Socially significant private sector construction projects such as the main railway station project or the Grand Hansa project, emphasize the goals and expectations of our society, in addition to the goals set by the project. These include effects on transport, the cityscape, the cultural heritage and the social, functional and economic structure of the area. When the building project goal is to ensure also its own economic and operational efficiency, then the task of the building permit authorities is to ensure that the objectives and expectations set for the community are met. This is sometimes overlooked by builders under intense scheduling and cost pressure. The primary task of the authorities is not to take care of the commercial operator, but to act as a supervisor of the decisions made by a democratic society and, for example, the implementation agreement between the government and the construction project.
During the building permit process, it is the responsibility of the designers, under the leadership of the chief designer, to draw up plans to maximize the added value of the construction project and, at the same time, meet the requirements set by the government. By building openly and respecting the interests of both parties, confidence can be created in the pre-planning and pre-negotiation phases that will benefit everyone and make the project successful. There are many successful examples of this in Finland.
This issue was recently raised when Kalle Soini and I discussed about the culture of construction in Finland and in the rest of the world. For example, in the early stages of investor negotiations of the Tripla centre in central Pasila, it was repeatedly revealed how international investors considered the timetable of the authorities’ proceedings at least as unrealistic. They were very confident that during the planning or building permit handling, the values of the different parties would be so strong that there would inevitably be some kind of conflict, some of the authorities would be in conflict, or would severely disrupt the overall schedule.
We at Architects Soini & Horto Oy disagreed and trusted that the implementation agreement between the city, the state, and the construction project, with the support of a common value base which would enable a working dialogue between authorities, would be on schedule. We also knew that Finland being, in international terms, a very equal and democratic society would contribute to the process. At this point, we are happy to say that we received all the decisions on building plans and building permits on schedule, without any appeal rounds.
Construction authorities’ procedures in Finland are based on the open and confidential interaction between both parties. The procedure is excellent for the interests of both the building project and the wider community. During the process, the chief designer acts as a link between the different parties and ensures that the plans can ensure the fulfilment of the goals and requirements set for construction. For a building project, this process provides a good interaction channel that enables the realization of one’s own interests. On the other hand, it also contains a strong incentive to act responsibly; If the authorities ‘confidence is shaken in the short term, dealing with the authorities’ begin to experience friction, the overall timetable is jeopardized, and costs rise. When the customer trusts the designers’ judgment about what should be presented to the authorities and when, the authorities can be consulted in a timely manner, considering procurement and construction schedules. In this way, confidence in designers will produce the best and most cost-effective outcome for a construction project.
Jaakko Hassi, Partner, Architect SAFA