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Renovation projects that inspire and engage

NCC is a recognised developer of new properties, but also known for its renovation projects which permit recovering old buildings to a new splendour. ”It’s great to be able to continue the story of buildings with a long history,” Property Developer Matti Partanen says.  

One of the most engaging renovation projects currently underway in Helsinki city centre is the KY Building formerly owned by the Business Student Union. The story of the iconic building will continue as ’Kulma 21’ and high-quality office spaces.

Among NCC’s earlier renovation projects Partanen wishes to bring up the Amer Sports headquarters. It was built in a handsome old storehouse of red brick in the former train factory quarters of Vallila in Helsinki. NCC has also participated in many other renovation projects as the main implementing party, such as the Scandic Grand Central hotel completed just now in the Helsinki Central Railway Station building.

”Along with the new building projects it is the renovations in the old city districts that I find most interesting, mainly because of the location. From a property developer’s viewpoint it is fascinating being able to create new life and functions for old buildings,” Partanen says.

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Illustration: Oladesign

Everything starts with the existing property

The starting point in renovation projects is the framing of the existing building. At first, the building’s technical condition and history must be investigated, gathering initial data for further planning and design. Any extensions or infill development will be considered in each project separately.

”Everything starts with conceptual planning: what the building will be used for, what we want to offer the users and the surrounding neighbourhood, and how the building itself can best support the concept. An old building will have its constraints. And, many times we want to honour the original architect’s handprint when designing new. Many old buildings in the central business district are at least partially protected, which brings a twist of its own while working on them,” Partanen reckons.

Old buildings will always come with surprises. The input data of design and construction may prove insufficient, and surprises can happen in the demolition phase. Such matters are tackled jointly with the designers and the contractor in situ.

”Old properties are original and interesting, for example, due to their exceptional room heights, space arrangements and other details originating from old building practices. Although buildings can be updated  for their technical and functional solutions, the spirit of bygone days will always be felt.”

Preserving old buildings is sustainable

Renovation projects are usually implemented in buildings that were completed long before the talks about sustainability began. Nevertheless, renovations are made considering the environment. Kulma21 is a good example of this, since it is the first project to be implemented in Finland to level Excellent by the latest standards of the BREEAM environmental classification for renovation works.

Sustainability means many different things: ensuring natural light in conformity with the requirements, lighting that adjusts automatically depending on the time of the day and movement; solar energy, water-saving faucets, good acoustics, efficient waste disposal, and materials that are selected considering their carbon footprint.

According to Partanen, building projects in the central business district are sustainable owing to their very location, since they are well accessible by public transport with walk and bike connections and existing service offering in the immediate vicinity. Saving the framing of an old, serviceable building instead of demolishing it is a highly sustainable deed from carbon footprint point of view.

”Great location and environmentally certified, modernised old buildings will attract both tenants and property investors,” Partanen establishes.  

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Illustration: Oladesign

Professional core team

In addition to the property developer, the core team in renovation projects includes an architect, a structural designer and a building unit which, as opposed to new building projects, should be engaged in the planning right from the beginning. A close co-operation is established with the authorities already in the early stages of development work. If the building is protected, the City Museum will also have a strong role in the project. BREEAM sites likewise require creating a multi-disciplinary team who are familiar with the hundreds of details related to the certification process.

”Despite the differences between new building and renovation projects, they also have similarities. Of course, to renovate an old building you must understand the building history which calls for a professional  structural designer specialising in renovations. You must be familiar with the building and its parts to ensure that the renovated building will be healthy and safe to use,” Partanen says.

Renovation projects are interesting and fascinating indeed. ”We are charting the existing building stock all the time. Negotiations are pending on property acquisitions as we speak. This way we can respond to the interest and high demand for renovated buildings at excellent locations,” Partanen concludes.  

For more information on NCC’s renovation development projects and references see: ncc.com/our-offer/building/renovation/

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