Vision by JADA

The next Building Act

In 2100, buildings can no longer be demolished. Deposit charges for residential buildings serve to direct material flows. The repurposing of buildings is made possible through urban everyone’s rights, along with dynamic city planning systems. Quality and additional value are born from local solutions. The vision of JADA Architects presents future legislation composed of ten radical sections addressing construction and the environment that link together resources and social capital.


If everyone consumed like Finns, we would need almost four Earths. The vigorous urge to constantly raise living standards has led to an existential crisis in the West – the consequences of which we can no longer turn a blind eye to. The planet simply cannot support the current way of living: a significant proportion of year-round ice caps has already disappeared, rising sea levels pose a threat to coastal regions, various pests and diseases are on the increase, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and causing issues with food production, and up to a million species are thought to be on the brink of extinction. 1

Construction and building maintenance are among the main sources of emissions. The construction sector at large consumes half of natural raw materials and 40 per cent of energy, and produces more than a third of all greenhouse emissions, and 30 per cent of waste. 2 One would think that with such a large investment, our lives would greatly improve for the better. However, study after study clearly indicates that perceived happiness has not increased with material consumption. 3 Instead, an experience of excessive opportunities can create a sense of inadequacy and make people see their lives as lacking in meaning. Global concerns weigh heavily on us. 4

Basic human needs remain simple and have not changed significantly over the centuries. Construction responds to many of the necessities presented in psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – such as hygiene, shelter, and food. 5 Housing comfort can be seen as directly linked to human well-being. 6 One doesn’t always need something new. Many spaces that have been in use for hundreds of years still serve well: people need to feel rooted in their environment, and from this perspective, old spaces may even serve better than brand new ones.

But how can we proceed to correct this skewed development and restore the imbalance between our needs and the environment? The solution lies not only in technological innovation, but in a holistic change of mindset. Both scarce material resources and social capital must be harnessed wisely and equitably.

To be able to specify the solutions needed for change, we need to travel to the year 2100. This chain of ideas serves to rewrite the regulations concerning land use and construction. 7 This writing is based on necessity: we can no longer afford to start from scratch. Instead, we need to make do with what we already have!

1 Almond – R.E.A. – Grooten M. – Petersen, T. (eds.) (2020) Living Planet Report 2020 – Bending the curve of biodiversity loss. WWF.

2 United Nations Environment Programme (2021): 2021 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction: Towards a zero-emissions, efficient and resilient buildings and construction sector.

3 Starke L. (ed.) (2004): State of World, The Worldwatch Institute. 19.

4 Eronen – Niskanen – Veijola – Simonen (2022).

The survey illustrates that about one third of young adults feel that their lives are meaningless and that they have little influence.

5 Maslow A. H. (1943) A Theory of Human Motivation, Psychological Review, 50. 370-396.

6 Ruuskanen P. (2021). Asuntosäätiö blog, 9.9.2021.

7 Land Use and Building Act, SDK 132 (1999). Finlex. Ministry of Justice of Finland and Edita Publishing Oy.


Buildings must not be demolished

A shift has taken place from a culture of single-use buildings to a model where buildings are designed primarily to be permanent and maintained indefinitely. Separate protection designations have been abandoned and, in principle, every building is a heritage protection building. Buildings may be specifically designated as non-protected, which means that they should be taken down as an environmental nuisance. Furthermore, temporary structures may be authorised for a few years in total for specific reasons: in such a case, a plan for demolition and re-use will be drawn up at the construction stage.

For a long time, the building industry was the single biggest guzzler of material resources in our society. While the design phase of buildings underlined longevity and new energy efficiency solutions, in practice new solutions were no different from the old ones. The most complex building types were left completely unrepaired after a mere few decades, ending up as unusable waste. It was also seen that there was a need to transition from over-insulating buildings towards smart and need-based heating practices: it was much wiser to heat or cool the resident than to heat walls or rooms where no one was staying.

From quick wins to legacies

Long-term property ownership is encouraged through taxation. Buildings and other constructions should be seen as multi-generational investments and their construction should be treated with the seriousness they deserve. Overly short-term investment plans or aimed uses are overturned by their economic impossibility: buildings that have reached a mature age are taxed at a much lower rate than newer ones. In terms of public financing, no internal market rent is paid for buildings on the public balance sheet, and properties are treated as fixed items without any expected return of investment.

In the first decades of the new millennium, the rate of urbanisation was so rapid that every available unit on the housing market was sold. As a result, the repair deficit of unmaintained buildings, which were only a generation old, grew systematically to the point where full demolitions became an attractive option to property owners. While promises of more building rights were offered in exchange for ‘developing’ a plot, no support was granted for preserving old buildings. However, it was soon realised that the circumstances of the market had led to a situation in which even the most usable buildings had to give way. A financing scheme was set up whereby an old, well-maintained building became the cheapest property investment after tax treatment. This model made complementary construction and extensions of existing buildings the main form of urban growth.

Deposit systems for buildings 

What works with used cans or junk cars also works with buildings. If components that are known to have a finite life cycle are built at all, the replacement and recycling of such parts must be resolved at the design stage. If necessary, a deposit will be placed on such parts during the construction phase, which can be recovered when the part is removed from service and properly recycled.

Many recycling solutions for consumer goods were established way before buildings. From today’s point of view, it seems alien that used packaging or products would not be returned to their manufacturers after use. As material supplies dwindled and raw material needs became more specialised, it became even more obvious that new products needed to be made from old ones – and that no materials should be lost in the process. More sustainable products took over less sustainable ones, with fewer deposits and remanufacturing steps in their lifecycle.

The last construction waste of 2022

EPS insulation, demolished reinforced concrete, HVAC waste

Construction and building maintenance used to represent one of our main sources of emissions. The construction sector accounted for half of natural raw materials and 40 per cent of energy, and produced 35 per cent of all greenhouse emissions and 30 per cent of all waste generated. In the year 2022, only a small proportion of the waste from demolished buildings was able to be recovered, and even then only partially. Building materials and composites derived from chemical processes were particularly difficult to recycle, especially for the manufacturing of similar products. Fortunately, today no more waste is generated.

A building cannot be optimised for just one use

In the future, new buildings and structures should always be designed to accommodate different activities. The building frame must be designed so that the building can be used for living, working, teaching, and production purposes without major alterations.

Historically, ancient buildings have been easy to modify if the building envelope was sufficiently flexible and robust. In both the previous and the current millennium, the sub-optimisation of the post-industrial era’s construction sector led to a situation where changing the use of a site was often not a viable – or even possible – option. New regulations came to dictate that a building should always remain in use, even if the activities housed in it would vary.

Dynamic land use planning does not restrict activities but creates more quality through rewards

Land use planning focuses on generating new quality-driven approaches rather than limiting which activities are permitted – as was previously the practice. A dynamic plan can identify the distinct characteristics of an area and present a plan to enrich them. As an example, additional building rights can be granted to those who commit to adding to the perceived quality of a common environment. It is not always necessary to limit building rights, and quality-based measures can be tied to requirements for an otherwise freer use of land.

For a long time, land use planning was done using a map image, in which a surface area was divided into different zones with assigned uses. Later, planners realised that a two-dimensional image was not an adequate depiction of complex multi-level planning. Furthermore, the definition of activities was rapidly becoming outdated and no longer responded to new needs. Together with civil society and the market, a model was developed whereby qualitative objectives were first defined, and then their implementation was ‘auctioned’ to the highest bidder to serve the common good.

Outdoor spaces are part of nature

In cities made of concrete and stone, outdoor spaces have often been seen as unbuilt service areas. From now on, all non-built space must be seen as green space – this applies to any street, park, or courtyard. Transport is now organised in a way that is compatible with green spaces, favouring lighter modes of transport.

As urban building efficiency increased, a tipping point was reached in the middle of the century where the ecological diversity of the urban sphere could no longer be adequately safeguarded if development continued along the same path. Radical measures were taken to secure a concept whereby all space remaining between buildings was defined as part of nature. This also meant directing any traffic along these natural passageways. Ecological corridors, rainwater management, and microclimate conditions quickly improved through this green reform. Now, as transport modes have developed, they no longer depend on impervious surfaces.

‘Everyone’s Rights’ in the built environment

Finland’s ‘Everyone’s Rights’ – originally meaning the freedom and right to roam and enjoy nature – has been extended to include the urban sphere. The new everyone’s rights allow all citizens to use the built environment – within certain limits – without needing the permission of a landowner or any sort of payment. The rights are also applied to buildings that have been vacant for a longer period of time. 

The debate on the use of public space was a heated one for a few decades. After a broad public debate, the principle of extending everyone’s rights into an urban context became a winning argument. Now, every resident has the right to hold an event in a common space, without a separate permit: they can put on any event they want, for free. Empty buildings in peripheral areas and sites under development have been put to good use, as the right of occupancy allows them to be occupied under certain conditions. Today, vacant buildings serve as a good buffer for managing migration flows, also from the viewpoint of  global justice.


Local before global

Stop colonial pollution and overly long supply chains: all production should always take place as close as possible to the point of use. Local currencies can facilitate the channelling of money to local needs.

The global market and momentarily cheap energy created a situation at an intermediate stage of development in which the largest and most polluting products had to be manufactured or assembled as far away as possible – and hauled as cheaply as possible to their destination. Production that was too distanced from one’s home created a situation in which the concepts of emissions and supply sufficiency were not linked to the products. After much deliberation, the market grew tired of the fragility of long logistics chains, and found that consumers were prepared to pay a little more for a product that was made nearby. Now, pollutants or waste can no longer be ‘exported’ to a neighbour, and locality has become an obvious point of consideration in all parts of the production chain.

The end of large units

In principle, all activities should be organised in sufficiently small units. This applies to both services and energy production. In urban areas, all services related to everyday life should be located within one kilometre/mile.

The trend of centralised activities and production was the prevailing custom for a long time. In large cities, all buildings were connected to one or two large power plants, lower education units were increasingly linked to universities, and major companies merged their functions into regional hubs instead of local offices. Many healthcare services were concentrated in a few cities, and hypermarkets took over the retail sector. This was all justified by cost efficiency and an increase in the range of services. Organisational change had become a self-fulfilling subset of politics – the benefits of which often evaporated before their implementation.

This trend eventually reached a tipping point, and today large units are no longer seen as attractive. Centralised offices and schools are now considered less convenient due to long commutes and people now having easier remote access. In the commercial sector, transporting large quantities of goods over long distances is no longer attractive and an emphasis has been placed on local services, complemented by ingenious transport solutions.


From passive to active participation

Citizens are involved in design processes from the very beginning. Everyone is offered the opportunity to genuinely participate and influence.

Citizen participation in urban planning and construction projects was a new addition to civil rights a century ago. After initial enthusiasm, many people were overcome by apathy, as they realised that participation had no real impact. At worst, participation was even denied for a variety of reasons. This lack of interest in participation became a long-term problem reflected in a general decline in perceived meaningfulness and a disregard for the environment. A new model of genuine participation was developed as a solution: any shared projects always had to be approved by the local community and locals had to be involved in the planning process. Initially, the new model was seen as difficult in terms of project management and administration, but after some initial hiccups, it has proven its strengths – and the perceived happiness of local communities has risen according to studies.

Today, virtual tools are used for all planning. Solutions are first illustrated and tested in a virtual environment. Not all projects are implemented, as it might be sufficient to just run them in the virtual metaverse. Even so, the design of the facilities is subject to the same requirements – for instance in terms of accessibility – as for projects that are implemented in physical reality.



This work was done in 2021–22 as part of the Uusi Kaupunki collective’s EXPO2100 project. The goal of the work has been to describe new sustainable paradigms in the construction industry. We received valuable insight through background discussions with several colleagues, experts, and friends. Tuuli Kaskinen, Kristo Vesikansa, and Katja Lindroos deserve special thanks for their time and thought-provoking thoughts.

We want to think that development will still find a positive direction where a necessary scarcity does not have to mean something that is less or worse. Only by giving up the current structures and models can we make space for new thinking. We need radical openings, and luckily many processes are already underway…

© JADA Architects / by Jussi Vuori, Erica Österlund


JADA Architects is a Helsinki-based architectural office that aims for a better urban future, and is passionate about the wellbeing of nature and humans. The company’s work reflects a strong focus on the smart use of resources and deeply-rooted architecture. The founders Erica Österlund and Jussi Vuori have previously worked on international landmark projects such as the De Rotterdam Towers, the Prada Foundation Museum in Milan, Helsinki’s Kivenlahti metro station, and the Helsinki Central Library Oodi. JADA’s current projects include the Tampere Student Housing Foundation’s residential complex Vanha Domus that was based on the winning bid in an open public architectural call, and the shared working facilities of the state administration in Lahti.


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