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Helsinki Sets Carbon Footprint Limits for Residential Buildings

Dec 18, 2023 | Blog, Decarbonization News

The limit is part of the city’s efforts to reach carbon neutrality by 2035 and aims to reduce the environmental impact of new building projects.

Helsinki, Finland. Credit: Elena Golovchenko, Pexels

The City of Helsinki’s Urban Environment Division has introduced a carbon limit of 16 kg/m2 over a 50-year period, which applies to all residential apartment buildings in Helsinki, with a few exceptions.


What is the Carbon Footprint of a Building?

A building’s carbon footprint (CO2) is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced throughout the life-cycle of a building. It includes operational carbon – the emissions arising from the energy used to heat, cool, light and otherwise operate the building – and embodied carbon, the emissions arising from the products used to construct the building, from the raw material extraction and manufacture, through transportation, installation and maintenance, to end-of-life disposal.


Which Buildings are Affected?

The carbon footprint limit applies to all residential apartment buildings in Helsinki, with a few exceptions. Buildings with a diverse geometry may exceed the limit by 10%, and parking facilities may also exceed the limit under certain conditions. In all other cases, a permit is required to exceed the limit.


Why has  the City of Helsinki Set the Limit?

The City of Helsinki has set the carbon footprint limit in an effort to reach carbon neutrality by 2035. The city is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2030, and the carbon footprint limit is a key part of this strategy.


How is the Limit Calculated?

The total carbon footprint of a building is calculated using the Environmental Ministry’s low-carbon assessment method. This method considers emissions from the construction, operation, and demolition of the building. The method is based on a lifecycle assessment approach, which means that it considers the environmental impact of a building throughout its entire lifespan, from the extraction of raw materials to the disposal of waste.


How Can Designers Reduce the Carbon Impact of their Projects?

There are a number of things that architects and engineers can do to reduce the carbon footprint of a building, such as:

  • Using low-carbon materials, such as recycled concrete and timber
  • Designing buildings to be energy efficient
  • Using renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power

By taking these steps, architects and engineers can help to create a more sustainable future for Helsinki.

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