A recent dissertation by Florencia Franzini titled “Wooden multistory construction as perceived by Finland’s municipal civil servants overseeing land use planning” sheds light on the various beliefs Finnish municipal civil servants hold about implementing wooden multistory buildings. Prior to the dissertation, the role of public administrators in enabling wooden multistory construction was largely unexamined. The work bridges a gap by providing information about whether and why municipalities perceive the implementation of wooden multistory projects as worthwhile. According to the results, municipal civil servants perceive a variety of social goods associated with wooden multistory construction. Still, project uptake is hampered by barriers associated with the construction sectors operating environment, such a limited number of builders or the perceived high costs of projects.

There is limited information on how public administrators evaluate the outcomes of implementing wooden multistory buildings for residential housing. Research on wooden construction primarily highlights the perceptions of industry actors (e.g., architects, engineers), producers (e.g., wood material supply chain), and occasionally consumers (e.g., residents and citizens). The limited perspective is tricky, given that public administrations may be largely responsible for governing land use planning, for example in Finland, where they are legally legitimized to oversee the creation and approval of land use zoning maps.

The dissertation tackles the limitation through a series of studies aimed at collecting perceptions of Finnish municipal civil servants through semi-structured interviews and a national-scale survey sent out to various representatives across all the municipalities within mainland Finland. Respondents included a wide range of employee professionals, like municipal planners, environmental engineers, senior managers, real estate agents, and building inspectors, among others. Ultimately, perceptions are constructed using the respondent’s own beliefs and attitudes towards wooden multistory construction. These beliefs and attitudes provided insight into three distinct accounts:

  • Why not wood? addresses the barriers and benefits of wooden multistory construction
  • Wood versus concrete; addresses how wooden- and concrete multistory buildings are compared
  • Planning for wood; addresses the ideologies influencing land use planning priorities that underpin attitudes towards wooden multistory construction

According to the findings of the dissertation, whether a municipal civil servant views wooden multistory buildings with a positive attitude rest largely with the buildings capacity to fulfil a variety of societal benefits. Essentially, when respondents were interviewed and asked to discuss advantages of wooden multistory construction, they described a variety of benefits. These benefits included a range of topics chiefly related to improving the local and regional economies, citizen lifestyles, technical qualities of residential buildings, and climate change. The beneficiaries of these outcomes included local citizen and businesses, the domestic forest sector, and even the municipalities themselves. Meanwhile, respondents comparing wooden- and concrete- multistory buildings through the national survey indicated that wooden multistory buildings held superior environmental qualities (e.g., lower carbon emissions), potentials to contribute to regional and local economies, and improve a municipality’s branding. On the other hand, the general consensus among respondents was that wooden multistory buildings were more expensive and were more susceptible to fire.

Interestingly, not all these qualities shape a civil servant’s attitudes towards wooden multistory construction in the same way. The caveat is that different professional occupancies appear to form their attitudes according to different sets of considerations. For example, municipal planners form their attitudes holistically according to whether the wooden multistory building project has superior environmental qualities, technical qualities, and economic development outcomes. Other administrators are largely forming attitudes according to whether the project holds superior economic development outcomes and technical qualities. This appears to indicate that different occupational professions working within the local administration hold different land use planning priorities and their positive view towards wooden multistory construction is closely aligned to whether the buildings fulfil those priorities. The caveat may be that not all professional groups may agree over what land use planning agendas to prioritize. Therefore, future research is needed to better understand whether these differences lead to planning tensions within local administrations.

While the research cannot unequivocally state to what degree the support or acceptance from public administrators can influence the diffusion of wooden multistory buildings, at the very least, these perceptions provide a unique counterpoint for reflecting on how the wooden multistory building phenomenon is developing across Finland. The broader implication is that for municipal civil servants, it appears a large part of supporting wooden multistory construction development rests with improving social goods.


Florencia Franzini is a doctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki. She will defend her thesis on March 23rd at 12:00. You can view the defense online or attend in person at Athena, Sali 107, Siltavuorenpenger 3 A, Helsinki. Professor Mark Hughes, Aalto University, will serve as the opponent, and Professor Anne Toppinen as the custos. The dissertation is available for reading online.

Estonia has a long-term renovation strategy target of 14,000 renovated apartment building in 2020-2050. The KredEx renovation grant system has brought on significant results in deep renovation. Since the first scheme of the grant system, there are improvements in ventilation requirements.

Estonia has achieved great results in deep renovation, thanks to the KredEx renovation grant system. Backed by the EU since its 2010 kick-off, KredEX features strict technical requirements, focusing on high-level energy efficiency and indoor climate conditions.

Large-scale renovation has generated positive effects on the macroeconomic level, quantified in terms of job creation and tax return. All in all, 17 jobs per 1 million euros of investment in renovation have been created directly and indirectly per year in Estonia. Tax revenue from renovation construction projects has been quantified to be 32–33 % of the total renovation project costs. Therefore, evidence from Estonia shows that a state subsidised renovation has been, in practical terms, budget neutral with direct financial support of 25–40 % used in last 10 years.

During this decade, around 1,100 apartment buildings have been renovated. Energy efficiency and indoor climate conditions comparable to modern apartment buildings have been achieved with deep integrated renovation. At the same time, it’s worth taking note that the cost of deep renovation is approximately 3–4 times lower than building a new apartment building. This is a good start, but the volume needs to be increased to catch the long-term renovation strategy target of 14,000 renovated apartment building in 2020-2050.

Challenges in indoor climate quality during the first scheme

Support from the EU first materialised in 2010-2014, as a total of 663 apartment buildings underwent renovation in Estonia. This first period showed what can go wrong and what needs to be improved in renovation. Typical to any new scheme, KredEx started with well-defined energy saving targets, but technical requirements for ventilation were not specified. It was just stated that indoor climate quality should follow Category II indoor climate target values typically used in new buildings according to European standard. In reality, such general requirement was not followed and many ventilation solutions failed. That especially applied for single room ventilation units with heat recovery which were noisy, had frost problems and were overrun by stack effect in high-rise buildings.

Developed scheme with new ventilation requirements

Crucial development was made in the new grant scheme, KredEX II, emerged for 2015-2017, with a total of 102 million euros in EU Structural Funds used. Under this new scheme, technical requirements and the application process were further developed and more detailed. Now the starting point was that heat recovery ventilation systems are to be installed in order to achieve substantial energy savings (about 70% in heating) and indoor climate improvements at the same time. For that purpose, two technical ventilation solutions were specified for a common large renovation grant (35% support at that time). These solutions were mechanical supply and exhaust ventilation with heat recovery or ventilation radiators with exhaust air heat pump. Both systems have been widely used. There was a significant innovation to install ventilation ductwork to façade into new additional insulation layer that made centralized heat recovery ventilation feasible. Exhaust air heat pump with ventilation radiators has been popular in higher buildings where main ducts become bigger and are more challenging to install to façade. Together with ventilation system specification, ventilation airflow requirements were set on room level, telling how much supply air is needed in bedrooms and living rooms and how much extract from toilets, bathrooms and kitchens. These new requirements made design transparent, KredEx also started to evaluate the compliance of design documentation by external consultants. Finally, the airflow measurement protocol requirement after installation ensured that ventilation was well done in all projects.

The same technical requirements have been used during last years, but now the scheme has developed with regional development considerations. While a large grant in Tallinn and Tartu was limited to 30% support, projects in smaller cities received 40% and in Ida Virumaa even 50%.


Jarek Kurnitski, professor at the Tallinn University of Technology, is a distinguished researcher in the field of energy performance and indoor climate of buildings.

Apartment buildings from the 1960s and 1970s in Finland are usually given an energy efficiency rating between D and F. Renovations have the potential to improve energy efficiency and lower the climate impact of housing.

Over a third of apartment buildings in Finland were built in the 1960s and 1970s. The repair debt of this housing stock is a challenge – these apartments are typically in need of an extensive renovation.

Energy efficiency improvements and updating of the heating systems are typically carried out in pursuance of rehabilitation. The rehabilitation projects provide an opportunity to lower greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the energy subsidy granted by The Housing Finance and Development Centre of Finland (ARA) since 2020 is accelerating renovations in Finland.  

Suburbs in Helsinki, Joensuu, Turku and Vantaa  

In this blog post we examine the characteristics and present state of building stock in Helsinki, Joensuu, Turku and Vantaa, in particular the suburbs. These cities are involved in the newly launched Decarbon-Home research project, which studies, among other things, the energy efficiency of suburbs, energy renovations and socio-economic factors, segregation and residents’ views on housing and energy solutions.  

The age of the urban building stock varies from region to region according to the stage when the population has grown. For example, in Helsinki the share of the old apartment houses is significantly higher than in other cities. On the other hand, the population of Joensuu and Vantaa has grown rapidly since the 1960s, which is reflected in a large part of the newer building stock. In Turku, almost half of the apartment buildings were built in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Modest level of energy efficiency 

The majority of apartment buildings built in the 1960s and 1970s are quite modest in terms of energy efficiency as the energy efficiency class varies between D and F. In Helsinki and Turku, some apartment buildings reach the classes B and C, while in Joensuu the best are rated D. In Vantaa, even 62 % of the apartment buildings from the 60s and 70s in the energy certificate register belong to category F. Helsinki and Turku, the building stock of the 60s and 70s has slightly higher ratings compared to the whole country. 

Based on the building and dwelling register, district heating (89%) and oil heating (9%) are the most common forms of heating of apartment houses. Almost all apartment buildings built after 1980 are connected to the district heating network. Among the four cities under examination, Turku and Joensuu have most oil-heated properties. On the other hand, in recent years, some residential apartment buildings have disconnected from the district heating network and switched to geothermal heating, for example. 

Increased segregation 

Although the segregation of residential areas is a topical issue in Finland, and this debate often focuses on suburban areas, the socio-economic development of suburbs has been studied relatively little since the 1990s. The reference we use in this blog post is Stjernberg’s analysis of the socio-economic status and development of the Helsinki region’s suburbs built in the 1960s and 1970s, published in 2017. The data  ends in the year 2014. 

Helsinki was one of the least segregated capitals in Europe in the 1990s, but since the 1990s, socio-economic disparities have increased both in Helsinki and elsewhere in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. This is particularly pronounced in certain suburbs that have lagged behind other areas. Certain socio-economic differences are emphasized in the suburbs built in the 1960s and 1970s in the Helsinki region compared to the average figures in the Helsinki region. For example, there are more unemployed, foreigners, aged (over 65) and people with low income and low education than in average. The share of rented apartments varies significantly between different suburban areas although according to general conception, suburbs are dominated by rental housing. In some of the suburbs of the Helsinki region built in the 1960s and 1970s, more than 80 per cent of the housing stock consists of owned apartments, but in others the share is less than 20 per cent.

In the Decarbon-Home project, we study the residents’ characteristics described above also in other suburban areas in Finland. We will explore, for example, how unemployment, low income or the high age of residents affect the possibilities for improving energy efficiency. 


Hanna-Liisa Kangas works as a senior research scientist in climate and energy policy at the Finnish Environment Institute. Research and promoting climate-wise construction is a matter of heart for Hanna-Liisa, because something must be left of this planet for future generations.

Santtu Karhinen works as a researcher in energy economics at the Finnish Environment Institute. Santtu is particularly interested in energy efficiency issues of buildings and will soon be able to use this knowledge for his own building project.