From wasteland into a city centre

A new city district is emerging in Pasila, Helsinki, which requires diverse infrastructure construction projects in a small area.

New asphalt glistens in the autumn sunshine. A tram goes rattling by as Lemminkäinen's workers finalise paving on the Pasilankatu street.

Under the paving run the new underground district heating and cooling pipes that Lemminkäinen installed for Helsingin Energia. At the same time, preparations have been made for future infrastructure. Central Pasila still resembles wasteland but the city is changing and evolving. In 2040, Pasila will be home to 20,000 residents and a workplace to 50,000 employees. The area will also feature a new shopping centre, Tripla. All this requires water, electricity, heat and knowledge.

"We built many new things underground and there are a lot of old structures left as well. For instance, telecommunications cables used by teleoperators ran through our construction site. You had to be extremely careful with blasting work," says Jani Laru, supervisor at Lemminkäinen.

A couple of hundred metres away, we are simultaneously working on the new route of the Teollisuuskatu street. It will open up access for cars to Central Pasila through an old railway tunnel. Cars driving in different directions on Teollisuuskatu will have their own lanes on the respective sides of the tunnel.

"For the city's residents, the project is visible first and foremost as clearer traffic arrangements," says Sauli Kivivuori, project manager at the Public Works Department of the City of Helsinki.

A wide range of activities in a small area

In the tendering organised by the ordering customer, the Public Works Department, the most important criterion was the price. The contractor was also required to provide a report on weeding out grey economy and to have sufficient quality management systems and plans and RALA qualifications in place. With RALA qualifications, a company can prove its expertise, responsibility and reliability to its customers and stakeholders.

"We wanted the partner to be a major company that can handle a versatile and demanding contract in an area with busy traffic," Sauli Kivivuori summarises. The two-part contract is urban construction in its truest sense. On Pasilankatu, we have done blasting, renewed municipal engineering and built new tram rails, in addition to paving and road work.

On Teollisuuskatu, we excavated 3,000 m3 of rock to make room for the foundations of the street and excavated places for two bridges. At the same time, we built supporting walls at the mouth of the railway tunnel that will be turned into a tunnel for cars as well as below the neighbouring apartment blocks.

"As an area, the construction site is small but from the content point of view, it is extensive," Jani Laru explains.

Originally, the construction project was due for completion at the end of 2016, but changes in plans and related additional work have postponed the completion to the spring 2017. For instance, we received orders for new reinforcement work along the way.

"For the customer, it is important that if surprises or additional work come up as the project proceeds, the contractor has the capacity to handle these as well," notes Kivivuori.

The city lives and breathes around the construction site

In spite of the construction site, life in the city around it does not stop. The traffic arrangements caused by the construction site have required a great deal of patience from the city's residents. During rail works, people heading for Pasila had to learn to take a bus instead of the tram line 7. On Teollisuuskatu, the closure of one lane has created traffic jams especially during rush hours.

"Teollisuuskatu is a busy street with lots of car traffic, and on Pasilankatu there are a lot of pedestrians. It is difficult to carry out such an extensive project without affecting people's everyday life," says Jani Laru.

In this small area, different construction companies are simultaneously building nearly everything one can think of. In the summer, Skanska was working in a water supply and sewerage tunnel under the construction site. YIT is building apartment blocks on Teollisuuskatu, below which we constructed a supporting wall. In fact, we have had to arrange access routes through one another's construction sites in this small area.

"We hold joint meetings constantly. Although everything does not always work out perfectly, we have fitted well on the same construction site," comments Jani Laru.

Text Juho Paavola