"Responsibility for the environment to us at Uponor is such an extensive concept as it should be. During the recent years we have been busy building our sustainability programme. Originally the thinking entailed environmental questions related to our own production, but over the years a more extensive approach was adopted to corporate responsibility: in addition to the environment, companies must now accept social and financial responsibility," Director of Indoor Climate Operations Ilari Aho of Uponor says.
Mr Aho explains, "Today, we look into the effect of our own products, services and all activity on the built environment. We try to find ways to influence our environment, the energy efficiency as well as people’s well-being. We use the concept a Better Human Environment and operate as a well-behaved corporate citizen should."
Uponor is one of the leading suppliers of indoor air and mechanical engineering for residential and commercial buildings in the area of sustainable development, climate change and energy efficiency.
Plaza Business Park is a big building project that NCC Property Development Oy has been developing for years, step by step. NCC’ pilot project Loiste was completed as part of Plaza in December 2012 with a house engineering that utilises Uponor’s technology.
"Indoor climate supplied to our head office on two levels is produced by an energy efficient heating and cooling system. In Finland floor heating is no novelty, but the cooling technology we have developed is," Aho emphasises.
Advanced energy efficiency
The technology is based on roof cooling and combined floor heating and cooling. Floor cooling is implemented with so-called free cooling, in which the soil is utilised for producing cold by an environmentally friendly and cost saving method. The system uses neither compressor technology nor refrigerants that would be hazardous to the environment. Only one pumping circuit is necessary to run the system.
"There are 11 artesian wells located under the building which are enough for producing cold for the yearly demand. Compared to the traditional mechanical air-conditioning, the energy efficiency here is tenfold. Compared to centralised air-conditioning this system allows cutting down even 90 percent of the cooling energy consumption."
In Germany Uponor is the market leader in this technology. Also in the Nordic countries the demand is picking up for the same reasons as in the Central Europe: the climate discussion, energy efficiency and improvement of indoor air quality.
Aho emphasises that no environmental responsibility can be taken solely for the reason of supporting a corporate brand. All activity must be transparent, deeds correspond to reality and stories hold true.
He says, "We Finns tend to do more than speak, and it is often said actions speak louder than words. When everything works well we can say this is the way to go."
Plaza Business Park is Finland’s first commercial property rated Very Good by the international standards of BREEAM environmental rating. In autumn 2012, first phase of NCC’s office complex by the name Pilke was awarded this certificate, and the same level was reached also at Loiste. According to the Finnish energy rating system the building belongs to class A2007.
"BREEAM-rated buildings definitely attract more and more tenants. The market value of such properties is higher, it is even easier to recruit people. A pleasant working environment curbs the personnel turnover significantly," Aho says.
Better indoor air quality
It has been proved scientifically that surface cooling is a better alternative to the traditional method of blowing large quantities of cold air through ducting into the interior spaces. For example, there is far less draught and the indoor temperatures are better balanced.
"When no cold air is blown into the spaces, the familiar noise from ventilation equipment can be avoided, which makes the workspaces even acoustically more comfortable to work in. And, the less the need for supplying air by means of blowing, the less the amount of dust circulating in the air," Aho states.
Surface cooling allows balancing between indoor and outdoor air and adjusting the air supply so that there is no big difference between indoor and outdoor air, even if the outdoor air warmed up by several degrees from the morning temperature towards late afternoon. This was found to be beneficiary to both the human physiology, overall cosiness and productivity, since big temperature changes feel unpleasant.
In the Central Europe surface cooling has become a more significant solution for climatic reasons than in Finland. Right in the beginning of summer 2013 Finland, however, experienced a surprising heat wave when the cooling system implemented at Uponor’s head office proved its might. "The capacity is enough. We are happy," Aho says and smiles.