Suggestion by students was a turning point
Heikkinen believes that the decision turned for the protection largely as a result of a heated public debate. ‘The value of the area was understood. It was also possible to justify that a sensible, reasonable investment in the area will lead to renovated modern housing.’
A group of students at the Helsinki University of Technology, led by Professor Bengt Lundsten, took stock of the area when it was repaired in the 1960s. ‘The students' proposal for implementing the renovation was quite a 'light version', but it managed to turn the thinking around: housing can be made this way’, says Pekka Heikkinen.
Today, Wooden Käpylä is almost in its original form and size.
According to Heikkinen, the area has been built and repaired with the same philosophy: do only what is needed, nothing in vain. In the first renovation phase, the bathrooms and toilets were made and the kitchens were renovated. All damage was repaired on a soft basis, meaning taking the damaged board off and putting a new one in place, not tearing.
He emphasizes resource wisdom.
Environmental concerns boost wood construction
According to architect Heikkinen, much more should be invested in teaching and research in wood construction. ‘Also students today demand environmental awareness in construction, and that needs to be addressed. For example, low-carbon goals are challenges that support our aims.’
In Finland, the average lifespan of buildings is about 40 and the general target 50 years, but this is not usually achieved. ‘We should be careful with the old buildings, because 70 percent of the country's wealth is attached to the building stock’, says Heikkinen.
The future of wood construction Pekka Heikkinen sees finally bright. According to Heikkinen, the state of wooden architecture in Finland is at a good level and there is a lot of potential that has not yet been used. The trend is also growing strongly globally. The key drivers of change are the rise of the environmental impact of buildings and climate issues.
‘Determined measures have been taken since the early 1990s, but now, for the first time, it feels like the industry is really on the rise. However, diversity requires greater investment and the definition of common goals.’
He welcomes the new investment in wood construction by the City of Helsinki, as well as the goals recently outlined by the Ministry of the Environment, such as a stronger link between construction and environmental impact and a comprehensive assessment of sustainability. Heikkinen considers the government's recent guidelines for wood construction to be realistic but tough, yet achievable goals.
‘We have to make sure that we build areas like Wooden Käpylä that last for a hundred years. Though, that will certainly stand for another hundred years.’
Heikkinen, P., Niskanen, A., Tiainen, J. & Tuomela-Lehti, E. (eds.) 2020. Wooden Käpylä 100 years - “Shunning the ornate for the plain and simple”, Parus Verus, Helsinki. The book has been made in collaboration with Aalto University..