Carbon footprint limit value

The City of Helsinki applies a limit value in the life-cycle carbon footprint of a building. The objective is to steer towards low-carbon building and construction. During the first phase, a carbon footprint limit value is set on new multi-story apartment houses. Complying with the set carbon footprint limit value will be a requirement in new city plans. Carbon footprint conditions may be included in plot draws and allocations, for example.

Limit value and permissible deviations

Permissible deviations from the limit value:

  • If the building is multiform in geometry (exterior wall volume > 0.23 LM/GSM), the total carbon footprint limit value may be exceeded by 10%.  
  • If a parking garage is to be included in the property and in the building's energy efficiency index (EEI) and thereby in its carbon footprint, the total carbon footprint limit value may be exceeded by 10%.

The total carbon footprint is to be calculated and reported during the building-permit phase by using the Ministry of the Environment's low-carbon assessment method and in accordance with the City of Helsinki’s instructions. The calculation is to be updated at the acceptance phase of the building.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the limit value requirement also apply to old city plan areas?

The limit value mainly applies to new city plans only. However, the limit value may be a condition in plot allocation. It is therefore necessary to carefully check both the city plan report/commentary and the plot allocation conditions, if any.

Is the limit value tied to the time of construction or to the time of applying or granting a building permit?

The limit value is tied to the time when building permit is applied.  

Will there be a separate limit value for public buildings, such as schools and daycare centres, or are they subject to the same limit value as residential buildings?

They do not share the same limit value. No single limit value can cover the various types of buildings because the Finnish Ministry of the Environment's carbon footprint calculation method determines delivered-energy consumption based on energy efficiency index (EEI) calculation. EEI includes separate standard-use values for the various building categories which significantly impact the estimated delivered-energy consumption. For this reason, apartment houses built by special-housing projects, for example, belong in the tourist accommodation establishment category and cannot reach the same limit value as projects belonging to use category 2, residential apartment buildings. This also applies to categories such as schools and daycare centres. Separate limit values will be given for buildings in other categories later.

How to calculate value excess if a building includes both a garage and complex geometry that both allow 10% excess?

An excess of 10% is always calculated in relation to the set limit value. If the limit value is 16 kgCO2e/m²/a, maximum excess is 1.6 kgCO2e/m²/a + 1.6 kgCO2e/m²/a.

When does building a garage allow exceeding the limit value?

Excess due to building a garage is allowed when the garage is included in the carbon footprint calculation of the building, not of the construction site. For example, when the garage is part of the building’s basement structure.

Linear metre calculation 

Linear metre (LM) is the perimeter of each floor of a building in total and measured on the exterior surface of the facade. Its calculation is to take into account underground and/or partially underground floors. In addition, this calculation is to include outbuildings if any. Balconies are not to be included.  

Are other deviations from the limit value allowed?

The total carbon footprint limit value may also be exceeded for other particularly compelling reasons. An individual deviation is to be decided upon by the building control manager based on the carbon footprint work party’s statement when the limit-value requirement is set in the city plan.

To exceed the carbon footprint limit value for other particularly compelling reason, the applicant must present a comprehensive carbon footprint calculation in accordance with the City of Helsinki’s calculation instructions. This calculation must show by what means and how much the project plans to reduce its carbon footprint and explain the compelling reason for not reaching the set limit value. 

Why is it mandatory to use table value for transport?

Climate-related legislation allows more accurate assessment of transport emissions, but in that case the party engaging in a building project must commit to enclosing the transport distances and weights of all transports. This information is not known to the project when applying for a building permit, so table value is to be used in calculations.

Does the limit value control the emissions in construction engineering?

No. The limit value set now only covers the building's share of the life-cycle carbon footprint in accordance with the upcoming national guideline. A building’s carbon footprint is calculated from the base floor up.

However, the foundations' share of the total emissions is significant, and they are to be controlled by other means. If foundation engineering is the responsibility of the City, it can be controlled by other means than zoning.

Is the limit value comparable with the results of the low-carbon assessment method (HAVA) in Helsinki city plans?

No. HAVA is used to calculate the carbon footprint of the entire city plan area, and the buildings’ share of the footprint takes into account the emissions of the construction site, among other things. However, the limit value is set for the building alone, and the building’s carbon footprint is calculated in accordance with the Ministry of the Environment's calculation method and by using national emission factors and by taking into account only the structures above the base floor.

Contact information

If you have any questions about the carbon footprint limit value in Helsinki, please contact us, the carbon footprint work party at the City’s Climate Unit, by email: opens default mail program). Please check the Frequently Asked Questions before contacting us.