In terms of urban development, the Finnish capital has found its way between the all-technological and the all-participative.
Surrounded by the calm waters of the Gulf of Finland, architecturally contemporary brick buildings rise block after block into a crane sky over the ancient port of Sörnäinen. The Kalasatama district ("fishing port" in Finnish) is one of Helsinki's major urban developments. Nothing futuristic at first sight, yet this operation of 175 hectares is one of the most interesting attempts in Europe to give substance to the nebulous concept of smart city. "We have chosen Kalasatama as a field of experimentation, a platform for cooperation and innovation for the city, economic actors and citizens," says Anni Sinnemäki, the deputy (ecologist) to the Mayor of Helsinki in charge of the urbanism. The innovations that work in Kalasatama, we will spread elsewhere. "
The Finnish capital must solve a delicate equation: in September 2017, the municipality set the goal of achieving carbon neutrality in 2035, even though its population is expected to jump from 640,000 residents today to 780,000 in 2035. "We want to build housing for everyone, but to achieve our climate goals we must think in terms of smart city, paying attention to the social aspect and not just to technological innovation," says Sinnemäki.
The district summons the heavy artillery of the sustainable city. Kalasatama is served by the metro, and several tram lines are under study. All buildings have the obligation to connect to the urban heating and air conditioning network powered by huge heat pumps recovering energy from the city's wastewater. The Katri Vala underground power plant, buried in a cave dug into the rock close to Kalasatama, is the largest of its kind in the world. Buildings must also integrate a smart grid ("smart grid"), which will pool the electricity produced and consumed by the million square meters of housing and 390,000 m2 of offices. The requirements for energy efficiency are drastic, buildings must produce 30% of their energy this year and rise quickly in power: Kalasatama wants to show a neutral energy balance in 2030, when 25 000 inhabitants and 10 000 employees will populate the neighborhood ...
But the most interesting is not there. "We do not just want to save energy: we want to focus on the human, the quality of life, the uses, create a spirit of community," says Veera Mustonen. The young woman works for the Forum Virium, the innovation department of the city of Helsinki, a cell of 35 people set up by the municipality to accelerate the implementation of the smart city. "This is a public-private-population partnership: we are here to support large groups, start-ups, facilitate their experiments, connect them with City departments, research centers, but always include citizens, who are co-creators and testers of all innovations, "she explains.
The main idea: the smart city must save one hour per day for everyone. "When companies come to us with an idea or a product, we always ask them how it will free up people's time," says Veera Mustonen. Kalasatama wants to embody a "third way" of the smart city, between the all-technological - sensors and Big Brother - and the "all-talk" without action on the ground. "Cities like Copenhagen have set up a big data platform without thinking about the uses, it's a failure," says Veera Mustonen.