Pihapetäjä Housing in Joensuu

Completed in summer 2017, Pihapetäjä is the first wooden multi-story apartment building in Joensuu. It was commissioned by the Foundation for the Promotion of Karelian Culture as a response to their desire to build affordable rental housing of high quality in an ecologically responsible manner. The site at the edge of a pine forest provided a well-suited context for an apartment building to be built out of wood.

The goal for the Pihapetäjä project was to build an apartment building of a human scale in Joensuu. Ecological sustainability and energy efficiency were central defining principles in the project. Pihapetäjä has a carbon footprint that is 40 % smaller during its life cycle than that of a regular apartment building. Solar panels produce energy for the general power grid and for the needs of the building itself. Thanks to the characteristic features of wood as a material, Pihapetäjä offers a great quality of life in a building that it feels good to breathe in.

Pihapetäjä is part of a new infill plan developed by OOPEAA for the Foundation for the Promotion of Karelian Culture in a block with four apartment buildings dating from the 1960s, also in the ownership of the Foundation. In addition to the Pihapetäjä building, the infill plan accommodates two or three more wooden apartment buildings to be realized later. The plan also allows for a complementary one- or two-story wooden layer to be built on top of the already previously existing structures on the Mäntyläntie street side.

As the first one of the multi-story wooden apartment buildings to be built in the block, Pihapetäjä stands in the corner of the Mäntyläntie and the Honkapolku streets. Its architectural composition has been specifically tailored to meet the needs of wooden construction and the design is based on the modular principle that was first developed for the Puukuokka Housing Block in Jyväskylä. Here, it was modified to meet the specific requirements of the Pihapetäjä site and its apartment composition.

In response to an identified need in the area for studio apartments of relatively spacious character as well as for three room apartments with an efficiently arranged layout, Pihapetäjä is organized around these two apartment types. All units, including the smallest ones, have a retracting balcony. This has made it possible to create a glazed semi-public zone between the exterior and interior of the building. The retracting balconies also afford the apartments with generous views into the surrounding forest landscape.

In the heart of the building there is a spacious hallway that gets wider towards both ends. The building services engineering is integrated in the walls between the apartment units and the hallway. The central hallway was finished on site while the apartment units were built with prefabricated volumetric modular elements prepared in a controlled factory environment. The studios are composed of one element each and the larger units of two elements each.

In the past few decades, Joensuu has become known for its innovative approach to wooden construction. With several pilot projects for stadiums, large hall spaces and for office buildings, Joensuu is today recognized as a pioneer in research and development in exploring the new potential of wood as a material for building and construction. As a readily available material locally, wood presents an important and viable alternative for the development of sustainable construction in the region. The Pihapetäjä building is part of a larger research and development project. Alongside with the Foundation for the Promotion of Karelian Culture also the Karelia Institute and the University of Eastern Finland were partners in the development phase of the Pihapetäjä project.

As part of the ongoing research project, information on the residents’ experience of living in the building will be collected over a ten-year period of time. Also technical data will be collected and monitored over time with the help of sensors installed in the building. This information will be used to assess the long-term effects of wood on the quality of life and of the performance of wood as a material in large-scale buildings over time.

Joensuu, Finland

Karjalaisen Kulttuurin Edistämissäätiö KKES / Foundation for the Promotion of Karelian Culture

2 764 m2



Anssi Lassila

Juha Pakkala

Teemu Leppälä

Wood Award / Puupalkinto 2017, nominated

Mikko Auerniitty