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Wärtsilän uusi lippulaiva näyttää tietä vastuullisessa energia- ja meriteollisuudessa

Wärtsilä’s new flagship is a forerunner in responsible energy and marine industry

The construction of Wärtsilä’s new research, product development and production centre in the Vaskiluoto district of Vaasa began in August. Smart Technology Hub is an historically sizeable venture for the entire project organisation, and Sweco is responsible for the primary architectural design and project management duties. 

Wärtsilä’s first premises in Vaasa were completed 100 years ago. Over time, more space has been required throughout the city, which has led to significant fragmentation of the production chain.

“We are already using the entire area between Järvikatu and Onkilahti, and there is no room for further expansions,” says Tommy Grannas, Wärtsilä Finland Oy’s property manager. “The Vaskiluoto complex will bring the entire production and product development chain under one roof, which is why are referring to the facility as the Smart Technology Hub, instead of factory and office.”

Vaskiluoto’s location near the port is ideal in many ways. There is plenty of cooling water available for the processes, and a railway line, power line and district heating pipe also run through the area. The synergies achieved are also important. “In addition to efficient production, Vaskiluoto will facilitate collaboration with energy and logistics partners already operating in the area,” Grannas says.

Wärtsilä is one of the largest employers in Vaasa, but the project is significant on a wider scale. “Thanks to our project, the local energy cluster, which consists of some 160 companies as well as us, will have more confidence to make investments,” Grannas says. “The cluster is responsible for 80% of the exports in the region, its turnover is 5 billion euros and it employs more than 12,000 people.”

A unique large-scale project valued at 200 million euros

Sweco serves as construction consultant in the 200-million-euro project, carrying the responsibility for design tendering and steering, as well as project management, amongst other areas. The excavation work began in early September, and the construction phase will continue for the next 1.5–2 years

“The schedule and budget goals for the project are unprecedented,” confirms Joel Johansson, regional project manager at Sweco. Of the two new buildings, the production facility named Hub is 33 metres tall, more than 200 metres long and nearly 900,000 cubic metres in volume. A footbridge links the structure to the office complex, which provides access to both buildings. “The entire project organisation has humbly confessed that they haven’t been faced with a project of this scale before!”

The project is the largest in Wärtsilä’s history and being unique means that there are no suitable benchmarks. In fact, the swift and smooth official process and zoning was a positive surprise to everyone involved. The Hub was granted a building permit in late June, while the office building received its permit in August. “With support from the City of Vaasa, we managed to secure the requisite town plan amendments and agreements in less than a year,” Grannas says.

The architects designed a multipurpose landmark

A wide range of laboratory, product development and testing premises have been designed for the Smart Technology Hub. Sweco is responsible for project’s primary and architectural design. The project kicked off with proposal planning, and this will also cover interior and yard design.

“It’s important for the architecture to support the Wärtsilä brand and the company’s vision of serving as a pioneer in smart marine transport and energy solutions,” says Architect Anita Höttönen, the principal designer for the project. The Hub was inspired by floating blocks of ice, and the facade was spiced up with coloured and partially-illuminated vertical slats. The most significant challenge was to consolidate the many different functions into the same building. “In cooperation with the Wärtsilä staff, we have been able to ensure efficient internal logistics.”

The foremost challenge in the architectural design of the office complex was to ensure that it would blend in with the old protected factory buildings of Suomen Sokeri to the north. “Contrary to the norm, the tree species for the wide green area within the office building plot were determined in the building permit phase, at request of the residents,” Höttönen says. “The residents provided us with valuable insights at various phases of the design process.”

Grannas is confident that the Smart Technology Hub will become a new landmark for Vaasa. “We obviously expect the premises to be impressive, but the most important thing is what goes on inside the buildings. We need to be able to modify the use of both buildings flexibly.”

Ambitious information modelling to ensure the sustainability of the buildings

Sustainable development is being considered with regard to the full lifecycle of the Smart Technology Hub. Sweco’s BIM Coordinator Juuso Erkkilä ensures that the various information models are combined during the design phase.

“The ambitious goal is to incorporate models related to the users’ production processes as well,” Johansson says. To that effect, a ‘digital twin’ will be created of the building to support the optimisation of the maintenance and use of the facilities.

Sustainable solutions have also been sought with regard to architectural design. “We are aiming to consolidate all functions into compact premises to use space more efficiently, and ensure short distances and smooth logistical operations,” Höttönen says. The company is also seeking to ensure energy efficiency through the selection of an appropriate roof material. “The roof can’t be black, since that would cause staggering cooling costs.”

In addition to this, all construction materials of the Smart Technology Hub are certified, the waste energy from engine test runs will be recovered, and solar panels will be installed on the roof.