature corricoor to remind of and to provide close connection to the nature.

In the survey for inhabitants of the eco area held 2003, the neighborhood was said to be classy and village-like. People appreciate the proximity of nature and want to protect the neighborhood against excessive construction. The garden plots were very popular among inhabitants. The people living in Eco-Viikki seem to be aware of the environmental issues and they are active: for example the survey for inhabitants was mailed to all households and the response rate was almost 70 per cent!

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History

Viikki used to be open farmland area surrounded by forests before it was planned to be a residential area. The construction of the Eco-Viikki begin with the planning process in 1998. The ecological housing area was completed in 2004.

Spatial analysis of area/project/plan

The eco area was planned to be densely built housing area with clear, finger-like green structure. In the process it was important to apply in the principles of ecological housing and sustainable development.

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Core Questions Working Group Nature Conservation / Water

What is the role of user groups?

In the park area close to the residents there are good possibilities for playing: there is a playground and also a lot of free space to fly a kite, play football. There are also allotments available for growing vegetables on the neighboring park area. The green environment provides possibilities for recreation to all age groups. Most of the people using recreation areas are living in Viikki. Viikki area is a home especially for many young families. There might also be the user group of the people, who are studying or working in the area: the park is a place to take a break in the park having a picnic, taking a walk, jogging.

Viikki is located on the open farmland area of Viikki and close to the nature reserve of the Vanhankaupunginlahti. The closeness of the sea and nature gives values not only for the landscape but also for recreation: watching birds, fishing, canoeing etc. A good network of recreation routes exists on this larger green area. The nature reserve of Vanhakaupunginlahti invites not only the people living in the neighborhood but also the people from the whole Helsinki to visit the place and enjoy the nature values and the landscape.

The use of the public space in Viikki is mostly responsible and there are not much problems with vandalizm or littering.

What is the role of the city?

Viikki is located on the open farmland area of Viikki and close to the nature reserve of the Vanhankaupunginlahti. It is situated 8 km to the Northeast of the centre of Helsinki.

Viikki is at the moment a neighborhood of about 7 000 inhabitants. The population is still rising and the construction of apartment blocks for housing will continue until the year 2010. Viikki also hosts for example four faculties of the University of Helsinki.

The land-use is guided by the Master plan and the detailed plan. Valuable nature area of Vanhankaupunginlahti is recognized and labeled with the status of nature reserve area. There is no pressure of housing to spread to the green areas. There are a lot of people using green areas for recreation: on the nature reserve area they are guided to walk along the paths and routes and there are no visible signs of un-responsible use.

How do urban and natural structures interact?

The master plan is based on a finger-like structure with alternating buildings and green open spaces. Green spaces forms corridors for natural species to move. The edge is soft and green.

Ecological objectives have also been realised through projects related to gardens and green spaces: the range of vegetation used is large, there are several layers of vegetation, the variety of plants are selected based on the natural conditions of the place, the idea was to use domestic species as much as possible.

What is the role of water?

Project has involved uses for storm water. The surface water run-off is collected in gardens for residents. Collected water is used to water the allotments to ensure nutrients and water to be recycled. The rest of the water is running towards the Viikinoja ditch. Landscaping of the Viikinoja ditch is made from the ecological point of view: there is a lot of different kind of vegetation used and the ditch is curving naturally in the landscape. The ditch is profiled so, that the bed is looking nice even if there is not much water running, but it can also manage the flood caused by rainstorms or the melting water from snow.

The water element is necessary for the biodiversity but it is also a value in landscape. There is no recreational value of the water in Viikki, because the ditch is too small for example for swimming.

What is the evolution of the urban relation between humans and nature?

2004 from City of Helsinki?

Viikki is a district in the inner city area of Helsinki, near an extensive area of open farmland and wetland nature reserve of Vanhakaupunginlahti. It is situated 8 km to the Northeast of the centre of Helsinki. Viikki is a neighborhood of about 7 000 inhabitants. The eco neighbourhood blocks are the result of long-term work aimed at putting ecological principles into practice. The master plan is based on a finger-like structure with alternating buildings and green open spaces. There are a lot of people using green areas for recreation: on the nature reserve area they are guided to walk along the paths and routes and there are no visible signs of un-responsible use. Project has involved uses for storm water. The surface water run-off is collected in gardens for residents. The water element is necessary for the biodiversity but it is also a value in landscape. There is no recreational value of the water in Viikki, because the ditch is too small for example for swimming. The master plan is based on a finger-like structure with alternating buildings and green open spaces. Green spaces forms corridors for natural species to move. Ecological objectives have also been realised through projects related to gardens and green spaces: the range of vegetation used is large, there are several layers of vegetation, the variety of plants are selected based on the natural conditions of the place, the idea was to use domestic species as much as possible.

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Analysis of program/function

In the questionnaire for inhabitants held 2003, the inhabitants were worried about the lack of public services (such as public health care and banking services) and the inadequate public transport connections.

The services in the Viikki area has been improving during the past years: there is now also a shopping centre in the neighborhood and there are now several bus routes to central Helsinki. Cycle routes are also crossing the area. There are also two nurseries, a school, restaurants, and various facilities for hobbies, fitness and social activities in Viikki. Vast green environment close to the housing area is providing excellent possibilities for recreation.

Analysis of design/planning process

The important thing in this project was, that the ecology and sustainability has been with from the very beginning of the project on all different levels: in planning, in constructing and in using the city space, the buildings, the gardens. The whole lifecycle from construction to use was taken into consideration already while planning the area.

During the city planning processes, there were a lot of discussion about the ecology of land use and building. How to preserve the natural and cultural values of the area while constructing a new residential area in the neighbourhood? The environmental impact assessment lead to move the proposed built areas further away from the nature conservation area. The detailed plan was the result of the competition organised by the City of Helsinki and the Eco-Community Project held in 1994. The winnign proposal (Petri Laaksonen: 60o 15") was based on a finger-like structure, where the buildings are grouped so that every plot is directly linked to the green areas. The structure is compact and the buildings are directed optimally towards the south. Later on there was held also design competition for a residential block to find ecological solutions in building.

In the green environment there were two special features: stormwater management and the biodiversity of gardens: An area-wide stromwater management plan was established in Eco-Viikki: in the green fingers of gardens, there is place for surface water to absorb, to filter and to direct to the Viikinoja ditch. Some rainwater is also collected to irrigate allotments.

Biodiversity of gardens was taken into consideration by trying to use several layers of plants with a lot of varieties. Edible plants were used and also places for allotments were planned into gardens.

Analysis of use/users

Good possibilities for recreation: a playground, a lot of free space, allotments, the nature reserve of the Vanhankaupunginlahti, a good network of recreation routes.

Users: all age groups, inhabitants of Viikki, people studying or working in the area, visitors.

The use of the public space in Viikki is mostly responsible and there are not much problems with vandalizm or littering compared to many other housing areas of Helsinki. The reason for that may be the ecological image of the area: people who want to move to Eco-Viikki are usually "close-to-nature" types.

Future development directions

The construction of the northern apartment blocks of Latokartano will continue until the year 2010. Public spaces of the whole Viikki-Latokartano will be completed by the year 2012. There is already a lot of monitoring made to get information how the project was succeeded in the long term.

Peer reviews or critique

A case study made from the architectural point of view.

http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/archi/programmes/cost8/case/holistic/finland-viikki.pdf

Points of success and limitations

The area has been monitored carefully during the past years and the project has been successful as a whole: for example functionality and ecological properties are at a good level with the technical solutions for construction of houses. Majority of the inhabitants are feeling that their homes are unique and of high quality. Renewable energy use and energy efficiency of buildings is of high level; especially the use of solar energy. Natural and renewable materials were used to minimize resource consumption. Soil removal was avoided in all projects and the fertile top layer of soil was often used on the plot or reused elsewhere in the suburb.

The point of success of the storm water management is the Viikinoja ditch on the green area located to eastern and southern sides of the housing area. The ditch is collecting the effectively surface water of the area. Viikinoja is natural looking: vegetation is improving the water quality and the biodiversity, but the ditch is also a value in the landscape.

On the other hand on solutions of ecology of gardens there are some limiting points. One thing which limits the mixture and the amount of plants in gardens and green areas and also the absorption of surface water is the soil, which is mostly clay. There are not much suitable plants to be planted to the clay soil in these northern conditions. Many fruit trees for example are not very hardy in clay and they also demand a lot of maintenance.

In the storm water management the situation could be better: clay is not a good basis for surface water to absorb to the ground. To make the absorption happen better and also evaporate, the space for surface water solutions should be larger than it is in Eco-Viikki. The other limiting point is that the area is flat, so the water is running slowly. That may cause problems for example during the spring time, when snow starts to melt, but the absorption is not possible and the ditches are covered with ice and snow.

What can be generalized from this case study?

The important thing in this project was, that the ecology and sustainability has been with from the very beginning of the project on all different levels: in planning of the city space, the buildings, the gardens.

The technical solutions concerning surface water management of the housing area would probably work a bit better on a different place: clay is difficult material for infiltration and flat area is not the most suitable for the stormwater management system.

Which research questions does it generate?

It would be interesting to compare the ecological housing area with a normal housing area: Is the area really more ecological than other typical housing areas and the reasons for that? It would be interesting to go on researching for example biodiversity of fauna. How the ecological solutions of gardens work together with the surrounding public parks in practice?

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Image Gallery

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References

There is a lot of research and monitoring already made: there is a lot of material available from Eco-Viikki.

http://www.environment.fi/default.asp?contentid=127116&lan=en

http://www.energie-cites.eu/IMG/pdf/Sustainable_Districts_ADEME1_Eco-Viikki.pdf

http://www.hel.fi/static/ksv/julkaisut/eco-viikki_en.pdf



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