The Government of Prime Minister Sanna Marin aims for Finland to be carbon neutral by 2035. Under the policy of the Ministry of Finance, Senate Properties is responsible for zero emissions from government-owned facilities, and the tenants of the facilities are responsible for zero emissions from their own operations.
This is why Senate is addressing low-carbon and energy efficiency in the development, use and maintenance of government buildings. Going forward, for example, the use of space will be further improved, everyday emissions will be kept to a minimum and the principles of the circular economy will be raised to become the new norm in construction processes.
Improved use of space has gained additional momentum from the digital leap arising during the coronavirus period, as the transition to multi-location working reduces the need for office space. In many places, offices are becoming co-working environments for different actors.
“We think that working elsewhere than at government facilities will quadruple in the future,” says Reetta Ripatti-Jokela, Head of Workplace Solutions at Senate Properties.
A circular economy pilot is delivering a 20% lower carbon footprint
Even today, Senate provides government employees with co-working environments in the form of Hupi, Sesam, and the Työ 2.0 Lab.
“However, these have just been a prelude. We have already taken the next step towards multi-actor work environments where, in addition to government organisations, other actors can be involved. For example, we are designing the government office building in Pori, which will include facilities for eleven different government actors and shared customer service facilities with the City of Pori,” says Reetta Ripatti-Jokela.
Besides the co-working aspect, the Pori shared space project represents a new kind of approach in promoting the principles of the circular economy. For example, the current plans are to locate the government office building in an existing property, a former post office.
A shared work environment and customer service point for the Finnish Tax Administration and the National Land Survey of Finland were opened in August in Porvoo. This is Senate’s circular economy pilot that has addressed not only in the efficient use of space resources but also the study of circular economy solutions in building construction. Where possible, the new facilities were adapted to existing structures and, instead of being renovated, some of the surfaces were only given a facelift. Procurement criteria, which took into account the circular economy and low carbon, were defined for the new building components and furniture. These actions reduced the project’s carbon footprint by about 20%.
Aiming for an emission-free working day
Emissions from the energy consumption of government facilities have been monitored for a long time. A wide range of measures has succeeded in reducing emissions by around 70% since 2012. It is currently understood that heating and other everyday emissions account for about half of the emissions in government facilities, and repair and construction for the other half.
Senate manages the environmental impacts of its operations through an ISO 14001 environmental management system and WWF’s Green Office environmental management system, which summarises the monitoring of environmental impacts through seven important aspects.
Since the government’s vision is for a completely emission-free working day, going forward everyone must also pay attention to the environmental impact of remote working and multi-location working. Remote working in itself has a big positive climate impact because it reduces commuting, but remote employees should also take other things into account.
“Energy, food, waste sorting and recycling are the most important environmental aspects of remote working. The greatest positive environmental impacts with a home office are achieved by choosing a green electricity contract and by switching to a more plant-focused diet,” advises Helka Julkunen, Partnership Manager WWF Finland.
“While what you eat is the most important thing for the environment, you should also pay attention to food waste at home. You can particularly save when using coffee: discarded coffee can account for almost 13% of food waste in the home. And it pays to take advantage of natural light whenever possible. Cleaning the windows helps in this respect – dirt can reduce power of sunlight by up to 40%.”
Users of the Green Office environmental system receive a WWF guide giving more detailed environmental guidelines for remote working. In addition, WWF is developing its environmental system to take better account of increasing remote working.
“We don’t have a template, but we want to develop it in collaboration with our network. This will allow users themselves to tell us about the most important things for them,” says Helka Julkunen.
Harmonised central government sustainability reporting as the guideline
WWF’s Green Office system policies are currently being revised. The new, updated Climate Calculator was introduced in early 2021. This allows an organisation to calculate its own carbon footprint and compare its results with previous years. The Climate Calculator also provides industry-specific benchmarks for the entire Green Office network.
Senate Properties has used the Green Office environmental management system in all its offices since 2009 and also recommends the same to its customers.
“The efforts of our Green Office team are focused on continuous improvement in each of our offices, and we have made good progress. Our next development effort is to take into account the transformation of location-independent work in the future environmental management programme. At the same time, our own organisation has grown strongly, with Defence Properties Finland, which started operations at the beginning of 2021. Our goal is to combine the Green Office teams of both and at the same time renew our Green Office operations in general,” says Riikka Manninen, Workplace Adviser at Senate Properties.
Going forward, central government sustainability work will be guided by a harmonised sustainability reporting framework for state actors, for which the State Treasury is currently developing guidelines.
Senate Properties and the WWF Green Office hold an annual customer event
A customer event held in the government’s Green Office network in December 2020 went deeper into the themes in this article. Click on the video to watch the recording of the event (in Finnish).