There is an active focus on research and development at OOPEAA. We are interested inexploring the potential of finding optimal solutions that support both the social and ecological aspects of sustainability while simultaneously being economically efficient in along-term perspective.
In recent years, our interest in finding ways to optimize the use of material and create solutions that are architectonically and technically sustainable has led to our involvementin research projects with a focus on sustainability.Most recently, we have initiated a research and development project for a web based evaluation tool to assess the impact of the material and structural choices on the ecological sustainability of a building projectthat could be used already in the early stages of concept design in order to help to guidethe design process. The working name for the tool is Life Cycle Visualizer. There is also an ongoing focus on exploring the potential of modularity and the application of mass timber as a sustainable solution to the needs of urban housing and public buildings.
Tool for Evaluating Sustainability
The Life Cycle Visualizer will provide an early assessment tool for evaluating the impact of material choices on the sustainability of a building. The tool makes it possible for designers, clients and all parties involved in the early decision making process of a building project to better comprehend the impact of alternative material and structural choices on the sustainability of the project, and to communicate about it in an easily understandable, visual manner.
The intention is not to create a tool for providing a full life cycle analysis. Instead, the goal is to create a web based tool to be used in the early stages of design prior to havingmade decisions that at a later stage will make it possible to perform a proper life cycle analysis. The Life Cycle Visualizer tool is about visualizing and making transparent basicinformation regardinga building project.
The building industry is responsible for about 40% of emissions and harmful impact on the environment. That is more than the share of any other sector of activity. That is why we as architects have a big responsibility in taking seriously the potential that we have ininfluencing decisions regarding material and structural choices related to the buildings design. The materials we use for building and how we use them make a big difference to sustainability.
The research and development project for creating the Life Cycle Visualizer tools is realized under the leadership of OOPEAA as an international collaboration. It is carried out with the support of a grant awarded by the Ministry of Environment, Finland. The grant is part of the Growth and Development from Wood Program.
Urban Vision and Toolbox
The Vision and Toolbox for the Future Seinäjoki City Center provides a framework for developing the city as a socially sustainable, active and green city with a human scale. Itis the result of a two-year research process of urban analysis and conceptual development realized by OOPEAA in collaboration with the City of Seinäjoki as the commissioning client and Gehl as an expert on matters of the social dynamics of urban public space. A series of three workshops gave also the citizens of Seinäjoki an opportunity to actively engage in the process.
Today, shopping centers with retail services clustered in locations outside of the city center present a challenge to the traditional understanding of the livelihood of cities as places of commerce. However, cities as urban places are really about much more than about just shopping and retail services. People need services, cafes, restaurants, officesand places of work, and above all, they need places that support social interaction, places where to meet friends, skate board, play ball, do barbeque, and just simply to livein the everyday.
An Urban Toolbox of architectural tools specifically designed for developing the city as a well-balanced urban place is a key element of the Vision for the Future City. It provides awide-ranging palette of tools for architectural interventions of various scales to be applied in various combinations depending on the context and the desired effect. The goal is to create a city that provides an accessible and inclusive urban place for people to live and work in and offers a richly layered and well-balanced environment for future growth.
The Vision has been deliberately formulated to serve as an inspiration rather than as a set of guidelines and instructions. It presents a library of possible alternative ways of doing things and illustrates the potential of interventions of various scales to support the city in its future growth in a way that makes it a place in which people feel good to live and work in. It aspires to inspire people to make their city the best possible place it can be. While the vision was created to address the needs of the Seinäjoki City Center, the sixth fastest growing city in Finland, the Urban Toolbox offers a set of tools that can be applied to other cities as well.
Modular Timber Construction
Since the fire regulations were changed in Finland in 2011 to allow for multi-story wooden construction, OOPEAA has been involved in developing new modular construction systems making use of timber. Working with wood and mass timber to explore its potential for developing ecologically and socially sustainable solutions to the contemporary needs of urban housing and public buildings is a key focus in the work of the office. We are also interested in developing new systems of flexibly customizable modularity.
The Puukuokka Block by OOPEAA is an illustration of the potential of a system of volumetric modules made of CLT in creating multi-story apartment buildings with a fully wooden frame and structure. The Global Concept for the Allas Sea Pool Family developed by OOPEAA is an example of applying the modular principle in a scalable concept with the capacity for flexible adaptation for sites in different parts of the world. Koota is a new wooden housing block to be built in Porvoo, a small historical city with a significant heritage of wooden buildings from the 19thcentury. It explores the potential of new methods of timber construction in providing a contemporary addition to the tradition of wooden housing. It creates a new solution for urban living in a way that is both ecologically and socially sustainable and promotes a sense of community amongst the residents.
Informing Sustainable Architecture
Realized in 2015 -2018 the Nordic Built – Sustainable Transformation and EnvironmentalDesign – STED was a three-year-long project with the aim of developing new tools for making it possible to effectively use an assessment based on Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) to evaluate the sustainability of architectural design projects from the early design stageson. It provided a Nordic innovation platform for developing new design solutions and design processes for construction, renovation and transformation. Using ICT to support in the process of decision making and combining energy efficiency, environmental design and lifecycle thinking, theaim was to develop innovative and generalizable system design solutions and design methods to create sustainable buildings.
Participation in the STED project was an important part of OOPEAA’s research and development in exploring the possibilities of the use of wood in architecture, particularly, but not limited to, in providing sustainable solutions in housing and construction. For OOPEAA, the involvement in the STED project has lead to further research with a focus on developing new tools for assessing the lifecycle ecology of a building project from theearly design stages. This has taken the form of a research and development project withthe aim of developing a web based tool for the early evaluation of the impact of material and structural choices on the sustainability of the a building project, the Life Cycle Visualizer.
STED presents a shift in perspective by developing Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and ICT tools to promote the development and design of sustainable and energy efficient buildings. By making advanced sustainability analysis and documentation available, STED seeks to improve the sustainability of solutions and services that are affordable to a general public.
The project was initiated and coordinated by the Technical University of Denmark DTU. Selected architecture offices with a focus on research and development as part of their practice from each of the five Nordic counties were invited to take part in the project: Tegnestuen Vandkunsten from Denmark, Helen & Hard Arkitekter from Norway, White Arkitekter from Sweden, Studio Granda from Iceland, and OOPEAA from Finland. The project consortium consisted of four research institutions in the Nordic countries: DTU and Kunstakademiets Arkitektskole KADK in Denmark, Norges Teknisk Naturvitenskapelige Universitet NTNU in Norway, and Chalmers Tekniska Universitet CTH in Sweden. The STED research project was funded by a Nordic Innovation grant.