Culturally and historically valuable Erottaja 2 comes to life and enlivens the city centre
The former state office building is being renovated into office space and restaurants. Experience in challenging projects was particularly important in the selection of project partners.
Erottaja 2 is one of the most impressive buildings in the heart of Helsinki. The Neo-Renaissance palace, completed in 1891, the adjoining Art Nouveau building and the courtyard wing connecting the buildings at the corner of Erottaja and Uudenmaankatu were empty for years, until they were bought by the American investment company Blackrock in the autumn of 2018. Now Erottaja 2 is undergoing a change in use and a full-scale renovation. The property will house modern office and restaurant facilities.
‘The street-level restaurant facilities will open the building to the city residents and extend the city centre towards Erottaja, enlivening the area,’ describes Vesa Klemettilä, Technical Director at Trevian Asset Management.
Trevian, an investment and asset management company operating in the real estate industry, is Blackrock’s local representative in Finland and is responsible for the development and leasing of Erottaja 2. Saraco, which became a part of Sweco in October 2020, has, even before the final real estate transaction, been responsible for conducting the technical due diligence investigation, guided the designers involved in the DD phase and acted as a developer consultant for the planning and implementation phase of the project. The structural engineering design of the project is being carried out by Sweco.
Despite challenges, schedules need to be kept
The renovation of Erottaja 2 began in the autumn of 2019 and will be completed in the spring of 2021. According to Klemettilä, it is paramount to stay within schedule. The owner has made an investment to earn a profit from the rents. If the project is delayed, the profits are also delayed. It is also important for the tenants that the premises be completed by the agreed date.
‘Saraco has experience in determining needs and calculating costs at an early stage. We were able to quickly determine at the outset what needs to be fixed,’ Klemettilä says.
The schedule has also been accelerated by the fact that the project was decided to be carried out as a project management contract, with overlapping planning and contract work.
‘It allows for a tighter schedule compared to the conventional contract form. Especially since we knew to expect surprises,’ Klemettilä says.
According to Klemettilä, selecting the right partners is particularly important in challenging projects. The more challenging the project, the more important it is to have smooth cooperation and project partners with experience in similar projects.
‘We were very successful in our partner selection. You cannot practise in these kinds of projects,’ Klemettilä states.
Perfect functionality without compromising heritage
An ambitious goal was set for the renovation project of the valuable block: the tenants must be provided with quality facilities without compromising the cultural and historical heritage.
‘The starting position was very challenging,’ summarises Project Manager Pekka Haapalainen from Saraco.
According to Haapalainen, the project required a lot of background and paperwork before any construction could even be started. The building is protected by law, which has required close cooperation with the authorities – the Finnish Heritage Agency, ELY Centre, land use planners and Building Control. The commencement of the work required a permit for a change in use. In order to get the work started quickly, it was agreed with the authorities to apply for a deviation permit. The same permit also resolved the construction ban on the property. A change in use also had to be applied for for the property that had previously served as a state office building.
Another challenge was posed by the fact that the plans for the ministry building used to be classified and have therefore been very difficult to find.
‘Information was sought from the National Archives and the Finnish Heritage Agency. Since we could not find all the information, we had to make a lot of assumptions based on the structures typical for the time,’ Haapalainen says.
Challenges caused by incomplete initial data were tackled with such solutions as carrying out demolition work further than usual before finalising the plans and starting the construction work.
‘Of course, there were some surprises, and not all of the structures were what we had assumed. We gained a huge amount of new information about structures typical for the time,’ Haapalainen says.
Klemettilä adds that the downtown environment also brings its own challenge to the work, requiring skills from both designers and contractors.
‘The tram circles the block on all sides, so there has been a need for careful consideration in terms of logistics, for example. Large building materials have sometimes had to be lifted in the small hours of the night,’ Klemettilä says.
Sweco Impact combines three areas of expertise: technical, economic and sustainable development
We believe at Sweco that combining technical and commercial expertise with sustainable development goals from the very beginning of a project will bring added value to the project, users and investors. We take responsibility for overall project steering and combine the best experts and solutions. We bring business understanding into the investment from the outset. In this way, we ensure that the project takes long-term commercial impact into account. To make the responsibilities clear, we offer a one-stop service.
“We were very successful in our partner selection. You cannot practise in these kinds of projects.”
– Vesa Klemettilä, Technical Director at Trevian Asset Management