Modern Karhukortteli residential block

When an architectonic apartment building block that stands out is being built in a central location, trailblazers are needed. Sweco has taken part in a massive new construction project. 

Pori has several aces up its sleeve. One of them is the shoreside of Kokemäenjoki, the river that flows near the city centre, with its old houses and the lush Kirjurinluoto, the home of the Pori Jazz Festival. Pori’s Karhukortteli , ‘bear block,’ formed by five housing companies, is located in these surroundings  

The historical environment in the middle of the city has set the bar high for this construction project. When MVR-Yhtymä Oy, a construction company specialised in new construction and renovations, started to implement an entire apartment building block in downtown Pori in 2013, the new buildings had to both fit into their surroundings and stand out. Sweco was selected to manage the structural engineering and element design of Karhukortteli.  

MVR-yhtymä and Sweco have worked together on apartment building projects before, and Karhukortteli was a natural way to continue their great partnership.  

“At Sweco, people probably thought at the beginning that this was just another standard apartment building construction project. This really was not,” says the Managing Director of MRV-Yhtymä, Rami Viitasaari, and chuckles.  

Karhukortteli is a great example of combining a historical milieu with modern construction. The large windows and panoramic lifts interact with the pitched roofs and the block’s shared courtyard in a fascinating way. Viitasaari explains that Karhukortteli was built on the ideas of uniqueness and diversity, which made the project quite a challenge to both the architects and Sweco’s structural engineering team.  

A positively challenging spirit of change  

Architects wanted to add something unique to all of the buildings. The large, protruding balconies, panoramic lifts, rooftop terraces and attic and loft-style apartments designed by the architects have been an interesting challenge to Sweco’s structural engineers, without forgetting the demanding yard surface structures. At the moment, the last part of Karhukortteli is being built in Pori. The most demanding part of it has been the fitting of a parking basement, business premises and residential storeys on top of each other. However, the challenges did not end with the structures.   

“The biggest challenge and advancement has been the introduction of 3D modelling,” says Jukka Rantamaa, the Project Manager of structural engineering at Sweco.  

This unique project, so different from standard apartment building construction, has allowed Sweco’s staff members to challenge themselves. The last building in the block was designed through 3D modelling, even though the first four buildings were designed in 2D. Changing the design method required plenty of work, as it also meant changing the process of structural engineering, the work methods and the procedures.  

It was worth it, in the end, because information modelling improved the quality of engineering even further. When structural engineering, architecture services and building services are all found in the same place, it makes it easier for everyone to see the bigger picture. According to Rantamaa, modelling improves the overall management of element design in apartment building engineering, for example. 

The future residents should never be forgotten when constructing apartment buildings. Information modelling has made it easier to implement the changes the residents have wished for. The future residents often wish to leave their mark in the apartment, for example by deciding the placement of the kitchen or partition walls.  3D modelling makes it easier to modify the apartment structures after the design stage. It is worth remembering that comfort is not all about the buildings and their surroundings, but it also means satisfied residents.  

“The best thing is to see the smiles on people’s faces when the keys are handed over. That is when we know that we have succeeded,” Rami Viitasaari says. 

Block is finished, cooperation to continue 

This long-term project has been carried out in great cooperation, mostly by the same group of people. This has enabled using the experiences from the previous apartment buildings in the construction of the next ones. The work group has had an overall view of the block for the duration of the entire project, which has also made the structural engineering more efficient.  

“Our cooperation has gone really well. The Sweco people have perfectly understood MVR-Yhtymä’s goals for this project,” Viitasaari says.  

Moving vans have been a frequent sight around Karhukortteli now that the residents have moved into their new homes. The fifth and final building in Karhukortteli will be completed in late 2020.  

However, construction in Pori does not end; when Karhukortteli is complete, the construction site will move on to the neighbouring plot. 

“It seems that our great cooperation with Sweco will continue on the plot of the old dairy factory, where we will build the next part of the Pori of the future,” Viitasaari says.