Sipoo’s Puu-Talma, traditional construction for a village-style life

The municipality of Sipoo has planned a new village-style residential area for its Talma district, which lies along the border with Kerava. Puu-Talma (Wood-Talma) will be built following the principles of traditional villages: old log buildings can be relocated there, and new wooden buildings can supplement the old as long as construction follows traditional methods.

Authors: Aura Pajamo, Minna Aarnio, Dennis Söderholm Photographs: MUUAN, Janoušek & Havlíček

Puu-Talma draws its inspiration from the traditional village of Sulva in Mustasaari on Finland’s west coast. Starting in the 1970s, 15 log-framed homes and numerous accessory buildings have been relocated to Sulva and restored to their former glory. Sulva also serves as a learning environment for students of traditional construction. After all, the relocation and repair of buildings is an important Finnish tradition, and these skills should be passed along to future generations.

Read the article in Finnish here.

Finland has a wealth of log-framed residential buildings lying vacant because their location no longer meets modern demands. Luckily, the techniques used in log construction allow buildings to be moved quickly from one place to another. Puu-Talma has reserved an easily accessible location for such relocated buildings.

Shared lifestyles and values bring the community together

The planning for Puu-Talma placed particular importance on the circular economy and long-term trends such as changes in people’s work habits and concepts of identity, intergenerational transitions, environmental sustainability, responsibility, and being close to nature.

The vision is that these themes will draw people with similar values to the area and create a strong community. More people than ever will split their time between two or more residential addresses in future. It is therefore likely that the significance of community and people’s identity as a member of a community will only grow, and Puu-Talma seeks to facilitate this new lifestyle of sustainable urbanism. In fact, a close-knit community may already come together while the area is being built as people in similar situations naturally connect with each other. The Puu-Talma plan is likely to appeal to people who are interested in more traditional building. The Uudenmaan perinnekylä (Uusimaa region traditional village) community provided guidance on defining the profile of these potential residents and helped with the area’s general planning.

Sustainably built homes close to services add flexibility

Puu-Talma is part of Talma village and sits in the Talmankaari area, which is slated for development in the future. This means that recreational, leisure, and family services will all be accessible from Puu-Talma. The Kerava train station is only a short distance away, and Talma will be part of the future Kerava/Nikkilä railway extension.

Puu-Talma is home to a couple of dozen plots that are spacious by the standards of the greater Helsinki region, as well as more compact plots for connected small houses. Most of the area’s plots are for detached houses, which can contain living, working, or service facilities as desired. Each courtyard will consist of one main building and 2 to 5 accessory buildings. The main building can be a relocated or newly constructed house, and accessory buildings can serve as office spaces, workshops, guest rooms, etc. The feel is reminiscent of a compact village huddled around courtyards, surrounded by green fields and meadows. Building layouts can be adapted to fit each resident’s unique lifestyle.

Buildings from different eras enhance the area’s rural character

Relocated buildings are allowed to be from any era, but they must fit their allocated construction site. Gabled or gambrel roofs are preferred, and any new elements, such as porches, balconies, and ceiling lanterns, must suit the building’s style. Each building must have a high, clearly distinguishable plinth.

Any new buildings must be made of wood, and their appearance and detailing must fit in with the relocated buildings. Copycat styles should be avoided, however. New buildings must have a plinth that matches the plinth height of the surrounding relocated buildings.

Accessory buildings must be clearly secondary to their main building, but they can be new or relocated. Accessory buildings must be only one storey tall and must be separate from the main building. They can be heated, semi-heated, or cold. Accessory buildings must have a gabled roof. They do not necessarily need windows depending on their intended use.

Mandated construction guidelines

To provide builders with guidance, the city’s zoning authorities have drawn up instructions that specify and illustrate the construction methods required by the area’s zoning plan. These instructions mandate certain construction solutions, materials, colours, and plantings, and must be followed in addition to the general zoning plan requirements. For the building control department, the instructions serve as supporting material when issuing building permits.

Interpretations of the construction method instructions are chiefly the jurisdiction of building control. At their own discretion, the authorities can grant exceptions to the instructions and regulations, but the building permit applicant must demonstrate that the building will be in harmony with the area’s existing and planned environment and its uniform construction methods. The overall visual appearance must always match or exceed the level set forth in the requirements.

Sipoo municipality’s zoning authorities prepared the instructions in cooperation with building control.

The construction method instructions specify that Puu-Talma is specifically designated for wooden housing and will be home to 1) residential buildings built with traditional methods, 2) relocated traditional residential buildings, 3) new construction in the spirit of old building traditions. The buildings must fit in with the rural environment and area’s other buildings.

Although the instructions mandate wooden façades for the main buildings, clay, recycled brick, and similar materials are allowed for the accessory buildings. Roofs can machine-seamed sheet metal, wood, thatch, peat, bituminous felt, or clay shingles.

The construction method instructions for the area mandate the use of sustainable and recyclable materials. When choosing building materials, recyclability and the lifecycle effects on the environment must be considered.

Reusable building parts and materials should be used in construction whenever possible. According to the construction method instructions, parts suitable for re-use include wooden frames, windows, doors, bricks, roof tiles, floor materials, stone ovens, tiled stoves, bathtubs, sinks, lamps, natural stone, stone tiles, structural steel, and roof brackets.

The zoning plan entered into force in 2023, construction of the area’s municipal infrastructure will begin in 2024, and the first lots go up for sale in 2025.

Sources: Sipoo municipality website, Puu-Talma zoning plan, requirements, description, construction method instructions, and announcement of entry into force 17 August 2023.

Exemplary zoning plan promotes reuse of buildings and building parts

Puu-Talma’s zoning plan is unusually progressive in terms of the circular economy for construction. Although efforts have been made to promote the circular economy in construction in Finland, this has not led to designated zoning plans or genuine construction guidance oriented to the circular economy. Sipoo is the brave pioneer of a new way of building that is based on traditions and local building materials. Puu-Talma also has the potential to change construction aesthetics.

From the perspective of potential residents, it should be noted that the mandated construction guidelines for Puu-Talma were drawn up in cooperation with the municipality’s zoning authorities and building control. This should give residents confidence that abiding by the zoning plan and construction guidelines will indeed earn them a building permit.

Over the past 10 years, this has not always been the case in Finland for people hoping to reuse buildings, building parts, or materials. Anyone starting a construction project has faced the dilemma of construction site-specific certification requirements for building materials. Building inspectors have been known to demand CE markings or other certificates of conformity for reusable building parts and traditional building materials as late as in the construction phase inspection.

Reuse has suffered in particular, with building inspectors interpreting used parts and materials as construction waste and bringing in the environmental authorities and complicated waste legislation. Fortunately, the Ministry of the Environment issued a new guideline for interpreting regulations in 2022 that removed the CE marking requirement from building parts and materials manufactured before 2013. It is also significant that the municipality itself has drawn up and approved a zoning plan that strongly promotes reuse. This makes life much easier for building control and anyone planning to undertake a construction project.