Kutomokuja daycare centre

A new daycare centre is being built in Helsinki’s Pitäjänmäki district, right next to a popular recreational area and sports park. Hoivatilat Oyj is both the developer and the property owner. Daycare centres are in demand as Helsinki does not currently have enough early childhood education facilities to meet its needs. This new two-storey building is made of wood and will be completed by December 2024.

Text: Petra Silvennoinen

Read the article in Finnish here.

The Kutomokuja daycare centre is in a natural environment on the edge of Tali sports park. It’s quite a suitable location: thanks to the variety of outdoor recreational and sporting opportunities in the area, many families already have their hobbies near the daycare centre. The nearby forest also offers a stimulating environment for daycare centre activities. The new daycare centre has a smooth and welcoming profile. The entrance area in the centre of the building appears to wrap around the playground, with the actual entryway just where the roof folds. In line with the environmental goals of the municipal zoning plan, the centre will have a green roof for vegetation and for producing solar electricity. As the real estate developer and owner, Hoivatilat is aiming to develop a better and more humane urban environment.

Designed for 224 children, the wooden daycare centre will offer early childhood education to 161 Finnish-language and 63 Swedish-language children. Some of this new capacity will be taken by transfers of children from temporary facilities, leaving the new building to accommodate about 66 new children in total. The building’s floor area is 1947 m2. Construction began in the summer of 2023, and the facility will welcome the children in January 2025. Hoivatilat built the daycare centre for the City of Helsinki under a facilities-as-a-service rental model. The project’s value is approximately 8.3 million euros.

From bidding to becoming a developer and owner

For the public procurement process, the City of Helsinki commissioned a reference plan for a daycare centre from Arkkitehdit Rudanko Kankkunen Oy. Hoivatilat won the tender and elected its partner Verstas Arkkitehdit Oy to serve as the project’s lead architect. AHS Control Oy, another partner of Hoivatilat, was the main contractor at the site and handled all subcontracting.

“Hoivatila has experience in submitting tenders to the City of Helsinki, and we built the Metsola school for the city using the same rental model. Previous projects have allowed us to get familiar with how the city and its competitive negotiation procedure operate in these rental model tenders. We use this knowledge when participating in tenders and when planning and building projects”, says Panu Pigg, a project manager at Hoivatilat.

For the Kutomokuja project, the reference plan for a wooden building gave us the framework for the competition and bidding phase that took place in the winter of 2021–2022.“We collaborated with the client, the contractor, and Verstas Arkkitehdit to further refine and develop the reference plan to produce a superior result that works functionally and technically. No radical changes were needed. Hoivatilat is aiming at sustainable and long-term ownership, which in turn means that the end result needs to be functional and of high quality.”

Wood resists everyday wear and tear

Wood is an environmentally-friendly, light, and competitively priced frame solution, and prefabricated wooden elements save time at the construction site. Wooden elements and structural solutions have the added advantage of allowing for plenty of variation in façades shapes and openings.

“The design of wooden buildings is fascinating and interesting, and sometimes also challenging due to the need for fire safety. As a surface material, wood is warm and honest, resistant to daily wear and tear”, notes architect SAFA Anne Jaakola, who managed the building’s architectural design at Verstas Arkkitehdit.

The elements used for the external and partition walls, intermediate floor and roof serve as the load-bearing wooden frame. These load-bearing walls have non-flammable stone wool insulation and a non-combustible gypsum board covering. The exterior walls have non-flammable wind protection panels, and the intermediate floor has LVL beams, stone wool insulation, and a non-combustible gypsum board covering on the lower surface. Since the intermediate floors are covered with a floating floor, there are no acoustic requirements for the ceiling or the floor material.

The wooden pole frame walls and LVL beam structures used as load-bearing components are hidden from view, but plenty of wood remains visible in the pillars, beams, and surface materials. Jaakola notes that the visible wooden elements and surfaces give the building a story and character.

“For example, the entrance canopy has large glulam beams that remain visible, and the stairs of the building itself has wooden structures and surfaces. The interior linings, the acoustic trim in the hall, and the ceiling and doors in the lunchroom all have products with birch veneer surfaces. Birch is also common in the furniture and fixtures, including in the entranceway cabinets. Birch goes well with the building’s light and calm colour scheme,” says Jaakola.

As the daycare centre sits at the edge of a park, there are more trees on the site than one typically sees in a city. We tried to preserve as many of the trees and as much of the forest floor as possible. We wanted to use wood for the playground equipment in the yard to ensure the children would be near wood in many forms, even while playing.”

The yard also provides shelter for those less sunny days. In the yard’s design, the goal is to accommodate the day-to-day activities of the daycare centre in addition to ensuring safe and smooth access.

The mainly wood framed and clad building has fire class P1. We chose this fire class because it would not put limits on the number of occupants or the height of the building. We did not need to apply fire retardant to the wooden cladding on the façade because fire safety is provided by the wind protection insulation and heat insulation, which meet the requirements of class A2-s1, d0. A firebreak moulding protects the ventilation gap between the floors and around the exit stairways. The wooden façades are mostly glazed, with some opaque painted sections. The entrance canopy lattice is intentionally designed to use only a small amount of wood, which means no separate application of fire retardant is needed.