Fira’s direction: Empowering people

From the CEO: Let’s build a phenomenon together

Jussi Aho, CEO of Fira:

Last year, Fira was engaged in 26 projects building new or renovating old homes, working environments, parking premises or industrial facilities. Bathrooms were renovated in 29 plumbing renovation projects. The year 2016 was also a year of renewal for our company. We continued to develop our customer-oriented service business according to our philosophy.

Fira Group’s net sales increased by 24 per cent to EUR 168 million during the financial period. The Group’s profit before taxes amounted to EUR 4.9 million, being approximately 3 per cent of net sales. Accident frequency rate at the Group’s sites decreased slightly, being 17.6 (17.8) accidents per one million hours worked. We continued to invest in occupational safety together with our personnel, designers, contractors and other partners.

There were changes in Fira’s group structure and shareholding during the year. Ilmarinen Mutual Pension Insurance Company joined us as an investor with 10 per cent holding to accelerate Fira’s development in June. A new group structure was implemented in July. Fira Group Oy is the group parent company that host group fuctions. It owns 100% of Fira Oy, the construction business unit that implements diverse new building and renovation projects, and Fira Palvelut Oy that specialises in plumbing renovation. In addition it owns 70% of 4 startup companies which together with the Fira Starters business unit focuse on developing new business opportunities and services.

We also continued the three development programmes started last year:

  1. Smarter construction has been developed by investing in the planning and modelling of our construction projects. A good example of the forerunner nature of the flow-through thinking is the “Fira Ketterä” plumbing renovation carried out by Fira Palvelut that reduces to two weeks the duration of the habitability inconvenience to occupants.
  2. To offer a smarter workplace, we organised extensive manager training courses, bringing a more people-centric leadership style to everyday life, thereby supporting the development and well-being of all employees. We also developed our thinking with a two-day Fira employee orientation event led by the philosopher Esa Saarinen.
  3. Smarter business was developed by launching four new startup companies to develop the platform business model and new services.

Fira Group’s net sales is estimated to exceed EUR 200 million in 2017, of which Fira Oy will account for approximately EUR 180 million, Fira Palvelut for approximately EUR 25 million and the Starters business for approximately one million euros. The profitability of Fira Group is expected to improve in 2017. With our good order backlog, we have a solid foundation for profitable growth this year.

We want to co-create value by serving our customers. Thanks to our development during the past year, we have been able to serve our customers even better. Our entire community deserves thanks for this. Working together made our new kind of plumbing renovation, among other things, a phenomenon that attracted a lot of attention. This is a good start for us to start building an even bigger phenomenon in the renewing construction industry.

Building Movement – Fira’s future

Fira was established with the desire to develop the construction industry. As the business grew, we began to bring service business thinking to the construction industry and shift our attention more strongly towards the customer. Human interaction with customers and all other parties involved is at the core of Fira’s operations. We believe that value can best be created only when we involve customers and the interaction works.

We have shifted our focus even more towards people, and our aim is to create a phenomenon where people are better connected to construction and the urban environment. We believe that the best way to build a smarter society is through smarter interaction between people.

Last year, we adopted the slogan: ”building movement”. It refers to a phenomenon where people increasingly take part in construction. It is people who are building the city, and we offer our experience and expertise to their use both directly and through new platform-based business models extending our reach in serving people. This way, we can build good homes and workplaces, living cities and a better society together.

The building industry has been slow to develop in terms of operating methods or productivity, but it is now on the verge of a major transformation. The use of digitalisation is increasing also in the building industry, and will generate new business models, more efficient operations and scaling of diverse services more extensively than before both in Finland and internationally. We want to be pioneers of this development and take part in creating a phenomenon that will make construction a spearhead industry.

The most significant societal changes arise from services that affect the lives of ordinary people. The plumbing renovation with two weeks’ habitability inconvenience we did last year was an excellent example of such a service in practice. The project attracted a lot of attention, as our message resonated in people’s minds and hearts. A plumbing renovation would be more comfortable for the resident if it caused the need to move away from home for only two weeks. We were able to implement the project in a way where the new operating method provided both the customer and us with added value. Value creation requires close cooperation and interaction between parties.

Another good example of a service that affects the lives of ordinary people is group construction, in which an apartment building is built as a service directly for the residents.

In addition to better interaction between people and new technology, the revolution in the construction industry includes the development of a new business model, the platform business model. Our Starters programme makes it possible to quickly test new services. We want to get the best people and teams excited about building a smarter society. We believe that together with others, we can achieve a global building movement that originated in Finland.

Ilmarinen joined Fira

There was a change in Fira’s shareholding in June with Ilmarinen Mutual Pension Insurance Company becoming one of Fira’s shareholders. Ilmarinen acquired a 10 per cent holding in the company from the current shareholders and simultaneously invested in the company through a convertible bond.

Ilmarinen is a major real estate owner, so improving the quality and productivity of construction was a particular interest to them.

We are looking for long-term investment opportunities, and with Fira, both parties’ interests were aligned. Fira obtained a patient investor and we obtained an investment with a good profit potential and an excellent outlook, says Esko Torsti, Director of Non-listed Investments at Ilmarinen. According to Torsti, Ilmarinen expects Fira to grow strongly in the future as well. The acquisition made in June includes an option to increase the holding later.

Ilmarinen was impressed by Fira’s exceptional approach to the cyclic industry. In fact, Torsti praises Fira employees’ team spirit and desire to do things in a new way.

The development of service models and growing the added value chain are essential to Fira’s operating model. This is a fresh idea that helps the customers and will sustain long into the future. Fira has previously set tough goals for itself and reached them, so I believe that the future visions will also be achieved, Torsti says.

Fira in 2016

Fira in brief

Cities grow and change with people, on their residents’ conditions. Fira is a growth company that is modernising the construction business, building cities together with people and creating new business opportunities.

Fira Group consists of Fira Oy, which serves as the main contractor in a wide range of new build, renovation and residential construction projects, Fira Palvelut Oy, which specialises in plumbing renovation projects, and Fira Starters that develop new business opportunities and services. The Group’s net sales and number of personnel have grown profitably every year since 2009, and similar growth is expected to continue.

Key indicators

Fira Group grew and developed profitably over the financial year. Net sales increased by 24 percent to EUR 168.5 million (from EUR 135.8 million) over financial year 2016. The net sales of the construction business unit increased by 30 percent to EUR 139 million (from EUR 106.9 million). Net sales of the plumbing renovations business unit increased by 1 percent to EUR 29.2 million (from EUR 29.0 million). Fira Group profit grew to EUR 4 million (3,1) and profit of the construction business nearly doubled to EUR 5,4 million (2,8).

Fira Group’s financial position and liquidity are both at a good level. The equity ratio at year end 2016 was 44 percent (no change), and the quick ratio was 2.5 percent (up from 2.3 percent). The Group’s order book value on 31 December 2016, was EUR 170 million (from EUR 160 million).

In Fira Group’s operating area, housing construction and renovations are expected to remain strong. Demand comes from the need for housing in the capital region, and from the growing need for property renovations. As a whole, the group’s long-term strategy and leadership were strengthened in 2016.

Smarter construction and business

Year 2016 for Fira’s construction business unit: Profitable growth and new operating methods

Future-oriented partnerships, further development of our management system and successfully developed projects were emphasised in the year 2016 for construction activities.

At Fira, the construction business unit covers the project development and production of new buildings and renovation projects.

We see a lot of potential in the development of construction. Integrating customers and partners increasingly in the planning and implementation of projects and smarter use of new technology, such as building information models, are obvious trends, says Topi Laine, Director of the construction business unit at Fira.

Good project development work underlies profitable growth

The growth and profit goals set for Fira’s construction business for 2016 were reached: net sales increased by 30 per cent, and the estimated growth in housing construction from EUR 20 million to nearly EUR 80 million was realised as expected. The profit improved also from the previous year.

Laine estimates that doing things correctly all the way underlies the profitable growth.

One major thing is that we have been able to engage in project development at an earlier phase, and good development work has increasingly resulted in the realisation of the projects. In such projects, it has been possible to assess the risks even better from the start, with fewer surprises encountered during the implementation phase, Laine describes.

Fira’s project development tool has been the Verstas model since 2009, and in it, all of the parties involved in the project are invited together to plan functional premises, building solutions and the construction. According to Laine, joint development with customers increasingly results in contract agreements also being made, thereby making it possible to meet the goals of the project.

New management system contributes to efficient implementation of projects

To support growth, Fira has invested in the development of shared operating methods and competence. One of the major efforts in 2016 was the development of the management system. Client projects have been divided into phases in a new way, and the tasks and goals of the different phases have been specified in more detail.

The goal of the reform is to increase customer value and ensure the smoothness of the workflow. In order to efficiently implement projects from project development to handover, the internal responsibilities and obligations must be as accurately specified as possible. This eliminates overlapping work and ensures the implementation and development of the most important matters. This provides added value to customers and other parties, Laine says.

Moreover, lessons learned from previous projects have been utilised more systematically in subsequent projects.

Elisa Corporation’s head office in Pasila, for example, was a large and partly exceptionally implemented renovation project as the Elisa employees did not move out during the renovation. It provided us new insight and expertise for building and completing a project model for similar renovation projects. The same project model has later been utilised in other extensive and demanding renovation projects, such as Yle’s Iso Paja building and the Aalto University.

Digitalisation and knowledge management brought to the core of construction

In 2016, Fira further developed virtual construction and knowledge management at the sites. Fira has used building information model-based calculation for a long time, and with the new partnership launched last year, world-class mentoring and development opportunities will be added to knowledge management.

Our aim is to significantly improve knowledge management in our construction projects. New solutions will make it possible for us to provide our partners with more accurate quantity data, which will decrease the risks of projects and thereby increase the profitability of operations. On the other hand, we can provide the customer with even better information about the progress and costs of the project, Laine says.

New business opportunities from modular construction?

The practical implementation of several development projects launched in 2016 will proceed in 2017: the use of building information models will expand, training the personnel in the new management system will continue and Fira’s first group construction project in Jätkäsaari will proceed from project development to the construction phase. At the same time, growing the housing construction business moderately will continue.

There are also new opportunities pending in housing construction. A startup called Tilatra, one of the companies involved in Fira’ Starters programme, is developing modular construction for Fira, which could offer interesting solutions for mass customisation in the future. With modular construction, bathrooms, for example, could be made both high-quality, individual and efficient in terms of production at the same time.

Mass customisation is directly linked to the desire to give the users and people in general the possibility to take part in construction in a smarter way. New kind of competition is also increasingly influencing the construction business. The faster you can develop and be at the forefront of change, the stronger your position, Laine sums up.

Year 2016 for the plumbing renovations business unit: Successful concept development provides new business opportunities

The past year was eventful for Fira Palvelut. The development of operations proceeded swiftly during the year, and much attention was paid to plumbing renovations also at the societal level.

In particular, attention was paid to Fira Palvelut’s plumbing renovation project at Satumaanpolku in Roihuvuori, Helsinki, in which the habitability inconvenience to the residents was only two weeks.

The plumbing renovation pilot project with two weeks’ habitability inconvenience was a major success during the last months of the year. It was no accident, but was the result of years of development work of the Fira Ketterä (agile) project model. The successful pilot concretely confirmed that we have done the right things in the development of our operations, and it gave us an enormous boost for the new year, says Sami Kokkonen, Managing Director at Fira Palvelut.

Fira Ketterä improves the flow of renovation projects and creates value for the customer

Fira Ketterä is a new project model developed in cooperation with customers and experts. The residents and their needs are its starting point. In the model, residents are involved in the planning of the renovation project, and the project is implemented efficiently. Every shareholder in the housing company receives individual service and the kind of a bathroom they wish.

Fira Ketterä improves the flow of renovation projects, which creates value for the customers through the shorter duration of inconvenience. An extreme example of this was the Satumaanpolku pilot project that caused only two weeks of habitability inconvenience to the residents.

The extensive attention attracted by our agile plumbing renovation project can also be seen as interest in us, so we have an excellent situation for the current year, Kokkonen sums up.

There has been interest in the Fira Ketterä project model also outside the Helsinki Metropolitan Area during the year. The aim is to offer the project model for others to use as well, and the first experiments of this will take place during the spring. The aim is to make the good concept extensively available to customers and partners.

Change in production method and digitalisation experiments are investments in the future

Fira Palvelut did not achieve its financial goals during the year, making a loss. The change in the production method caused more non-recurring expenses than expected in the transition phase last year. However, the new production method will create significant value to all parties in the future. From the customer’s point of view, the improvements succeeded: the throughput time was improved and duration of inconvenience shortened.

The development investments have now been made, and the costs are reflected in the result for 2016. The result for the on-going year will be clearly in the black. In addition, we are able to scale our business in a new way, using digital guidance.

In fact, the digitalisation of the operations of Fira Palvelut took major steps forward last year. Fira SiteDrive, one of Fira’s startups, is developing a production control system that guides the builders at the site in real time and makes it possible to accelerate the throughput. It was in pilot use at Fira Palvelut during the year and concretely helped in a genuine business need.

The advance planning will be in focus next year

One of the lessons learned in 2016 was that a higher throughput rate is made possible by better advance planning. In the future, all projects can be simulated more accurately in advance similarly according to the Satumaanpolku model, and logistics will be managed using the lessons learned from the two-week plumbing renovation project at all sites. This will standardise the operations and provide the fitters with better chances of succeeding.

In 2015, four must-win battles were determined for Fira Palvelut to be won by the end of 2018. All four saw major advancement during the year.

The first must-win battle is connected with accelerating the throughput time of projects, and the Satumaanpolku pilot project was an excellent concrete milestone in this. The second goal was to develop customer satisfaction, and NPS surveys suggest that also this has proceeded well. Surveys among the personnel, on the other hand, indicate that the third objective, personnel satisfaction, is at a high level and the spirit is good. The fourth goal has been to decrease the proportion of tender contracting to 30 per cent of projects. The Fira Ketterä concept is a good step in this direction.

All four development targets are proceeding on schedule or even ahead of it, Kokkonen says.

Fira Starters business unit in 2016: Towards a business model that renews the building industry with the power of startups

Fira’s new operating model that aims to reform the construction industry began in 2016 with the launch of the company’s Starters programme. In this programme, teams are given chances to work as startup entrepreneurs to build new services based on digitalisation. The purpose is to take advantage of platform business logic for use by Fira, its customers and the entire construction and real estate industry.

Building the new business area was started as Fira wants to utilise the opportunities provided by the platform economy in an open-minded way.

Digitalisation and platform economy will prove their strength in scaling services relating to housing and living in the coming years. Digitalising the actual construction activity also provides significant advances and diverse business opportunities, says Henry Salo, business development director in charge of Fira’s Starters business unit.

The Starters model is a novel way of reform and innovation

The task of the startups selected in the Fira Starters programme is to create digital products and services that solve the problems of key stakeholders in urban environment, namely resident and producer communities. The startups are established as Fira’s subsidiaries, and they are funded for one year to develop a functional and scaleable business model. The first three startups started their work in summer 2016.

Fira Starters model offers new kinds of dynamics to how a company operating in a conventional field can introduce innovation and reform to the industry. The Starters model reforms and creates business opportunities as part of the Fira Group, Salo says.

At the same time, the Starters programme provides capable and energetic people with an opportunity to develop a new business. In fact, one of the purposes of the programme is to attract future talent to Fira.

Challenging the established operating models of the industry clearly interests people. When we had a startup open house last fall, the house was full.

Digital platforms and open interfaces can solve the challenges of urbanisation

The idea of new business emerges from Fira’s building movement vision: how can a construction company bring construction closer to people and create value to them? For example, global urbanisation could seem like a phenomenon in which a Finnish construction company does not play a major role. However, it need not be that way in the digital era, as the scalability possibilities of virtual business are large.

Diverse challenges must be resolved in the world’s growing cities, from high housing costs to the treatment of people at construction sites and as customers. Digital platforms and open interfaces provide an opportunity to bring a new and better culture to how urbanisation takes place, Salo explains.

Digitalisation of construction gives more voice to individuals

Fira’s first startups Fira Hive, Fira Flow and Fira SiteDrive focus on the construction of functional housing communities and tools for the planning and project and schedule management of construction projects. In all of them, increasing interaction between people through digital solutions is the key of the added value solution.

At the same time, more power is given to the individuals.

If construction projects can be managed efficiently with knowledge up to the level of individual work tasks, it is possible that a new kind of a construction market will emerge. In this market, individual professionals would be more directly linked to value creation and have better earning potential than in conventional company chains. Or, if there was a good platform for gathering a functional housing community, diverse solutions of communal housing and construction would become easier for the individual to implement, Salo continues.

The Starters programme will continue in 2017

The Starters model will be developed further in 2017. The first startups launched last year will test their services in the market and either integrate with Fira’s existing operations or create new business. The aim is to also find synergy benefits with Fira’s existing activities. The SiteDrive software, for example, increases the efficiency of workflow at Fira’s sites and receives customer feedback from the sites for developing the service further.

Also new teams will probably be included in the Starters programme during the year.

We hope that new startups would complement what has already been achieved with the first companies. During the next round, we intend to invest even more in the discovery phase and teams with strong internal dynamics, Henry Salo says.

Fira’s startups launched in 2016:

  • Fira Flow: A service in which those who supply and demand work will meet in a way that creates added value. The workers can link themselves directly with individual tasks and make more decisions concerning their work themselves.
  • Fira Hive: Launched the Village service that makes living together easy and functioning by connecting housing and suitable communities. The aim is to create better and new kinds of housing communities.
  • Fira SiteDrive: Develops a production control system that guides the builders at the site in real time and makes it possible to accelerate the throughput.
  • Tilatra: Operates as part of Fira’s construction business unit and developes modular construction that offers solutions for the mass customisation of bathrooms, for example.

#WeAreFira: A smarter workplace

Fira employees: An entrepreneurial mindset, innovation and teamwork are characteristic of Fira as a workplace

Strong growth requires continuously recruiting new talent. In conjunction with this, Fira surveyed the views of the company’s management and employees of Fira as an employer.

Above all, Fira was deemed an interesting and casual workplace with a good spirit. In general, the employees rank Fira highly and link several positive expressions to their employer. Fira is characterised as creative and dynamic, among other things. Diverse and responsible tasks are also things appreciated by the employees, and according to the survey, Fira offers such tasks sufficiently.

According to the survey, the top five areas associated with Fira are as follows:

  1. Rapid growth / entrepreneurial mindset (80% of respondents)
  2. Innovation (77%)
  3. Teamwork (77%)
  4. Ethical standards (75%)
  5. Creative and dynamic workplace (75%)

Employee well-being monitored four times a year

Research-based fact: when people feel good, the company obtains better results. There is even a scenario calculation model for measuring well-being at work, according to which a five per cent increase in the quality of working life makes it possible to improve the operating result by EUR 2,000 per employee.

At Fira, employee well-being is monitored systematically through the quarterly Pulssi survey. The survey, customised for Fira, concisely investigates feelings associated with the content of work, management, well-being of the working community, own coping at work and Fira’s values and future. The teams review their survey results and also propose corrective measures, if necessary.

In 2016, both the results and response rate of the Pulssi survey have been repeatedly at a good level: four out of five Fira employees have responded to the survey, and the average score for well-being at work was a little over 5 on a scale of 1–6.

Leading top talents requires focusing on people instead of facts

Administrative bureaucracy or talent leadership? Management attention traditionally been focused on the former in the construction industry, but Fira believes that a new kind of business requires a new kind of leadership. This is also what the manager training programme launched in 2016 aims at.

According to Fira’s HR Director Henri Hietala, there is a simple idea behind it all: it is ultimately people that are most crucial, not things.

Without committed people, there is no productivity or growth, and commitment does not emerge by ordering, but by supporting the development of individuals, Hietala says.

Based on this, Fira has begun to try out a training model that would give managers resources for people-oriented leadership. The umbrella theme of the selected training programme is the management of inner motivation, and the topic is discussed from the points of view of encouraging inspiration, maintaining a feeling of control and an atmosphere that supports development, for example. The aim is to provide supervisors with better management tools, which will ensure a more functional community, better results and happier people.

Good leadership will be a future recruitment asset in the construction industry as well

There is fierce competition for good employees in the construction industry. So far, workplaces have been changed largely based on salary and bonuses, but Hietala believes that the situation is changing.

This is an industry-independent thing: the best employees will not stay where leadership is poor.

Fira’s future visions that emphasise digitalisation can also change the setting of recruitment. In the future, the competition for good employees might not be only with other construction companies, but also IT companies well known for their significant investments in well-being at work.

We want to offer people a workplace where work is meaningful, there are genuine development opportunities and the support of the community can be seen in everyone’s daily life.

In 2016, approximately 30 Fira managers from the sites and head office took part in the first phase of the supervisor training. The training will continue in 2017.

Becoming winning site teams with the doctrines of an ice hockey coach

What a boss. That was one Fira employee’s first impression of Erkka Westerlund. Westerlund, a renowned ice hockey coach, and his colleague Tomi Lämsä coached Fira employees at the site of the Dirika apartment block in Kalasatama, Helsinki, in autumn 2016.

Led by Westerlund and Lämsä, the site crew at Dirika learned how individuals make up a winning team. In Westerlund’s approach, a winning team starts with self-knowledge, people’s own resources, team dynamics and leadership. First, the Dirika team reviewed their own stress levels and recovery, as well as reasonable well-being choices at work and leisure.

Westerlund’s and Lämsä’s teachings are intended to assist Fira’s site teams in succeeding together and as individuals. The aim is to move from management, which is typical of the construction industry, towards more people-based leadership at the sites as well. The coaching aims at finding permanent practices for one’s own activities so as to achieve better results through a better atmosphere and joint development.

Westerlund’s quiet charisma had such an impact at Dirika that the same sessions will also be continued at other major sites.

Customer experience director Maria Snäkin: “A good customer experience does not happen by accident”

Maria Snäkin, Fira Group’s new customer experience director, intends to make customer experience development more systematic.

The best service experience in the industry. That is the goal in Fira Palvelut’s plumbing renovation projects. Therefore, the company has systematically developed shared operating models and trained the personnel with an eye on customer experience in particular in recent years.

Service manager Maria Snäkin, who had headed this work together with the rest of the service engineer team, was appointed to the director of customer experience throughout Fira Group at the turn of the year 2016/17. Originally, she joined the company as a service engineer in 2012.

Prerequisites for doing things correctly must exist in the customer interface

At Fira Palvelut, I learned at least that a good customer experience can and must be managed systematically. It does not emerge by accident. I also consider it particularly important that those working closest to the customer are given the prerequisites for doing things correctly, Snäkin says.

In practice, this means surveying and making visible the situations and operating methods with which it is possible to influence the customer experience. It is exactly this expertise relating to making customer work systematic that Snäkin intends to provide to the entire Fira Group’s use in her new position.

First indicators and goals, then customer paths and operating methods

A good customer experience emerges if we understand the challenges faced by the customer, are able to respond to them and even exceed the customer’s expectations. Therefore, I feel that it is natural to start with creating common customer experience indicators in the development work. Thereby, we can better understand the current state and problems of customer experience and set targets for the development work. From there, we will proceed to specifying the customer groups and describing the customers, then to fine-tuning our own operating methods.

Snäkin emphasises that a good customer experience is built on both processes and corporate culture. Neither is enough by itself.

In Fira the service oriented attitude is visible in everything we do. This applies to both actual customer service and more generally work at the sites and office, both among colleagues and with other partners. Satisfied employees have satisfied customers, and a permanent competitive advantage is built through positive customer experience.

Successes in 2016

Elisa’s head office was renovated one floor at a time

Elisa’s head office in Pasila, Helsinki, comprises two buildings, seven floors, 1,500 employees and approximately 17,000 square metres of floor area. Fira worked as the main contractor when the entire office was converted from a multi-purpose office into a working environment following the Elisa Ideal Work concept.

The project had a special implementation method, as the entire head office was not evacuated for the renovation at any point. This way, Elisa avoided a major move and obtaining separate substitute premises. Jouni Juntunen, who acted as the planning controller and supervisor in the renovation project, tells us more.

The renovation of the premises took place in phases: one floor of Elisa employees at a time moved to other parts of the building, and the vacated floor was renovated from beginning to end in one go. How did this influence the progress of the project?

It required both us and Elisa to be flexible. The noisiest work, for example, was carried out early in the morning, in the evenings and weekends where possible. Particular attention was paid to communication during the project, and feedback among the head office users were surveyed regularly through SMS surveys.

The throughput times of individual floors were really tight, as time also had to be reserved for the employees’ moves. The schedules, which even seemed impossible at first, however ultimately worked when the design solutions were adjusted slightly to make the implementation possible.

All in all, the project actually succeeded surprisingly well based on both client feedback and other project indicators.

To your mind, what influenced the success of the project the most?

The project partnering agreement model resulted in the designers, main contractor, building system contractor and client all pulling the same string. It was everyone’s goal to have the project completed on time and with high quality.

Close cooperation between the different parties was good also otherwise and the team spirit was good, so swift decisions could be made even in tight spots and work could proceed smoothly. It even became a kind of a motto that in case of problems, we first find the solutions and only then the culprits, if we even long for them at that point.

It was also important that even though a sort of a new small site was established for each floor, the crew remained the same, including the workers, supervisors and subcontractors. Work goes smoother when you already know everyone.

What kinds of lessons were learned from this project for future projects?

Dividing a major project into smaller parts and completing them at once is a smart operating method. Firstly, you can anticipate and avoid problems better as the project proceeds when roughly the same process has already been completed several times.

Second, it easily happens in an extensive project that when you encounter a difficult spot, you move on to something easier and postpone solving the problem. As a result, all difficult things pile up in the final phases of the project, which can easily translate into schedule problems, for example. When you have to complete a certain section in one go, you are forced to take care of the hard things right away, which works much better for the big picture.

The most famous plumbing renovation project in Finland

Fira Palvelut implemented a plumbing renovation project that became the country’s best-known renovation project in November. A housing company in Roihuvuori, Helsinki, was renovated as a pilot project so that the habitability inconvenience caused to the residents was only two weeks instead of the typical three months.

The plumbing renovation was implemented using the Fira Ketterä model in which the residents, the board of directors of the housing company, the designer, Fira Palvelut and subcontractors planned the project together. Fira Palvelut was involved in leading the project all the way from project planning. Almost two hundred articles were written in the media on the new type of plumbing renovation project. Sami Ansala, supervisor at Fira Palvelut, reports on how the project succeeded.

What was done in a new way in the two-week plumbing renovation?

Everything started with good advance planning. The project was scheduled with the accuracy of an hour, while usually plans are made with the accuracy of a day or half a day. We also phased the work into two shifts so that more things could be completed during a day.

Once the renovation project began, it was clear to everyone involved what would happen. The renovation project was also carried out using an alliance model, with all parties sharing mutual objectives.

Did the large media attention have effects on the renovation project?

Not really. In advance, we talked that the site would gain media visibility due to its special nature, but we mainly thought about trade media. We could not imagine that the attention would be so extensive. There was quite a lot of joking about it among the workers, but it did not have effects on the work besides more people than normal visiting the site.

What was learned from the pilot project?

The renovation project succeeded well, so it will be easy to implement a swift renovation project based on this experience in the future. Logistics is one major thing to which attention has also been paid at more conventional sites after the two-week renovation project. The cooperation with the client was also emphasised when working rapidly. The cooperation was seamless, and the quick schedule would not have been possible without mutual trust.

Village connects communes for co-living

Fira Hive is one of the companies chosen to take part in Fira’s startup programme launched in 2016. Late last year, it launched the Village web service with the core idea of finding suitable roommates for those interested in co-living.

At the same time, Village connects those wanting to live communally and owners of rental housing suitable for co-living. Risto Kärkkäinen, one of the founders of Fira Hive, tells us about the initial phases of Village and follow-up plans.

Co-living is often associated with a high cost of housing. In the initial phases, however, the Village service is particularly aimed at those for whom co-living is not necessarily an economic necessity but a conscious choice. Would you tell us more about this?

In the Western countries, approximately 8 per cent of people are currently living in some kind of shared apartment or otherwise communally, and the figure is increasing. Increasingly many people work as freelancers without a fixed work team, and the traditional family model has changed as well. Yet people want to have other people around them, and co-living is one way of meeting this need.

Yet the market for higher-quality co-living is not very developed. There are no services that would make becoming a co-living resident as easy and safe as possible. That is what Village aims at.

How does Village work in practice?

One of the biggest stumbling blocks in co-living is collisions related to personal chemistries and everyday habits, as well as the difficulty of practical arrangements. Therefore, the key idea behind Village is to build a functional commune so that it is as easy as possible, also for the owner of the apartment.

A person interested in co-living fills out a questionnaire online, surveying their housing-related wishes, and we suggest suitable apartments and groups based on the responses. The lessor, on the other hand, leases the apartment directly to Village, and we then rent it to the individual residents. Thus, we convert the bedrooms of large apartments into communal studio flats.

How has it gotten off to a start?

When the service was launched in late November, there were more applicants registering within a short time than we could process. The amount of positive feedback has been enormous: many seem to think that such a service should have existed already a long time ago.

We have not been able to find suitable apartments at the same rate, which is in fact currently the most significant bottleneck. We are aiming at cooperation with large housing market institutions, for example, to make finding suitable apartments faster.

What will happen next?

In the early phase, we have above all been developing and testing the business model of Village, but as long as we have it established, it is time to invest in the scaleability of the service. The aim is to make Village an open co-living platform on which residents can themselves browse and receive recommendations of suitable roommates. For this, we will need algorithms that help in forming functioning groups, for example. In addition, we will publish a solution alongside Village that will address the problem of large unsold apartments during the spring.

There are lots of opportunities associated with Village also outside co-living, as the know-how relating to the building of communes could also well be used in group construction projects, for example. We are also interested in the international market.