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Virgin Island – a vision for Vallisaari

In March 2016 the City of Helsinki and Metsähallitus, the Finnish State Forest Enterprise, launched the Clean Vallisaari Innovation Competition. The goal was to identify creative and viable solutions for the development of the historic Vallisaari Island. Just a short boat ride from the centre of Helsinki, the formerly closed military island was opened to the public in May 2016. The Virgin Island entry, a team effort by Gaia Consulting and Elomatic, won joint first prize. The Virgin Island vision is based on the desire to preserve the island’s natural and cultural heritage, while at the same time creating a world class destination for ecotourism, nature visits, recreation and cleantech innovation. 

The Virgin Island concept is built on the idea of development that prevents negative impacts and enhances the restoration of Vallisaari, as well as on solutions that minimise energy and resource use. Visitors to the island are encouraged to experience the unique nature in harmony with the restored cultural heritage in a respectful, yet invigorating way. The goal is to strike a balance be-tween visitor impacts, preservation and restoration needs. 

Encouraging innovation 

According to Anita Vuorenmaa, the Elomatic Vallisaari project coordinator, the development team firmly believes that the most optimal long-term solutions may not yet exist. Therefore, a prime component in the concept is the encouragement of innovation. 

“Our concept encourages visitors to think in new ways about resource consumption. We also want to create a unique development platform for revolutionary cleantech and eco-innovations. The vision is based on a combination of maximizing the use of current structures, the use of Show-Caves (see point h), and creating additional floating solutions for the required infrastructure and service spaces,” explains Ms Vuorenmaa. 

Competition entrants had to provide solutions built around three main themes: sustainable water supply and sewage treatment, sustainable energy solutions and efficient use of materials, as well as innovative solutions for user interface and systems management. 

Sustainable water supply and sewage treatment

The main Virgin Island concepts for sustainable water supply and sewage treatment are dry composting toilets, a local water circuit and hovering infrastructure pathways (see points a, b and c). Water consumption and wastewater treatment are minimised on the island. This is achieved, in particular, by using dry toilets instead of water closets. This not only reduces the requirements for sewage treatment but also enables the circulation of nutrients. 

Water is mostly locally sourced, purified and treated within closed water circuits. The required water supply pipes and sewage drains needed for the closed water circuit are hidden within hovering infrastructure pathways. This also enables easier, more efficient maintenance and optimisation of lifecycle costs.

Sustainable energy solutions and efficient use of materials 

With regards sustainable energy solutions and efficient use of materials, the team has proposed cave air, a solar power system, and other renewable energy generation methods such as retro windmills and underwater kinetic energy converters (see points d, e and f). Energy consumption is minimised by the cave air concept and by supporting Island businesses to develop new and energy efficient solutions. Green lease contracts are used and visitors are motivated to reduce energy use. In addition, local renewable energy production is emphasised by utilising solar, eolic and geothermal energy, as well as underwater kinetic energy from passing ferries.

Innovative solutions for user interface and system management

The main concepts in this theme are modular floating structures, Cleantech ShowCaves and gamification (see points g, h and i). Unnecessary infrastructure construction on the island itself is avoided by utilizing modular floating structures, which adjust according to seasonal fluctuation in visitor numbers and the development of the island. 

The Cleantech ShowCave concept offers a cleantech platform for businesses to develop and present their innovative solutions on the island and attracts tourists. User input becomes a crucial part of the cleantech development process, as users try out, and evaluate pilot cleantech solutions shown in the Cleantech ShowCave concept. Visitors are encouraged to participate in the island development with the help of gamification of the island visit. Gamification is also utilised to demonstrate different sustainability themes, such as the impact of different consumption choices.

Virgin Island project team

Elomatic: Anita Vuorenmaa (Project Coordinator), Sebastian Kankkonen, Antti Yrjänäinen, Rami Raute, Pekka Koivukunnas, Mika Patrakka, Jukka Mikkonen

Gaia Consulting Oy: Laura Descombes (Project Coordinator), Minna Päällysaho (Consultant), Pekka Pokela (Business Director).

Leading image © Helsingin kaupungin aineistopankki / Kalle Kataila

A unique solution for a unique island

Map of Vallisaari.

Points on the map

An aerial view of Vallisaari