Global Perspectives

Back to Basics? Finland’s Wood City

Part 2

Antti-Aaltonen-interview-part-2

We sat down to speak with Antti Aaltonen, Business Development Director at SRV. SRV is a Finland-based developer and innovator in the construction industry, it is currently the third-largest construction company by revenue in Finland. Antti was the Project Manager on Helsinki’s innovative Wood City project and offered valuable insights into what makes this project so unique.

In the first part of this deep-dive into Wood City, we explored the innovative use of wood throughout the process. Both the environmental impact of this decision, as well as the risk mitigation procedures relating to the material itself have been celebrated elsewhere as a success story for eco-friendly construction. This week, our focus is shifting to a far less covered aspect of Wood City – the unique on-site relationships.

Image rights: SRV

Quality People Deliver Quality Results

With Wood City, SRV knew that they were building something world-class, but it was vital that the construction process itself met this high bar too. Aaltonen explains his team’s philosophy in going into the project, “it sounds very basic but the reality is that the working man or woman, the person doing the painting and wiring and things like that, they are the number one criteria in getting the correct quality.” As Project Manager, he was committed to ensuring that high-quality performance from the bottom up would result in the highest quality result.

According to him, “in Finland, there has been problems in the past with subcontractors, with keeping them on-site as a consistent workforce. They will usually change their workers, even in the middle of the project. This has direct impacts on the quality of work.” Addressing this challenge required SRV to think outside of the box. Aaltonen recalls the team’s inventive response, “we founded a Workers Board of Directors, where once a month, myself from the SRV side, the Project Manager from the Supercell side, as well as a Site Manager, and subcontractors on trades would get together. We would take them to lunch and get to know them. We would ask ‘how has the work been?’, ‘do you have any complaints with how things are going?’, ‘is there anything we can improve in the work environment to make it more efficient?’ This was one of the good ideas that came up during this project, that we were really getting involved.”

Image rights: SRV

The results of the Workers Board of Directors were astounding. Subcontractor turnover was far lower than anywhere else in Finland and the dedication of contractors when they worked side by side with SRV and Wood City’s owners was evident. The success of this method spoke for itself when Wood City won an award for being the Best Quality Site in the entirety of Finland, a Rose of Construction from the City of Helsinki and came second place in the Construction Site of the Year awards. In addition to these accolades, the project was completed on time and Supercell has moved into its new office (with Aantonen extremely happy with the glowing feedback from the company).

Taking Ownership

Aaltonen is the first to admit that this unique approach to on-site working was thanks in large part to Supercell. As both client and end-user of Wood City’s 8-floor office building, Supercell “took a really keen interest in the project. They were really involved with the whole process of planning and executing, they really wanted to be deeply integrated with our own construction teams. It was something I’ve never seen in my whole career. I have never seen a client that has been so keen to participate in a construction project. They really wanted to be part of it, you know, go there and be visible on the site talking with the construction guys.”

This was no small feat. At any one time on the project, there were 350 people working on-site, with a total of 494,000 working hours being put into the project by subcontractors. According to Aaltonen, “using the wood was not that complicated or complex, but Supercell’s requirements and approach made it one of the most complex projects we have ever completed.”

Wood City stands out amongst many projects around the world for its inventiveness. From the materials used to the novel approach to day-to-day working. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, project teams succeeded in building an impressive project in an impressive way.

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Author:

Madeleine Jones Casey

Madeleine Jones-Casey

Business Writer at Foresight Works

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