Companies play a key role in making Helsinki an emission-free city – the renewed Fennia block is carbon neutral
The Fennia block in the centre of Helsinki achieved complete carbon neutrality in terms of energy consumption during use at the beginning of this year. In 2022, three other properties owned by Sponda, Forum, Citycenter and Arkadia, made the same achievement. The iconic block is also undergoing a renewal that improves the energy efficiency and raises the quality level of the premises to today’s needs.
Built next to Helsinki Railway Square in 1898–1940, the Fennia block is known as one of the most significant historically valuable blocks in the city centre. At the beginning of 2023, all the block’s six property companies were classified as carbon neutral for in-use energy consumption (Scope 1 and 2).
‘The achievement is linked to our ambitious sustainability programme, where our goal is to be carbon neutral in in-use energy consumption by 2025. Last year, Citycenter, Forum and Arkadia reached carbon neutrality, and at the beginning of this year, Fennia and all our shopping centres achieved the same goal,’ says Pirkko Airaksinen, Head of ESG at Sponda.
According to Airaksinen, the carbon neutrality of Fennia and other properties is based on extensive energy efficiency investments, the 100% green energy produced at the Lakiakangas wind farm and renewable district heat. The goal is to upgrade the block’s BREEAM In-Use Very Good level environmental certificate to BREEAM Excellent level this year, and several solar power plants are also being built in the city block.
The electricity that is used in the Fennia block comes from Lakiakangas wind farm and it is 100% green electricity
Energy renovations have potential for reducing emissions
Fennia block’s annual carbon dioxide emissions have decreased by almost 4,000 tons since 2019 as a result of the measures. According to Kaisa-Reeta Koskinen, the head of the Carbon neutral Helsinki programme, much has already been achieved through the shared climate effort of the city, companies and organisations. In 2020, Helsinki’s emissions were 33% smaller than in 1990, even though the number of residents has grown by 150,000. However, emissions must be reduced even more efficiently to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
Carbon neutral Helsinki 2030 is everyone’s common goal, and companies play a key role in achieving it
‘Carbon neutral Helsinki 2030 is everyone’s common goal, and companies play a key role in achieving it,’ says Kaisa-Reeta Koskinen, head of the city’s climate unit.
Heating the buildings causes over half the emissions in Helsinki, which is why Koskinen believes that the energy renovations of historical buildings such as the Fennia property have potential for reducing emissions.
‘Because only a small number of the buildings in Helsinki are owned by the city, the sustainability effort and investment of companies play a key role in climate work. The city’s share of the potential to decrease the emissions created by the buildings in Helsinki is only 11%,’ says Koskinen.
Active investments into a renewed block
In addition to energy efficiency, there have been many significant investments to upgrade the building technology and the premises in the Fennia block. The comprehensive building technology reform will significantly improve the comfort and well-being of the businesses operating in the block. Thanks to the renewed social spaces and the planned bike parks, it is also easier than before to get to the block by bike or on foot – the public transport connections are already the best in Finland.
The new restaurant area Ruoka & Mat and the culturally valuable properties, which will be renewed while respecting the architecture and history of the buildings, will also enhance the city image and increase the appeal of the core of Helsinki. The investment program for Sponda’s block renewal is around 50 million euros in total. The company thus continues to develop the Fennia block by actively investing in the modernisation of the property, various energy efficiency projects and improving the general comfort and services of the block.
The historical sites of the city centre are carefully nurtured
In a protected and architecturally valuable building, renewals are carried out with respect for history. The entire block-wide restoration work, which respects the historical architecture, has focused especially on improving the appearance and functionality of the entrances to the properties. Among other things, the impressive facade of the nationally significantly protected Fennia building has been restored to a magnificent state, and the lobby spaces have been modernised, reproducing the spirit of the original architecture.
‘Even wonderful valuable properties will remain unused if they cannot offer the users healthy and functional working conditions. In an architecturally valuable protected location, development work is carried out with care and respect for history so that we can meet the companies’ needs and ensure a historically valuable cultural location will remain in Helsinki city centre in good condition for generations to come,’ says Airaksinen.