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News, 3/21/2012 | Embassy of Finland, Washington

Sustainable building a hot topic at the Embassy of Finland

Sustainable DC was discussed at the Embassy of Finland on March 20

Creativity, innovation, research and development were the key words at the Embassy of Finland on March 20. The discussion revolved around how to include sustainability into city planning, building and environmental design when the Embassy hosted an afternoon seminar titled “Sustainable cities”. Guest speakers included both Washintonians and Finns who wanted to share their expertise in how to make our cities greener.

The theme of the seminar is current for both the US and Finland. Similar programs have either commenced or are in planning stages in different areas in both countries.

Helsinki a model for green urban design

The audience took the opportunity to ask questions from our expertsThe audience took the opportunity to ask questions from our experts

The seminar hosted a prestigious list of speakers. Dr. Pekka Sauri, Deputy Mayor and Environmental Affairs specialist of the city of Helsinki shared his experiences in the process of sustainable development of the capital of Finland.

Another speaker from Finland was Sitra’s Justin Cook whose talk about the Lowt2No project in Helsinki touched the topic of environmental and carbon free design both in the capital city of Finland and in global arenas.

Helsinki has been quite successful in turning the city green over the past decade. District heating is used for amazing 93 percent of the city’s heating and 75 percent of daily commuter traffic into the city center is done by public transport, said Dr. Sauri. The future developments include establishing new housing areas along rail lines and in the inner city and minimizing the need for private car use.

From Helsinki to D.C.

Sustainable cities panelistsThe panelists of the seminar included (from the left) Sitra's John Cook, Deputy Mayor of Helsinki Dr. Pekka Sauri, Laine Cidlowski from Sustainable D.C. Initiative and Arlington County's Green Building Program Manager Joan Kelsch

A guest from this side of the Atlantic, Urban Sustainability planner of District of Columbia Department of Planning, Laine Cidlowski talked about the Sustainable D.C. initiative. The initiative is based on the Mayor Gray’s vision of turning Washington D.C. into “the most sustainable city in the US”.

The initiative is still only a few months old but has already collected opinions from thousands of D.C. residents, Embassies and businesses in the D.C. area on how to make the city more sustainable.

The other Washingtonian of the seminar, the Green Buildings Program Manager Joan Kelsch from Arlington County shared the county’s experiences with its Green Buildings Program.

Over the course of the past 15 years, city planning in Arlington has been very transit oriented said Ms. Kelsch. Arlington has also adopted LEED as a certification system. As a result, all the buildings built in Arlington after 2009 are LEED certified. 

From green Embassies to green cities

The Embassy of Finland in Washington is a good example of green building. In 2008 the Embassy earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) prestigious ENERGY STAR, the national symbol for superior energy efficiency and environmental protection. Later in 2010 the Finnish Embassy was awarded the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for existing buildings marking the first time a diplomatic mission in the U.S. has received this recognition.

The Executive Director of Northern Virginia Regional Comission Mark Gibb moderated the discussion. The panel was introduced by Ms. Anneli Halonen, Cultural Counselor at the Embassy of Finland in Washington D.C. and commentary was presented by Dr. Solveig Roschier, Counselor in Science and Technology and the Head of the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation in Washington D.C. (Tekes).


Find out more on the topics of discussion on these links:

Helsinki Environmental Programmes


Sustainable DC 

Arlington County's Green Buildings Program

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Updated 3/21/2012

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