Construction projects evoke emotional responses. In the case of many projects, people’s desire to exercise influence only emerges when construction has already started, and that is too late. Construction is preceded by years of planning, during which it is easier to engage in urban democracy.
Urban Design Manager, Architect Linda Wiksten from YIT underscores the fact that construction decisions are big decisions with a long-term impact. This is why the projects and their planning take a long time.
The implementation of construction projects involves a great deal of planning, studies, impact assessments and reviewing past studies. A lot of preliminary work is also required before the actual construction can begin. This includes, for example, acquiring land and building permits, ground surveys, the demolition of old buildings, soil preparation and the construction of missing infrastructure.
“The built environment and the buildings in it are intended to have a life span of at least 100 years or more. When you look at it from that perspective, the few years it takes for a project to move forward is not a very long time,” Wiksten adds.
All land use in Finland is governed by the Land Use and Building Act. It is also the legislative foundation for the current zoning system, in which master plans and general plans provide the framework for more detailed zoning. The final decisions are made by municipal councils and city councils.
“This ensures that land use planning is sensible and strategic,” Wiksten explains.
While zoning is an important tool in urban planning, urban development also involves many other aspects. It is a combination of urban planning, land policy, economic policy, project development and the planning of investments, construction, management and ownership.
“I see urban development as an expansive and ongoing process. A city is never finished – it evolves all the time,” says Aija Staffans, Architect and Senior Research Fellow from Aalto University’s Department of Built Environment.
Cities are built together
While the final decisions on zoning and construction are made by municipal councils and city councils, the planning of cities always involves a wide range of private and public parties, residents, land owners and many other stakeholders. Staffans sees urban development as a coming together of different interests.
“Different public and private parties bring different values and political priorities as well as different financial, conservation-related and other interests into the mix,” Staffans says.
According to Linda Wiksten, it is often thought that construction companies or city officials decide on construction, but actually the power lies with elected politicians. Indeed, voting is one of the most effective ways of influencing urban development.
“Even though municipalities and cities have a monopoly on zoning, they can’t engage in urban development on their own. They need to cooperate with all of the parties involved,” Wiksten points out.
The elements of cooperation and participation are defined as being part of the urban planning process. In zoning, the various plans at different levels each have at least one commenting period for the residents to express their opinion. In many cases, there are multiple opportunities to exercise influence as the planning process moves forward.
“Zoning starts with a participation and assessment scheme, which is the first opportunity to influence things. The second opportunity to exercise influence usually occurs before the plan is submitted to the city council. The decision-makers are informed of all of the feedback submitted by the residents through the official channels. In addition, events are held for most projects to allow people to meet with those who prepared the plan and to hear from them, ask them questions and discuss issues with them directly,” Wiksten adds.
Read our longer article on the subject.
For further information, please contact:
Linda Wiksten, Urban Design Manager, YIT Corporation, tel. +358 40 769 0864, email@example.com
Pirita Tiusanen, Communications Manager, YIT Corporation, tel. +358 44 240 9822, firstname.lastname@example.org
YIT is the largest Finnish and a significant North European urban developer and construction company. Our goal is to create more sustainable, functional and attractive cities and living environments. We develop and build apartments, business premises and entire areas. We also specialise in demanding infrastructure construction. We own properties together with our partners, which supports the implementation of our significant development projects. We also provide our customers with services that increase the value of properties. We employ approximately 7,400 professionals in ten countries: Finland, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. In 2020, our revenue amounted to approximately EUR 3.1 billion. YIT Corporation’s share is listed on Nasdaq Helsinki Oy. www.yitgroup.com