The Circular Green Blocks project tested how sharing economy services could be introduced into housing companies. The introduction of a new service requires clear and repeated communication to ensure that people find the service and make it a part of their everyday lives.
Housing services are becoming more commonplace and changing consumption patterns are creating new opportunities for businesses and housing companies. In the summer and autumn of 2022, three companies tested how to bring new types of sharing economy services into housing companies and blocks, close to residents.
The aim of the pilots was to produce information about housing companies as potential customers to businesses, enable the development of services in a new environment and introduce residents to sharing and joint use.
The pilots were part of the Circular Green Blocks project, which co-create sustainable living solutions with housing companies and businesses. The project has organised open calls for companies offering sharing economy services.
Bicycle sharing got off to a flying start
Willari fiksaa & loonaa implemented a pilot on electric bicycle sharing at a VAV Group’s property in Leinelä, Vantaa, in the summer of 2022. During the pilot, the residents had access to two electric bicycles and a trailer for children.
The pilot offered Willari a great deal of insight and supported them in developing their business. During the pilot, Willari developed a digital platform through which the residents could easily book the bikes. The service was enthusiastically received by the residents, and the bicycles were borrowed extensively during the summer months at the beginning of the pilot. However, the pace slowed down after that.
“The short pilot gave us a lot in terms of service development and taught us about housing companies as clients. It takes time for housing companies to adopt new practices, and clear and active communication is needed to put the service into practice,” says Project Manager Annika Viiala from Willari.
In the video, Viiala explains in more detail how the pilot progressed and what lessons they learned.
Borrowing items locally
Lainappi’s lockers were tested in two different housing companies. App-operated sets of lockers were brought into the common areas of the housing companies, from where residents could borrow items, such as a textile washer, various games and a self-inflating air mattress. The aim of the pilot was to find out how the Lainappi lockers work for a more limited user group, and how the cooperation with housing companies works.
In the housing company in Malminkartano, a place for the lockers was found in an underused shelter. Despite an information session and communication with the residents, the borrowing did not take off properly in the housing company of around 30 flats. It was thought that the location of the lockers was too remote. In addition to this, the housing company started a balcony renovation shortly after the start of the pilot, which both distracted the residents and made it difficult to move around the common areas.
Eventually the pilot was relocated to the VAV Group’s property in Leinelä, to the same bike storage facility where the electric bicycle pilot had ended earlier in the autumn. The residents, who were already used to testing new services, found the Lainappi locker more easily right from the start, and the communication and exchange of experiences within the housing company also boosted the popularity of the service.
“I borrowed a steam cleaner, which I had wanted to test for a long time. It was easy, and the cleaner worked like a charm,” said Ritva Ruuska, a member of the residents’ committee.
Watch the video to hear Lainappi’s experiences of the pilot.
A joint loaning hub served a whole block
Item sharing was also piloted by CoReorient, which brought a Liiteri.net loaning centre to Katajaharju in Lauttasaari. The loaning centre was used by ten different housing companies for over six months.
In both loaning pilots, various types of cleaning machines were the most popular items to borrow.
“In addition to steam and textile cleaners, the most borrowed items in Katajaharju were certain tools, such as a cordless screwdriver and a cordless hammer drill,” says Harri Paloheimo, founder of CoReorient.
There was a good amount of borrowing in Katajaharju, and new users registered throughout the pilot period. However, more experience is still needed. CoReorient would be interested in further talks with housing companies on a suitable business model and how to put a model that serves a whole block on a sustainable footing.
Watch the video to see how the loaning centre worked in the Katajaharju block.
Pilots boosting sharing economy services
The pilots with housing companies taught the service providers a great deal and provided information for the technical development of services. The entrepreneurs gained experience of housing companies as clients and feedback from residents on the functionality of the services.
As expected, communication emerged as a key factor in all of the pilots. The introduction of a new service requires detailed and repeated communication to ensure that people find the service and get into the habit of using it. The services were piloted in a total of three different housing companies with very different communication channels.
The solutions piloted were in use by the housing companies for four to six months. A short pilot period allows for low-threshold testing with a new target group. However, it takes time to introduce a new service, and a short time frame may not give a true picture of demand and residents’ needs.
New types of housing services are of interest to residents and companies offering rental housing, for example. Parcel lockers, domestic cleaning and carsharing are already part of everyday life in many private and rental housing companies. It is worth noting that, in the world of housing companies, it is important to take all parties into account in order for new services that support sustainable living to take root. In addition to the residents, the rental housing company itself or the housing company’s board, property manager or maintenance company can also play an important role in bringing about change.
In spring 2023, the pilots were followed up with the Sustainable Neighbourhood pilots, which bring new solutions to neighbourhoods on a wider scale. Read more about the upcoming pilots.
The Circular Green Blocks – Sustainable city quarters as circular economy business promoters project (9/2021–9/2023) promotes circular and sharing economy in residential blocks together with housing companies, businesses and the City. The project is being implemented by the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY, Forum Virium Helsinki, Aalto University and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.
The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Union’s COVID-19 recovery efforts.