The Airut block demonstrates the diversity and community spirit of urban residential construction
The Airut block in the Jätkäsaari district of Helsinki not only includes apartments, but also offers services, business premises and offices that liven up the urban culture. The building design combined innovations in energy technology with equal and community-based architecture.
In 2009, an international architectural competition was organised on the design of the energy technology innovation block Airut. It was won by the architectural company Sauerbruch Hutton from Berlin. The main contractor SRV Rakennus Oy chose Sweco (Optiplan) to take care of the architectural and structural design, as well as building services engineering of the block in 2013.
“The objective was to create a functional whole in the heart of Jätkäsaari with diverse apartments, high-quality services and innovative solutions in energy technology,” explains Director Of Development Juha Vihma from Sweco. The block, completed in 2016–2018, contains one three-storey residential building and five taller ones in addition to offices and commercial premises.
Some apartments are non-subsidised, others are rental apartments and the rest represent the City of Helsinki’s price-regulated Hitas owner-occupied housing. “Equality is indeed one of the key ideas behind the block,” Vihma says. Diversity is also evident in the facilities and layouts that meet the needs of a variety of residents.
According to Vihma, the end result combines features from the residential cultures of three countries. In addition to Finnish designers, the project featured a German architectural company and its project architect Carlos Alarcón Allen who has a Spanish background. “This created an urban complex of unique architecture that imports fresh ideas from abroad to stand alongside established solutions.”
Vihma emphasises that the exceptional architecture of the block would not have been possible without close cooperation and dialogue between the designers. The block was not to become a copy of other blocks. “Specialists combined their forces and developed solutions through genuine mutual discussion.”
The block sauna encapsulates the idea of community
The shared development work also resulted in varied outdoor spaces: balconies, yards and warm conservatories. All buildings are interlinked by recreational and play areas supporting community-based living. The shared facilities are intended to be run by businesses.
“This ensures that the club, event and sauna facilities receive enough use, which is also sustainable in terms of the building’s carbon footprint,” Vihma states.
Alongside innovations in energy technology, the block’s purpose was to promote lively urban culture. Housing and commercial services are closely linked, meaning that the apartments are included in the city’s service network. “For example, the block offers an ecological laundry room and a sauna heated with wood pellets that has become a new and popular meeting place in the area.”
Climate-sustainable urban construction
Many environmentally conscious design solutions utilised in the Airut block were still unusual novelties back in 2009. “For example, recyclable materials, green concrete and solar panels were rarely used in residential construction back then,” Vihma says.
The block’s monolithic brick facades are also a prime example of low-carbon and low-energy material choices. “We acknowledged the emissions of material manufacturing and the longevity of the building products.”
The Airut block uses highly sophisticated measurement, monitoring and adjustment systems. They are used e.g. to guide the indoor conditions and energy consumption. Information modelling was used in the design of energy economy management.
“Information modelling also supported the cooperation between different design branches,” Vihma emphasises. The BIM was used to perceive the most demanding locations and solve challenges together. It also offered up-to-date cost information throughout the project. “This allowed us to combine the demands of ambitious architecture and price-regulated housing.”
“The objective was to create a functional whole in the heart of Jätkäsaari with diverse apartments, high-quality services and innovative solutions in energy technology.”
– Juha Vihma, Sweco
“Equality is one of the key ideas behind the block, and diversity is evident in the facilities and layouts that meet the needs of a variety of residents.”
– Juha Vihma, Sweco
“The exceptionally ambitious architecture of the block would not have been possible without close cooperation and dialogue between the designers.”
– Juha Vihma, Sweco