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On Thursday 15 September, the Government approved the proposals for the Building Act, the Act Amending the Land Use and Building Act and the Act on the Built Environment Information System. The acts are to enter into force on 1 January 2024.

"The built environment produces about one third of the greenhouse gas emissions in Finland.

The legislative package approved by the Government will mean significant reforms in building and support the efforts to build a carbon-neutral Finland. Climate change mitigation and adaptation will now for the first time be comprehensively incorporated into legislation concerning building. In this work we will also make use of the opportunities offered by digitalisation and the circular economy," Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Maria Ohisalo says.

"This extensive reform has taken many years of preparation and, besides public officials, large numbers of different stakeholders have participated in the process. I am very happy about what we have now achieved," she says.

Climate change mitigation as part of building legislation

The Building Act guides to carbon reduction in building by taking the negative and positive impacts on climate throughout the life cycle of a building into account. The Building Act lays down new essential technical requirements for low-carbon buildings and their life cycle. The Act also includes the authorisation to issue decrees concerning the climate and material declarations on buildings and limit values for the carbon footprint. The decrees are currently being prepared and will be included in the National Building Code of Finland.

New buildings must meet the requirements concerning longevity and adaptability. A technical service life is also defined for buildings on the basis of the targets. The Building Act encourages to keep building materials in the cycle for as long as possible. When applying for a building or demolition permit concerning a new building or a building to be demolished, an account must be provided on all materials that have been used or will be released, on soil and rock material to be removed from the building site, and on the amount of hazardous waste.

Digitalisation boosts smart building and land use

The proposed legislative amendments lay the foundation for the digitalisation of the built environment, which a number of organisations have developed for decades. One of the key changes is related to the consistency of data: in the future, building permits and land use plans will be made in a machine-readable format in accordance with an interoperable data model.

The Act on the Built Environment Information System lays down provisions on the information that municipalities must within the transitional period publish in the new national information system. In this context, an amendment is proposed to the current Land Use and Building Act that lays down provisions on the digitalisation of land use data.

These amendments will improve the availability, reliability and digital security of data. The nation-wide investment in the Built Environment Information System will pay itself back when the access to and quality of data improves and it is easier to manage the data. Both the residents and businesses will have better access to up-to-date data held by the authorities. At first the changes will cause additional work for municipalities, but this will get easier in the longer term, manual data processing will decrease and the municipalities need not submit the same data several times to different authorities.

More accurate data on the impacts of buildings and land use helps to mitigate climate emissions and the burden they cause to nature. National information can be used to monitor the development of communities and to make decisions that cause as little environmental harm as possible. The data can also be used to develop the circular economy market for construction materials and waste.

Smoother building process through simpler permit system and higher threshold for permits

By the new Building Act, the building permit, action permit and notification of action will merge into one form of permit, the building permit. The single-stage building permit procedure enables to verify at the same time whether the requirements for the placement and whole implementation process of a building are met.

The threshold for permits will rise so that in future e.g. a backyard sauna or shed can be built without a building permit. In future all building must follow the building right specified in the plan, the Building Code or provisions on building on shores. The reform will harmonise the procedures for granting permits in municipalities and ease the workload of municipal building supervisors.

The quality of building will be improved by ensuring that everything will go as it should at the building site. The responsibilities related to building will be clarified so that the responsibility for implementing the building project as a whole is assigned to a party with principal responsibility. Those undertaking a project must either assume the responsibility for building supervision or designate a party with principal responsibility for it. The Act also states that the parties to the project must cooperate to improve the quality of building and create the prerequisites for the high-quality implementation of the project. The quality of building will be improved by using stricter special procedures, external audits and quality assurance reports.

The planning and site management tasks will be divided into five difficulty categories. In future the building supervisors will no longer examine the qualifications of planners and site managers; instead, the qualifications will be demonstrated by a certificate issued by a body to be authorised by the Ministry of the Environment

At the moment buildings and construction are regulated by the Land Use and Building Act, which was adopted about 20 ago. The chapters concerning buildings and construction in the Land Use and Building Act will be repealed by the new Building Act and the remaining parts of the Act will be renamed as the Land Use Act. The Building Act and the Act on the Built Environment Information System include a good number of transitional provisions.

HT

Source: Ministry of the Environment

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