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Connecting With Nature and Neighbours in Your Own Backyard

As cities become denser, residents of apartment buildings want cosier yards that provide places for recovering from stress as well as for socialising with neighbours. In recent years, YIT has been particularly invested in yard and park design.


Helsinki’s Kruununvuorenranta is a residential area close to the sea and nature. The City of Helsinki has been actively building in the area over the recent years, and the intention is to preserve some natural areas on each new site.

The Lorentz housing company realised by YIT in Kruunuvuorenranta consists of four houses shaped like the points of a star, containing a total of 61 apartments.

“The housing company’s lot is next to a wooded area. One end and side of it are bordered by woods. There are woodsy cliffs on two sides of the lot,” says YIT’s Teemu Lahtinen, Site Manager of the Lorentz housing company.

Lorentz is set to be finished in September 2019, and most of its yard has been preserved in a natural state: there are trees, rocks and forest soil in the courtyard. You can also walk directly into the woods from the yard. 

“The steps of the yard lead into an old nature trail, which has been preserved during the construction,” Lahtinen says.

The future residents of Lorentz have given a lot of positive feedback on the fact that the trees and nature have been preserved in the immediate vicinity of the housing company.

“The project has been important to me as well: nature exists for us all, and the more of it we can preserve, the better,” Lahtinen says.

Even city dwellers want to connect with nature

There is currently a shortage of apartments in Finland from time to time, especially in growth centres. Lots for new construction are being scouted in the outskirts of cities, while urban centres become denser. Environmental psychologist, psychotherapist and researcher Kirsi Salonen would like to see trees and natural areas in the yards of urban apartment buildings.

“Our well-being is constantly influenced by our physical surroundings, even when we don’t realise it. Ergonomics and good air quality are not the only environmental factors that matter: scenery is also important. Nature and natural elements promote well-being better than environments that are entirely artificial,” Salonen explains.

In her work, Salonen meets many people who are tired of their hectic lives and only become energised and refreshed when they wander further away from their homes, into a completely new environment.

“You can also find sources of rejuvenation nearby. As residential environments grow denser, people are increasingly worried about the preservation of natural areas. People become attached to certain nature sites that make them feel happy. Living in a city doesn’t necessarily mean losing your connection with nature; it can be restored by just one cherished tree or park,” Salonen says.

If your own yard doesn’t happen to have trees, Salonen suggests taking a refreshing field trip, perhaps to the local park.

“Paths provide mystery and trees provide shelter. They are the marks of a pleasant environment that everyone can consciously maintain and, through doing so, tend to their own well-being,” she goes on to say.

The yard – a semi-public gateway between home and the outside world

Marko Oinas, YIT’s Senior Vice President in Business Development, also views urban parks and seashores as complementing the yard.

“The home is a private place, the surrounding world is a public one, and the yard is a semi-public space in between. The comfort of a yard does not hinge on its size or the amount of greenery, but its quality – how well the yard has been designed,” Oinas explains.

In recent years, YIT has been particularly invested in yard and park design when constructing residential areas. For example, last year YIT published the More Life in Yards concept, which was drawn up together with citizens and other parties. The concept was first implemented in the Sähköttäjänpuisto park in Helsinki’s Konepaja area. The park, which is open to everyone, was renovated by YIT in late summer of 2018 and divided into three areas according to the concept: active, quiet and social. The concept is intended to be utilised in designing yards as well.

The concept has also been implemented in Bratislava, Slovakia, where the city has built events around it, activating and bringing citizens together. Social media is used to collect feedback and people’s wishes for their yards as well as to hold a competition over renovating two yards according to the concept. The objective is to show that even small actions can bring life and cooperation to yards and public parks.

Oinas also stresses the point that in addition to natural and quiet surroundings, people also want venues for socialising. He finds it important that parks and yards allow neighbours to meet and spend time with each other.

“In recent years, home buyers have become more particular about what they want from their yards. Currently they value a well-designed, cosy and safe yard that fits well together with the building. If the home buyer feels a connection with the yard, we have succeeded in our mission,” he says.

The residents of Kiela in Rovaniemi enjoy grilled salmon in the summer

Far away from the sea breeze of Helsinki’s Kruununvuorenranta, a new housing company, Rovaniemen Kiela, is being built in phases in the Rovaniemi city centre. The eighth out of a total of ten houses is currently under construction.

Community has been the special focus of Kiela’s yard design. There are no borders between the lots; instead, the yard is shared by everyone. The courtyard is a car-free zone and, therefore, also safe for small children. The entrances to all stairwells are located in the courtyard, which means neighbours from different housing companies run into each other frequently.

One of the first residents of Kiela is Jouni Filppa, who lives there with his wife. At the end of November, the two of them will have resided in the housing company for five years.

“We moved here from a terraced house and have enjoyed living here. A good yard is extremely important for an apartment building: it’s nice to have grass and plants, but not have to spend your retirement days tending to them,” Filppa laughs.

For seven of the buildings, the yards are almost finished. There are plants, benches, a pétanque field, children’s playgrounds, exercise machines, terraces and a covered barbecue area, which the Filppas are particularly fond of. The Filppas are currently waiting for the snow to melt and the yard to blossom.

“I am already looking forward to summer, when I get to spend time with my neighbours from children to retirees. We hold gatherings in the yard and I often cook fish on the barbecue, and sometimes even salmon from Tornio,” says Jouni Filppa.

Further reading:
The More Life In Yards concept


YIT is the largest Finnish and a significant Northern European construction YIT is the largest Finnish and significant North European construction We develop and build apartments and living services, business premises and entire areas. We are also specialised in demanding infrastructure construction and paving. Together with our customers, our nearly 10,000 professionals are creating more functional, attractive and sustainable cities and environments. We work in 11 countries: Finland, Russia, Scandinavia, Baltic Countries, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. The new YIT was born when over 100-year-old YIT Corporation and Lemminkäinen Corporation merged on February 1, 2018. Our pro forma revenue for 2018 was approximately EUR 3.8 billion. YIT Corporation’s share is listed on Nasdaq Helsinki Oy.

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