Climate ministry sticking with plan to build 'environmental house'

A plan to build a seaside wooden "environmental house" (Keskkonnamaja) in Tallinn's Kalamaja district remains alive, several years after it first appeared. The building would be a showpiece example of Estonian wooden-building know-how and would house state agencies in the relevant fields.

ERR reports the question is more when will the wooden building be erected and not whether, with preliminary answers expected in the coming weeks

State real estate agency Riigi Kinnisvara AS (RKAS) announced the tender for the construction of the planned environmental house (see gallery above) last December, with tenders open from the start of March this year. 

This attracted six bidders with offers of between €54 and €62 million.

However, the procurement process in respect of construction is a stage which has not yet been reached, simply due to a lack of funds in this year's state budget.

Furthermore, Ivo Jaanisoo, deputy undersecretary at the new climate ministry, told ERR that much depends on what the ruling coalition opts to include in the four-year state budget strategy, known in Estonian as the RES.

The RES is due to be finalized to accompany the state budget for 2024.

Jaanisoo said the environmental house is due to be completed by 2026, under current plans.

Of the proposed building's occupants, Jaanisoo said: "In future, the nature museum (Loodusmuuseum), the Environmental Board (Keskkonnaamet), the Environmental Agency (Keskkonnaagentuur), the Environmental Investment Center (KIK), and the ministry's IT center, as well as the (planned) land and space agency (Maa- ja ruumiamet – "space" in the sense of a land area – ed.) would be located there, covering approximately 650 jobs in total."

Regardless of financing-related decisions, there are no plans either to abandon the project nor sell the plot set aside for the purpose, Jaanisoo added.

"Abandoning the construction is unlikely, as several of the current buildings used by the aforementioned institutions are in poor condition and need to be renovated in any case. The total estimated cost of this would be approximately €51 million. It is significantly more sensible to relocate these institutions in the one building. This would also serve to improve cooperation between the institutions in terms of the field of environmental and climate fields, as a competence center," Jaanisoo went on.

The proposed environmental house is reportedly not yet another building earmarked for an aggregation of state agencies, but rather a larger example building of what was agreed in the coalition agreement, more specifically the future goal of new public buildings to be constructed of timber.

The planned building would thus be a flagship example of this, and, ERR reports, has a strong supporter base.

Reform MP Pärtel-Peeter Pere says the Estonian construction sector needs such a project.

"Our timber industry needs it, as we could then demonstrate work of an excellence which would attract German and Danish customers to order more items from us in the future, if our exporters knock on their doors," Pere, who is Reform's deputy Riigikogu whip and editor-in-chief of "Ehitus teekaart 2040" plan, said.

"With the best will in the world, no one orders Estonian products just like that, we have to prove ourselves. The environmental house (Pere refers to it as a Loodusmaja, a nature house) provides exactly this opportunity. The construction tender has been completed, so all that is needed is a decision," Pere went on.

The environmental house would additionally be designed as a near zero-rated energy building.

The Riigikogu's environmental committee last week also also supported the construction of the proposed environmental house, unanimously, among those committee members taking part.

The project is planned for the plot at Vesilennuk 12, currently an open space in the vicinity of the Seaplane Harbor Museum. The plot measures 21,631 square meters; 12,000 square meters, approximately, will be built upon.

Architectural office Kavakava's architects Siiri Vallner, Indrek Peil, Kristel Niisuke, and Ko Ai won the design tender. 

Additionally, the environmental house's grounds will be landscaped with parkland including domestic trees and wetland areas (see gallery).

This should encourage various meadow and coastal plant species to flourish, it is argued.

This green area would be open to the public.

The Ministry of Climate was formed around the nucleus of the old environment ministry, following the entry into office of the Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition, in April.


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Editor: Marko Tooming, Andrew Whyte

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