152-Tengbom_KY-Talo_SISÄÄNKÄYNTI 26-01-2021


Kulma21 looks into a sustainable future

The old and prestigious Business Student Union building in the Helsinki city centre gets a new life as Kulma21. NCC is carrying out renovation works in the building respecting the tradition and complying with the latest BREEAM environmental rating criteria at level Excellent. So far, the project remains one of a kind in Finland.

Completed in 1941, the Business Student Union aka The KY Building has seen a great deal from the viewpoints of living, working, shopping and entertainment. The handsome building at the corner of Pohjoinen Rautatiekatu and Fredrikinkatu streets is known as the spiritual home of business students, but it has probably influenced every Helsinki resident in one way or another.

”It’s nice to be able to continue the story of a property with such a strong and multifaceted history. We see excellent preconditions for building the Kulma21 brand and developing a high-quality office property on its basis,” Property Developer Matti Partanen says.

Kulma21 is not special just because of its traditions and memories – it is also included in the registry of built cultural environment of national significance by the National Board of Antiquities of Finland. Its uniqueness depends on the fact that it is the first project in Finland to be designed and constructed to level Excellent as per the very latest criteria applicable to renovation projects.

At Kulma21, all solutions made to promote sustainability are an improvement to the current status. Sustainability means considering many different aspects, both large and small; making respective augments will bring BREEAM points all of which are an investment to the standard of comfort created for the tenants to move in the premises when the time comes.

BREEAM is included in all activity

”Kulma21 is a renovation project which reminds of a jigsaw puzzle solved jointly with all parties. Of course, BREEAM and the protection targets for an old building like this can also spice up the task,” NCC Design Manager Ville Laankoski describes.

The BREEAM rating is a leading environmental rating system in Europe with indicators that can be applied on the national level considering the best practices. BREEAM has separate systems for new building projects and renovation projects.

”When implementing a renovation project of this order, the requirements and the implementation level from the viewpoint of environmental rating are the same, no matter if you are building a renovation project or a new building development. The targets at such a high rating level must be clear and they must be applied as the guidelines for all activity, from design to construction,” Optiplan’s life-cycle expert, Project Manager Riina Ahola states.

At NCC, BREEAM is a standard procedure and an in-built way of working of which the company has over ten years’ experience. At the topmost level the rating criteria call for establishing a multi-discipline team who are familiar with the certificate, including the several hundred details that relate to it.

Ahola adds: ”The BREEAM targets permit reducing the carbon footprint, improving energy and material efficiency and sorting of construction waste. When the building is awarded the BREEAM certificate, it proves that all of the set requirements have been fulfilled.”


Illustration: Oladesign

Sustainability comes down to many different things

”Concerning Kulma21, there are many different things to consider, starting from how the spaces feel and look. In practice, BREEAM can be seen, for example, as natural light complying with the requirements, lighting that is adjusted depending on the time of day and movement, good acoustics, water-saving faucets, solar protection on glazing to reduce cooling demand, waste management, and safe material choices made considering their carbon footprint,” Partanen says.

Solar energy will be used in the building where possible. Along with the energy-saving solutions, the very location of the building in the city centre will further the sustainability targets, since Kulma21 can be reached by all modes of transport, including the light traffic route Baana, which passes right beside the building. And, despite the central location, ecology can also be supported by adding greenery plantings and planters, bee hotels and bird boxes in the inner yard.

From peat and wood chip to present-day solutions

The space solutions of Kulma21 are flexible and suitable for many different companies and businesses, since the space sizes range between 200 and 6000 square metres. Owing to the refurbishment, the old building will be updated in all respects to fulfil present-day demands while respecting the building history and architecture.

”This renovation project is interesting, and also a noteworthy project with regard to its sustainability. Being able to use the existing framing is a great plus when striving to reduce the carbon footprint. Preserving the old is in itself sustainable activity,” Laankoski says.

The construction of Kulma21 started in 2021 with demolition works. According to Laankoski, there may always be surprises to be unveiled in the demolition process, even if the building had been investigated thoroughly in the design phase. Demolition of the kitchens at the Kulma21 site has already revealed several layers of building history.

”Surprises spice up the renovation works. The intermediate floors of Kulma21 have peat and wood chip filling as per the building practice that prevailed earlier. All this, and other organic matter must be removed. Removal of the filling from the floor structures will ensure that the building will remain healthy and safe for the tenants for a long time ahead,” Laankoski establishes.


Illustration: Oladesign

No greenfield project, but in the very heart of the city

The Kulma21 site is located in the middle of busy city life. Since we are not building alone in an inhabited area, such matters must also be considered in site planning, the building activity and logistics.

”Projects like this can never be entirely accomplished without incessant haulage of platforms and other disruption, but we try to minimise these as much as we can to keep the area safe and as tidy as possible, considering the residents and the neighbourhood,” Laankoski says.

The high recycling rate regulated by the legislation is also part of the logistical targets and NCC’s own targets.

There are lots of waste containers for sorting waste at Kulma21, including for timber, mineral waste, plasterboard and mineral wool. Nearly all waste is recycled and part of it can already be reused in the construction process.


  • Located at the corner of Pohjoinen Rautatiekatu and Fredrikinkatu at ample services and traffic connetctions
  • Construction period April 2021 – March 2023
  • 7,600 sq. m. of leasable office spaces
  • Office floor sizes: 490 – 1150 sq. m.
  • General and architectural design: Tengbom Oy
  • Fruther information on kulma21.fi website
  • Follow the progress of works through via site website: Kulma21.com

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