A research project that addressed housing challenges in the Helsinki Metropolitan area (2011-2012)

“KUUMA Quality Housing” was a research project between 10 municipalities and a multidisciplinary consult team. The project was funded by the Ministry of the Environment, Uusimaa Regional Council and the municipalities. The municipalities, located around Helsinki Metropolitan area, have faced steady migration during the last decades.

The main objective was to find structural and qualitative criteria that are in accordance with sustainable development.

Deliverables: series of workshops, excursions, website + press releases, final report (28 pages) planning guidelines (136+60 pages) + attachments A to D (A: description of the  method, B: an on-site evaluation form template, C: the project background, D:  assessments of ten housing areas in detail).

Instead planning actual areas, focus was on shaping the general principles that will help to produce more eco-efficient neighborhoods, without compromising attractiveness. Popularization was important, since planning and construction are complicated topics with multiple stakeholders.

The main result was a series of 4 to 8 page brochures for the planners, to be used as evidence and persuasion tool.

Why brochures? Though planners were seen the primary users of the material, the actual target audience is anyone dealing with land use questions, but not trained as a land use expert, such as municipal decision makers.

The material is divided to four main sections, each consisting several brochures:

  • A) Housing Area Ecology in a nutshell: Energy and resource efficiency, ecosystems in housing areas.
  • B) Elements of the housing area: How the arrangement of housing volumes and blocks can be used to create areas with a distinct identity. Also: density and service requirements.
  • C) Elements of the perceived quality of the milieu : the different spatial elements that surround people in their daily life: vistas, streets and routes, recreation areas, plots and garden milieu, parking areas.
  • D) “Admin tools” for municipalities: How to raise the quality of built environment with the means of civic interaction, with plot leasing/sales terms and building codes.

Also, examples of existing high quality housing areas are shown as the fifth section (E). One neighbourhood was thoroughly assessed for each municipality. Besides site visits and the official planning material, various other sources of [publicly available] information were used for the assessment such as public transportation service level or the heating energy sources.

Below: extracts of the material.