Urban Laboratory approaches built environment comprehensively, emphasizing future orientation. Different scales and disciplines of architectural design converge, as the laboratory explores new professional practices and methods to improve user-friendliness and resource efficiency of the built environment. Research projects are commonly multi-disciplinary including collaboration with cities, municipalities, private companies and universities.

Kiertopuu – Circular Wood

A large number of wood products and construction companies operate in the South
Ostrobothnia region, which are affected by the principles of sustainable development and the
goal of carbon neutrality. The project will promote the implementation of circular economy
practices in the wood product industry and wood construction industries of the operating area.
The measures promote the development of environmentally friendly, high-processing products
and services. In particular, the further processing of side streams and the circular economy of
wood construction are being developed.

The goal is to get new circular economy operating methods and models transferred to wood
product and construction companies in the operating area and to other entities that operate in
the construction industry. The goal is also to get the region’s public sector to consider circular
economy solutions and opportunities in its operations.

In the project, R&D cooperation with companies is carried out, and new uses are sought for the
side streams of the wood products industry. The use of sidestream materials usually requires
cooperation and networking between the companies that produce the materials and those that
use them. The project aims for a new type of business cooperation, through which new products
can be developed, the degree of processing of side streams can be increased and the economic
structure diversified.

As a result of RDI cooperation with the wood products industry, the wood construction industry
and the public sector, new methods and products are created. Various solutions are produced
for the demountability, portability and recyclability of building elements and parts of buildings,
as well as the use of building elements for a new purpose e.g. recycling solutions for using
parts of larger buildings for smaller buildings or outbuildings. R&D cooperation is also done with
furniture manufacturers, interior product manufacturers and other wood product manufacturers.
As a result, new products and/or a product family are created from the side streams of the wood
product industry.

Through the project’s measures, new construction circular economy solutions can be developed
in the operating area, which will strengthen operations in accordance with the principles of
sustainable development.

Duration: 2024 – 2026

Project leader at TAU: Professor Ari Hynynen

Researchers at TAU: PhD Virpi Palomäki, Project manager

Main funding: EU / ERDF / The Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia


KIMORA – Diverse potentials of circular economy in the building sector

The materials used in building sector form a remarkable part of the overall material flows in society. According to EU-legislation, 70% of the construction and demolition waste should have been circulated till the end of 2020. In Finland this goal was not achieved, although the re-use of materials has increased due to widely promoted circular economy.

KIMORA project aims at strengthening the re-use of building materials, elements, and structural components by introducing new know-how and innovative operations models to companies for utilising used materials and side flows in new buildings and renovation projects. Primary target groups of the project are the building sector companies, and the producers of building materials and components. Municipal organisations are included as far as their own building development, urban planning and property management is concerned.

When compared to Finland, part of the EU-countries leads us in the re-use of building materials. Based on their experiences, successes and challenges can be tapped in the project. Latest research outcomes will be examined for gaining new ideas in re-use and circulation of construction materials and components. It is important to consider the re-use of materials not only in house building, but trying to find new uses, for example, in packaging industry or infrastructure construction. Circular economy of the building sector will be promoted by making carbon balance calculations, as well as examining different business models and legislative bottlenecks. The project activities are divided in three work packages as follows: 1) Mapping recyclable building materials, components, and side flows, and identifying potentials for re-use, 2) Co-working with companies for finding profitable re-use, and 3) Models and pilots.

The project challenges companies and actors to see their material flows from the standpoint of circularity by introducing new models and methods, as well as identifying possible business partners. Thematically focused workshops and an end seminar will be organised for knowledge transfer and co-creation. Some 5-8 demos or pilots will be carried out for illustrating best practices and innovations. As a result, new economically and environmentally sustainable solutions will be considered in firms and municipal organisations for upscaling their material flows. In a long term, building sector companies will benefit from new business opportunities in growing markets of re-used materials, and municipalities could take a role as a pathfinder in the circular economy.

Duration: 2023 – 2025

Project leader at TAU: Professor Ari Hynynen

Researchers at TAU: PhD Virpi Palomäki, Project manager

Main funding: EU / ERDF / The Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia


KEVOLA – Attractiveness and quality factors of a medium-sized higher education city – Case Seinäjoki

Higher education activities are one of the main drivers of growth in modern cities. What, then, makes a higher education city attractive from the perspective of both students and staff?

In the largest cities, a wide range of education, a lively atmosphere, a wide range of housing opportunities and a diverse range of services attract students, teachers and researchers as if by themselves. In smaller university towns, more conscious effort is needed to invest in attraction.

We examine the attractiveness and quality factors of a medium-sized higher education city using the city of Seinäjoki’s case study. The scope of higher education activities in Seinäjoki in relation to the size of the city is relatively large, and the aim is to further increase its volume and increase its quality.

What different factors or combinations of factors is the attraction of Seinäjoki based on? How does it compare to other medium-sized cities in the Nordic countries? In particular, we pay attention to what kind of (urban) quality factors play a role in the settling decisions and enjoyment of experts and students.

These perspectives are studied in the Kevola project, which is funded by two projects of the South Ostrobothnia higher education network Epanet (New competence-based regional and urban development / Jari Kolehmainen and Alvar Aalto professorship / Ari Hynynen) and the City of Seinäjoki through its agreement with the University of Tampere. The project examines attractiveness in the light of various statistics, studies Nordic reference cities to find new perspectives, acquires survey and interview material from members of the higher education community, and utilizes Soft GIS methods to map the experiential urban environment.

Duration: 2022 – 2024

Project leaders: Heli Kurikka, Jari Kolehmainen, Ari Hynynen

Funding: Southern Ostrobothnia higher education network Epanet, and City of Seinäjoki, agreement with Tampere University


PILKKU – Qualitative growth trajectories of small towns

The research aims to find out how Finnish small towns could strengthen their role as actors of more even regional development by using methods of urban planning and development. It is important to take care of small towns, as they establish a crucial part of Finnish areal structure by providing a geographical framework and infrastructure for a significant proportion of population, economy, and services. The ongoing trend of counter urbanisation triggered by Covid-19 pandemic offers good chances to develop smaller communities. There are also other drivers that favour small towns to focus on their vitality and well-being, like the ongoing reform of national health care system, which releases resources for local development. In addition to that, majority of Finnish small towns provide a good starting point for development work, as their internal and external accessibility is relatively good, they have versatile service networks, as well as healthy and safe living environments. It is also important that small communities are studied explicitly as urban units, in other words, as locations of spatial and historical frames for everyday practices, instead of only municipalities that originate from governmental processes. The project applies approved and well-tried development methods to tackle future challenges, like the fight against climate change and urban shrinkage. The regional contexts of the study are South-Ostrobothnia and the Tampere Region.

Duration: 2022 – 2023

Project leader at TAU: Professor Ari Hynynen

Researchers at TAU: MSc (Arch) Annuska Rantanen, MSc Jaana Vanhatalo

Main funding: Kunnallisalan kehittämissäätiö / The Foundation of Municipal Development


JOTAR – The builders of healthy and flexible housing

Covid-19-pandemic has challenged many prevailing practices related to housing and working. Remarkable part of working duties has moved into homes that do not fulfil the requirements of professional working life due to lack of proper space, room layout, ergonomics, or sound insulation. Present building types and densely built housing areas do not allow the need for quarantines and social distance. According to recent research, wood material has health benefits that could be utilized more efficiently in housing development. And further, new digitally facilitated welfare technology is developing so rapidly that housing production has not been able to realise its full potential.

Several research projects have been launched to solve these problems, but more focused efforts are still needed for transferring the latest research results into housing design and production, as well as into the practices of diverse welfare and care service firms. In JOTAR project the new results will be applied and made accessible for the use of the key actors in the field. This will put into practice in close collaboration with partner companies and organisations to develop new business models, products, technologies, and services.

In addition to this, JOTAR aims at foster circular economy and low-carbon society. On this basis, the project focuses on timber construction due to its smaller carbon footprint and handprint. Also, the circularity of wooden constructions is excellent, albeit quite seldom tapped so far. An emerging benefit of using wood material is its positive psychophysical health effects, as referred in recent medical research. Flexible and adaptable floor plans in housing, as well as readiness to organise welfare and care services at domestic circles, favour life-long dwelling at home, thus contributing to circular economy. Remote working, in turn, reduces remarkably CO2 emissions in traffic, when put into operation widely enough.

As a result of JOTAR, the partner companies and organisations are provided with applied and tailored solutions for housing design, housing production, and home-based welfare and care services on themes like remote working, quarantines, social distancing, digital facilities, and health effects of wood building.

Duration: 2022 – 2023

Project leader at TAU: Professor Ari Hynynen

Researchers at TAU: PhD Virpi Palomäki, Project manager

Main funding: EU / ERDF / The Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia


TAKO – Work, housing and well-being in pandemic everyday life

The aim of the project is to create models for housing development, that could meet the challenges of pandemic crisis regarding remote working, social isolation, health and wellbeing, as well as care and related services. As it is not sustainable to construct highly specialised buildings just for the contemporary needs, the project will seek solutions for developing life-long flexibility and adaptability of housing.

The work package ”Flexible and healthy housing” is lead by Tampere University. Its main activities consist of designing innovative models for apartments and residential areas, and they will be demoed in existing urban neighbourhoods in Seinäjoki. The latest research results on flexible housing design will be applied, as well as the recent studies on the health benefits of wood material in building. Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences takes responsibility of the work package “Sustainable wellbeing and care in housing”. Different service models for supported housing have been increased continuously, and now the need has been further grown due to Covid19. In this work package, a process model will be created for easily accessible services offered by private companies. In addition to this, the possibilities of latest digitally facilitated services will be investigated and modelled. The third work package, “Low-carbon solutions, circular economy and digital technology” is a cross-sectional theme and a joint effort for both partners.

The results of the project consist of a selection of models and design principles to be applied in private and public housing developments and in urban planning. The models are meant to encourage and promote flexibility, health and well-being in our residential areas and daily life. Flexibility enables remote working, social distance, quarantines, as well as services and support for care and well-being in normal housing. All this enables to build multi-functional homes and residential areas for varying situations we come across in society, family and personal life, thus decreasing the need to move to another area. It also extends the lifecycle of buildings and decreases the need to demolish houses due to their impracticality. The latest research on wood building support the objectives of the project regarding the aspects of health and well-being, but also circularity and low-carbon society.

Duration: 2021 – 2023

Project leader at TAU: Professor Ari Hynynen

Researchers at TAU: PhD Virpi Palomäki, Project manager; MSc (Arch) Eero Okkonen, researcher

Main funding: EU / ERDF / The Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia

KERAKE – Low-carbon Construction in Developing Countries

Approximately 80 million people are forced to escape from their home regions every year due to natural disasters and political crisis. A need for humanitarian housing solutions is vast. Although the camps are meant to be temporary, they are prone to form long lasting large settlements. This fact highlights the quality of housing facilities and architecture. It was also noticed that the environmental impacts of the camps have not been considered sufficiently while there is abundance of technologies for ecological construction, energy production and sanitation to be quite easily applied to temporary housing developments. In addition, flexibility and adaptability of housing are growing trends in contemporary life cycle approach and circular economy.

The aim of the project was to develop a concept design for a flexible housing unit to be used in carbon-free temporary settlements for humanitarian purposes for prolonged timespan. After the original use the building can be dismantled and reassembled for varying uses. The choice for the main building material was timber due to its favourable environmental and psychophysical qualities. The concept was meant to provide possibilities for the region’s wood product industry to enter the growing international markets. An important long-term objective was to contribute to the systemic transition of building sector by promoting innovative carbon-free building solutions.

The development work of the wooden, portable, modular, and adaptable building concept proceeded as planned. An active group of partner companies supported the work by reviewing the concept and proposing improvements in different stages of design. The input of interested experts working in companies was remarkable. Finally, the technical challenges were not among the most difficult. The market research carried out in the project proved that the concept’s path to complete industrial product and contested markets is very long and twisty.

Duration: 2020 – 2022

Project leader at TAU: Professor Ari Hynynen

Researchers at TAU: PhD Virpi Palomäki, MSc (Arch) Mari-Sohvi Miettinen

Main funding: EU / ERDF / The Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia



CircularDigi project aims to develop new concepts for small circular material flow management by using digitalization. In this study, small flows are defined as material sources where collection and transportation is challenged by capacity utilization and costs. The main target flows are related to end consumers which do not have large volumes. As an example, we can mention return flows such as bio, plastics, textile and construction materials. These targets can be prioritized according to volume or value and this delimitation can be adjusted after completion of analyses.

The main activities are WP1 Logistics flow analysis, WP2 Tools and platforms for circular economy accelerators, WP3 Digital tools, WP4 Piloting. The  project aims to analyse pontential small flows in the region, analyse the collection/transportation models, develop a digital implementation used for transport order management, and pilot the developed concepts in practice.

The expected results of the project will be new analysed solutions for solving how small material flows can be collected in an efficient way and identify the potential constraints for practical implications.

Duration: 2019 – 2021

Project leader at TAU: Professor Ari Hynynen

Researchers at TAU: PhD Virpi Palomäki, MSc Sami Sopanen

Main funding: EU / ERDF / The Regional Council of South Ostrobothnia

Partners: University of Vaasa (leading partner), Tampere University, Faculty of Built Environment & Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences .


Circular Economy – A game changer for the wood building industry (CE Wood)

Over the next 10 years, the demand for global construction is expected to increase by 70 %. This is a challenge in a world where more and more resources are becoming scarce. In addition to constructing new, there is also an urgent need to upgrade the existing building stock. Thus, it is a burning issue to develop new models and practices for the construction industry in order to prepare the trade for the future. Circular economy is an industrial system that replaces the traditional linear business model with a circular one. For companies this means introducing new business models based on repair, reuse, refurbishing, remanufacturing and recycling. For customers this means replacement of worn products with sustainable products or services.

The overall goal for the project “Circular Economy – A Game Changer for the Wood Building Industry” is to boost regional companies competitiveness on the international market by initiating new technologies, networks and business ecosystems. The project will contribute to the EU Interreg Botnia-Atlantica business priority and offers an increased capacity for cross-border business cooperation for companies within the construction and property management industry. The project main goal is to support our regions SMEs in overcoming common barriers when trying to adopt circular business models.

Duration: 2018 – 2020

Project leader at TAU: Professor Ari Hynynen

Researchers at TAU: PhD Virpi Palomäki

Main funding: EU Interreg Botnia-Atlantica

Partners: Novia University of Applied Sciences from Vaasa (leading partner), Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences, Umeå University/Department of Applied Physics and Electronics and Umeå University/Umeå School of Business and Economics.

Renovation Centre

TAU Unit of Architecture joins the Renovation Centre project, that aims at founding a Nordic centre for energy efficent renovations. The center is a Nordic knowledge network that will share best practices and support regional stakeholders with information, education and new pedagogical tools on how to perform sustainable renovations. The primary target groups are companies within the building sector, municipalities and real estate owners. In order to provide relevant information, the project will gather information on end user needs, renovation methods as well as new research needs.

The results will be disseminated through the project website and social media, network meetings and visits to key stakeholders, different types of dissemination events, reports and articles, and mobile e-learning tools. The results will be published in English, Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian. The project results will also be spread on a wider basis to Europe through the website and international conferences. To ensure the continuation of the Renovation Centre after the project, different types of organizational models will be explored.

Duration: 2015 – 2018

Project leader at TAU: Professor Ari Hynynen

Researchers at TAU: M.Arch Pekka Saatsi, M.Arch Anne-Marjo Panu

Main funding: EU Interreg Botnia-Atlantica

Partners: Novia University of Applied Sciences from Vaasa, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences, Vaasa Region Development Company, Umeå University, SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden and Narvik University College, Norway.

Health Supporting Multisensory Food Environment (Värinä)

The project will study how environmental factors can influence consumers’ food choices. The aim is to investigate how the presentation of food, built environment and the quality of colors and sounds effect on factors such as choice and consumption of vegetables in restaurants and grocery shops. Empirical tests are executed in both urban and laboratory environments. Research platforms are planned and implemented in collaboration with partners which boost applying the results into business and urban planning. The project will produce new reliable principles for food environment design. The project promotes business of enterprises in the field of food and food services as well as comfort of urban spaces and wellbeing of citizens. The results can be utilized for example in the fields of public and private food services, design of urban environments as well as restaurants and event producers.

Duration: 2015 – 2017

Project leader at TAU: Professor Ari Hynynen

Researchers at TAU: Dr. Inari Aaltojärvi

Main funding: Tekes

Partners: University of Turku, Sibelius Academy, Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences


Social ecological intervention to promote active commuting to work (Käpy)

Promotion of active commuting to work is acknowledged as one of the key components in the national action plan of walking and bicycling in Finland. Some cities have already carried out related projects, but they have mostly focused on impacts of physical environment and traffic solutions. However, based on international studies, we know that also social environment and individual factors have an effect on the choices of transportation modes.

KÄPY –project contributes to the national action plan in Tampere. It also produces new knowledge of multilevel promotion of active commuting to work, where the measures will be focused on physical environment as well as on social and individual factors. Feasibility, effectiveness, stability and cost-effectiveness will be assessed, as well as the decisive factors of active commuting, whether environmental, social or individual.

The research consortium is directed by the UKK –institute. Research partners are the School of Architecture and Verne Transport Research Centre from TAU. Scientific collaboration will be done with the universities of Oxford and Graz. The other partners are the City of Tampere and Ecofellows Ltd. The research will be carried out in three years between 01.01.2014-31.12.2016. The project is funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Duration: 2014 – 2016

Project leader at TAU: Professor Ari Hynynen

Researchers at TAU: M.Arch Satu Sarjala

Main funding: The Ministry of Culture and Education

Partners: UKK Institute, The City of Tampere, Ekokumppanit Oy, Universities of Oxford and Graz