Agile pilots for digital and green infrastructure solutions
The Virium Helsinki Forum held two open calls for proposals that combine digital solutions with green infrastructure. The goal of the agile pilot open calls was to find and develop suitable solutions for enhancing green infrastructure and their communication to citizens using novel digital tools. The first agile pilot, on green urban mapping, sought new methods for collecting precise information on vegetation location and size. This data would be used as base material for more precise green network planning. The second agile pilot open call, Urban Green Explorer, sought solutions to improve user experience and understanding of green infrastructure through related digital tools. Both open calls focused on the Sompasaari area of southern Kalasatama. Sompasaari provides an excellent urban backdrop for the calls as area development is already in progress, it faces many of the challenges of a modern city and is part of the Helsinki Smart Kalasatama Urban Lab.
Description of practice
The Open Call process works by preparing a subject and related materials, and holding an open event. Depending on the calendar and the general schedule of the project, the deadline for applications is about one month. At the end of this period, the submissions are reviewed by a jury of relevant experts from the zoning department of the City of Helsinki and Forum Virium Helsinki. After selecting pilot processes, the applicants are informed of the chosen proposals and given some written feedback. The selected pilots move into a contract negotiation phase, where precise details are agreed on. The project phase begins and weekly or bi-weekly meetings are set up with the pilot companies to follow developments. At the end of the project, events are held at the functioning versions of the pilot solutions. In Green Urban Mapping, a professional user event was held at the end of May. The general public’s event was made part of the second open call, the Urban Green Explorer public event, as it was one of the main attractions of the Green Infrastructure-related digital solutions showcase. The Pocket Book on Agile Piloting was used as a resource.
Who was involved
The Forum Virium Helsinki project team worked with Granlund Oy, XD Visuals Oy and New Things Company Oy to provide the agile piloting services. Members of the City of Helsinki zoning team and digital experts from Forum Virium Helsinki participated in the judging process.
Promotion and communication
The Open Call events were marketed through Forum Virium Helsinki Media Channels. Also, in the Green Urban Mapping project, the call was launched in cooperation with Helsinki Business Hub, a City of Helsinki business marketing company, within the World Digital Built Environment Conference.
The pilots produced in the Open Calls were made available to test starting from the event held in Sompasaari on the 16th of June. The pilots remain usable in the area until the end of September 2022. The June event was marketed through Forum Virium Helsinki’s media channels.
The professional skillset for managing the open calls required software development and project management experience, good contacts with in-house technical experts and knowledge of the specific needs of environmental planning.
The first call was opened in September of 2021. The production deadline was pushed back to May 2022 due to Covid restrictions. The project was active for 10 months. The second call was opened on 28 February and the project’s final event was held in June 2022. The project was active for five months.
|Level of participation
|Urban planning challenge(s) tackled
|Governance and institutional factors
Knowledge and skills
● The open calls led to positive and surprising developments
● Pilot companies get feedback from the public and professionals
● There is uncertainty over delivery with an open-ended process
● To be efficient, the open call pilot purchaser involved requires a detailed understanding of the subject area.
● Companies are afraid to offer ideas on the fly because it might cause them extra unpaid work.
● The Green Urban Mapping open call produced two software packages:
– Granlund’s Mobile Device-based Augmented Reality Mapper, which lets anybody with a mobile device recognise and map the location of individual plants and plant areas.
– XD Visual’s vegetation mapping add-on to help recognise individual plants and planted areas using high-quality point-cloud analysis.
● The Urban Green Explorer open call produced a web browser-based guide that functions on almost all devices in a small area of Sompasaari, presenting green infrastructure-related digital solutions in a guided walk provided by the service.