Building a Wood City: Helsinki Developers Tackle EU’s Taxonomy

More than 600 tones of glulam and cross-laminated timber were used in the seven-storey net-zero building.

Wed 03 Jul 24


Europe’s top developers are switching traditional steel-and-concrete building systems for hybrid timber systems – and are now building whole neighbourhoods out of wood as the building and construction industry grapples with the EU’s new taxonomy.

This includes Wood City, a quarter built in Jätkäsaari, an eco-precinct on the outskirts of Helsinki. The city, built by SRV—Finland’s largest commercial contractor—comprises multiple residential buildings, a new office building, a hotel, and a car park in collaboration with Finnish forest giant Stora Enso.

Designed by Anttinen Oiva Architects, the urban precinct is now attracting global attention. And yesterday, it reached a major milestone with the topping out of its latest office building, the first in Finland to meet the requirements of the EU taxonomy. The building, which will be the home of cybersecurity giant WithSecure, was developed by German-based Union Investment – using 600 tonnes of mass timber and bines 250 tons of CO2.

“The completion of WithSecure’s office also marks the completion of the Wood City wooden quarter…this is a unique construction project and a flagship for Finnish wood construction that we’ve been developing for a decade. The quarter has also attracted plenty of interest internationally, and it’s been a delight to add more lifecycle-wise buildings to our city”, according to Mira Alatalo, Director of SRV’s Helsinki Business Unit.

“We were able to make full use of our lifecycle-wise expertise in the construction of WithSecure’s office. This net zero-emission building will act as a carbon sink and provide energy-efficient user premises.”

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One of Finland’s first projects to meet the requirements of the EU Taxonomy, the project has set new benchmarks for low-carbon construction in one of Europe’s most livable cities. (Photo Credit: SRV)
Solid wood cross-laminated timber and Glulam pillars

Wood Central understands that timber has been used extensively across the building – in exterior walls, the frame, the attic floor, and cladding: “More than 197 glulam pillars were installed as load-bearing structures for the timber frame,” according to a media statement from SRV, with “the load-bearing intermediate floor using 313 cross-laminated timber slabs.”

Like all other buildings in the quarter, the façade is clad with Accoya wood panels—almost a kilometre of panels are installed across the seven-storey mid-rise building. The sculptural decoration on the lobby’s suspended ceiling was created using spruce cross-laminated timber and required 46 cubic metres of raw cross-laminated timber panels.

For Martin Schellein, Union Investment’s head of European investment, the choice to invest in Wood City strongly aligned with the asset manager’s pledge to eliminate operational and embodied carbon from its building stock:

“We are also pleased that this net-zero emissions building was completed on time, and we thank SRV for its cooperation. In 2018, we set ourselves the goal of achieving climate neutrality with our global real estate portfolio by 2050. WithSecure’s new headquarters in Wood City fits this strategy.”

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The building of Wood City, which has been in the works for several years. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of Stora Enso and Anttinen Oiva Architects)
A Cleaner and greener space that meets WithSecure’s needs

Lighter, greener, and faster to build, timber buildings are now leasing faster and commanding premium rents relative to traditional buildings – with A-grade anchor tenants like WithSecure looking to both the tangibles and intangibles to create the best environment for their personnel.

“The completion of our Wood City office is a major milestone for WithSecure. As a software and service company, our personnel are our most important asset, and Wood City will play a major role in increasing well-being”, said Charlotte Guillou, WithSecure’s Chief People Officer. Before adding, “the new premises will provide the best possible environment for boosting creativity and interaction in pleasant and comfortable surroundings.”

“In Wood City, we’re building a more sustainable society.”

Charlotte Guillou, WithSecure’s Chief People Officer

The office building consists of seven above-ground storeys and a basement, with a total floor area of about 8,700 square metres. Excavation work began in summer 2022.

The building’s timber frame installation started in March 2023 and took twelve weeks, whilst the installation of the wooden façade began in June 2023. About 100 people worked on the site when construction peaked, and about 1,300 employees received site onboarding.

What is the EU Taxonomy, and how does it apply to construction?

One of the key elements of Regulation (EU) 2020/852 (Taxonomy Regulation) is the introduction of a classification system to determine what is considered an “environmentally sustainable economic activity”, known more broadly as EU taxonomy.

“We anticipate developers and investors will closely align themselves with the EU taxonomy framework as part of their green transition,” according to leading Irish legal firm A & L Goodbody. “The construction industry has a significant role to play in decarbonising the construction and real estate sectors,” adding that “the construction industry is not only considered the largest consumer of raw materials globally, but also the largest consumer of high emission raw materials including concrete and steel.”

Whilst not mandatory, “alignment with EU taxonomy will ensure development and investment are directed towards sustainable projects and activities. In the construction industry, examples of economic activities that may be assessed for alignment with EU taxonomy (that is, whether or not the economic activity is economically sustainable) include a developer developing an office block or apartments, a purchaser purchasing such asset, or an investor lending into a construction project.”


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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