Sauna N – an atmospheric wood-heated yard sauna

The article has been published in June 2021 in Wood magazine 1/2021.

Text: Mia Heiskanen | Photographs: Ville Vappula Photography

Read the article in Finnish: Sauna N – tunnelmallinen puulämmitteinen pihasauna

Sauna N is a yard sauna designed for a private client in Helsinki’s Itä-Pakila neighbourhood. The 600 m2 plot is in the middle of a dense residential area dominated by detached and semi-detached houses. The sauna was designed for use by residents of the home on the neighbouring plot, owned by the same owner.

As the yard sauna took up a plot marked for residential construction in the zoning plan, the design had to follow the relevant residential zoning regulations despite being a sauna. This means that the standard energy calculations were required for the building permit, the exterior walls needed to meet residential decibel levels, and possible conversion into residential use needed to be designed. The sauna only uses 76 m2 of the 150 m2 allocated for construction. This meant an eventual extension plan for the building also had to be taken into account.

The main starting points for the design were that the building’s spaces should be suited for many purposes and that solid wood and natural materials should be used for construction. The building was to serve as an atmospheric wood-heated yard sauna. It also has a large screen to allow people to watch movies, a guest room, and a comfortable lounge area. The architect was given quite a free hand to create a functional, personal, and atmospheric ensemble to meet client expectations with regards to space and materials.

270 mm thick solid laminated logs were used to build the exterior walls. The open fireplace on the outdoor terrace is made of slate, which was also used indoors in addition to wood. The covered terrace with hot tub and fireplace is designed for use by larger groups. The mason completed all the slate masonry on-site over the course of one summer. The light-coloured wood slat themes of the roof and loft, for example, create an atmosphere reminiscent of a Finnish forest. The acoustic slatted roof is built from elements that the carpenter machined at his workshop. The finished elements then merely needed to be installed on site. The loft’s wood railings and stairs were created on site by the carpenter.

The loft’s intermediate floor was made from CLT, which allowed the structural thickness to be thin and served as a finished ceiling without further treatment. The roof was built as a beam structure with a stonecrop green roof on top. The building has many unique details that highlight the skills of the project’s professional tradespeople with experience in traditional construction techniques.