Green solutions for the urban environment: former industrial area is transformed into a green district

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2021-03-25 13:10

Last summer, innovative green solutions were experimented in the urban environment of Keran Hallit. The experiment included two items: green wall solutions for runoff water management and a communal urban cultivation area where residents grew local food in plant boxes and green wall structures. During the summer and autumn, Innogreen built a green research and cultivation area in the inner courtyard of Keran Hallit. Kera, traditionally known as an industrial area, will be transformed into a green residential and commuting area in the 2020s.

Two men standing next to a wooden, multi-layered green wall structure.

The green wall structure, experimented as a runoff water management solution, consists of several layers through which the water passes. Pictured here are Innogreen’s Mikko Sonninen and Mats Wikström.

Green wall used to grow various herbs. In the background, wooden plant boxes in the courtyard of the former logistics building.

Vertical green wall structure used to grow herbs. Plant boxes used in research can be seen in the background.

Green solutions for runoff water management

Plant boxes were used in Kera to study factors affecting the properties of outdoor green walls, such as the choice of plants and soil properties. These were compared to determine how various factors affect the quantity and quality of runoff water passing through the structure.

In a densely built urban environment, the management of runoff water, i.e. rainwater and snow melting waters lead away from constructed surfaces, is a challenge. Green structures, including green roofs and outdoor green walls, such as the one tested in Kera, absorb runoff water and reduce the flooding of sewers and urban streams. Using runoff water to irrigate plants is also useful from the viewpoint of circular economy.

The new town plan draft of Kera includes, for the first time in the history of Espoo, the green factor tool, which means that the greenery of a residential area is regulated at the planning and building permit stage by means of calculations. The green factor takes into account various green elements, such as green roofs, trees and shrubs, as well as other solutions to delay runoff water. “In addition to runoff water management, green structures are an excellent way of adding greenery and comfort to an urban area,” says Katariina Peltola, landscape architect at the Espoo City Planning Department.

Two men standing by a green wall, studying the plants in the structure.

Urban gardening in a city environment

During summer 2020, city residents also experimented with new kind of urban gardening in the Keran Hallit courtyard, both in plant boxes and in wall structures. It was up to the gardeners themselves to decide which useful plants they wanted to grow. In addition to herbs, strawberries and grape vines were also grown in this urban oasis during the summer, and in the early autumn, the gardeners experimented with the cultivation of oyster mushrooms side by side with strawberries.

Urban gardening adds to the variety of plants at the city environment and attracts pollinators. Indeed, in addition to gardeners and city residents visiting Kera, pollinators were regular visitors to the gardening area. The gardeners were very satisfied with the outcome of their work and are already looking forward to the new season. “I love putting my fingers in the dirt together with the other farmers. I find it so relaxing amidst my busy daily schedule,” said one of the gardeners. The aim is to continue the urban gardening and research in Kera together with city residents next summer.

The experiment was carried out as part of the Six City Strategy (6Aika) KIEPPI project. KIEPPI, short for Kestävien kaupunginosien kumppanuusmalli (Partnership model for sustainable neighbourhoods), is a project in which Tampere, Espoo and Turku develop new circular and sharing economy solutions for the urban environment in cooperation with companies and other partners. Read more about the project here .

With funding from the Ministry of the Environment’s Sustainable City Programme, a communal urban gardening experiment was carried out in Kera in summer 2020, in which the city residents grew local food in plant boxes and green wall structures. Espoo acted as a city partner for this experiment, implemented by the funding applicant Innogreen, during which the urban gardening framework was designed and constructed for the city residents in the inner courtyard of Keran Hallit.

Funding of the project

Additional information

Mia Johansson, KIEPPI Specialist, City of Espoo 
mia.johansson@espoo.fi, tel. 040 553 0439