Smart City Update from Espoo: Solutions of the Kera design competition accelerate a circular economy in the construction industry

In the autumn of 2022, the City of Espoo organised a design competition to find innovative concepts for the reuse of building parts in the Kera area. Winner solutions are united by courage, ingenuity and multidisciplinary teams. The top three were the Solwers companies’ working group, Yellow Office Ltd and AFRY Finland Oy.

Mitigation of climate change and biodiversity loss requires more efficient use of resources and a circular economy. In the construction sector, one key solution to this is the reuse of building materials and parts. In the Kera design competition, we sought ideas for what the reuse could mean in Kera’s receding industrial and logistics area. In the coming years, Kera will be built into a city district of 14,000 residents where sustainable development and the circular economy are commonplace.

The proposals submitted to the design competition were assessed from the viewpoints of innovation, quality, versatility and feasibility, for example. The assessment of the concepts was supported by an expert panel consisting of experts from the City of Espoo, representatives from Aalto University, VTT, Green Building Council Finland and Rakennustieto and property owners from the Kera area.

Creative examples of the reuse of building parts

The best score in the design competition was received by the proposal “Nextille Levelille” by the Solwers companies’ multidisciplinary working group, which aims to take the circular economy of construction in Finland to the next level. The core of the proposal is the recycling of the concrete pillar-beam frame and hollow slabs of the Kera halls as the load-bearing frame of a new building. As an example, the concept outlined a new generation day-care centre, which would have a smaller environmental impact than a day-care centre built of virgin raw materials. “A learning environment created according to the principles of the circular economy would be an opportunity to show children how we aim to be in balance with our living environment,” says architect Satu Fors from Lukkaroinen Architects Ltd, who participated in preparing the winning proposal.

The concept by Yellow Office and landscape architect Niilo Tenkanen, which took the second place, focus on the reuse of concrete elements in green and storm water construction. In the proposal “Rotko – Keran urbaani vihreä”, concrete elements that have been dismantled intact are utilised in addition to infrastructure construction in creating Kera’s cityscape identity. “Reusing concrete elements in storm water solutions could reduce the carbon footprint of infrastructure construction and increase the greenery of street spaces,” says Heljä Nieminen from Yellow Office.

Illustration of the Rotko – Keran urbaani vihreä solution proposal. The illustration depicts a street view, people walking and sitting and lush street plantings.

The concept of Yellow Office provides further outdoor use for building parts that are dismantled intact. Photo: Keltainen Toimisto


In its concept idea that took the third place, AFRY Finland Oy offered solutions for the development of the entire life cycle of building parts, from the demolition survey phase to the design of the new building and demolition intact. “The reuse of building parts requires new kinds of cooperation and solutions at every stage of the building’s life cycle. In our proposal, we define building information modelling for potential building parts in good time by utilising attributes that will facilitate their reuse after demolition,” says Arto Toorikka, Director for Sustainable Development at AFRY.

The design competition resulted in a number of other high-quality concepts as well. For example, in Spolia Design Oy’s concept, building elements are reused in a detached house project, Architects NRT Ltd’s idea finds a new life for building elements as park furniture, and the proposal of Meri Wiikinkoski and Anssi Lauttia’s working group solves challenges of the circular economy in the design process. “Establishing circular economy practices in construction requires time and actors. It is great to see that the design and construction industry has the expertise and enthusiasm to tackle this challenge,” says Rosa Väisänen, Specialist at the City of Espoo.

The top three concepts was developed in spring 2023 in cooperation with the City of Espoo and other stakeholders. During the spring, the feasibility and attractiveness of the concepts was studied and eventually presented on Wednesday, 26 April 2023.