10 reasons to renovate the courtyard of the apartment building

If the courtyard of the apartment building has been the same for a long time, it may be difficult to see how it can be developed. When you first start looking at the yard in a new light, you should be curious about the courtyard and examine the many ways a pleasant courtyard can improve the everyday lives of the residents.

A woman and a man looking at plants in the courtyard
In the Lars Sonck block, cars had to move to accommodate a green yard. During the summer season, residents collect herbs and edible flowers in the courtyard for cooking and bring their plates to the outside tables. Photo: Lasse Lecklin

1. The courtyard will become more comfortable

It is pleasant to come home when there is a green and pleasant-looking yard just outside the building door. Compared to a courtyard with a hard asphalt surface, a courtyard filled with vegetation attracts people to lounge. Sound will not echo harshly, but the soundscape of the courtyard will be soft and vibrant, especially during the growing season. Weather phenomena and seasons change the nature of the yard. Residents can find important places to lounge in the yard and have the necessary moments of peace in their daily lives.

2. The feeling of security will increase

When people feel like the courtyard is their own, they appreciate it and want to take care of it. Since residents like spending time in the courtyard, they will get to know each other better. It will reduce the probability of arguments. It is also easier to resolve any disagreements. It is easy to feel safe in a courtyard like this.

Two people assemble garden chairs at a canopy
The residents received a new waste sorting station and a sun deck on its roof in connection with the yard renovation. Arttu Hyttinen and Mons assemble garden chairs. Photo: Lasse Lecklin

3. Team spirit will be strengthened

It is natural to meet neighbours in a comfortable and safe courtyard. Shared activities in the courtyard, such as games, cultivation and drinking coffee, deepen neighbourhood relations and trust between people. Shared courtyards may alleviate loneliness, which is very common in urban areas. A good courtyard fosters team spirit.

Three women with garden tools in hand
In the Olympic Village in Käpylä, volunteer residents garden together. They call their group the Perennial Posse. Photo: Lasse Lecklin

4. Courtyards improve health

A green courtyard with diverse nature improves the health of residents. Residents will want to go outside to the interesting courtyard, which increases everyday physical activity and time spent outdoors. It is not even necessary to do anything particular in the courtyard; just being in the green environment and around plants growing at different altitudes reduces blood pressure and stress. Diverse nature provides residents with a wide range of sensory experiences: trees sigh calmly, shadows dance through the foliage, wet soil and flowers give off aromas.

You can tend a garden in a courtyard, which is known to improve your mood. According to recent studies, such actions also improve resistance to disease: there are useful microbes in the soil, and when people process soil, they are transferred to humans and do good for the intestines, for example.

Three children looking at courtyard plantations
Before, there was nothing but asphalt in Oiva, Liisi and Stefan’s yard. Now there are grapes, raspberries and a variety of herbs growing there. Photo: Lasse Lecklin

5. Everyone gets more space

By combining the courtyards of apartment buildings, all residents of the block will receive a larger courtyard where areas suitable for different uses can be established. The courtyard could have an open sports area, a dedicated area for the cultivation of useful plants and a calm lounge area under the foliage, for example. Small children like sandboxes, bigger children climbing frames and diverse hiding places. It may also be possible to have new shared facilities in the yard, such as a bicycle shelter, a crafts room and a recycling point.

6. Centralising functions will save money

By combining yards, housing companies can centralise their activities and amend their separate plot-specific contracts to cover the entire yard area. In the shared yard, you should combine waste and property maintenance. There may be several waste facilities in the courtyard, but not every housing company needs to have its own. Waste costs will be reduced by several dozen per cent. If underground waste containers and waste presses are used, waste will need to be emptied less often, which reduces noise and heavy traffic in the nearby streets.

When property maintenance is in charge of the entire yard, employees are more often present and not driving between sites. Work equipment should also be concentrated on the block.

Any renovations, such as transitioning to geothermal heat and other improvements related to energy efficiency, can be planned and implemented together with neighbouring buildings. In general, a large unit will also receive offers more easily than an individual housing company. Centralising will increase synergy and save money. The amount of savings depends on the number of housing companies: the more companies come together, the greater the savings.

7. Urban nature diversifies

It is possible to convert a grim asphalt courtyard into a green multi-species yard. The more diverse the plant species in the courtyard, the better the animals will like spending time there. Hundreds of species can live in an old tree.

A diverse courtyard will also strengthen the residents’ relation to nature. In an urban courtyard with rich species, you can listen to birds singing and watch butterflies flutter by. Hedgehogs, squirrels and foxes may also make an appearance. You can fight pollinator loss by planting pollinator-friendly plants and placing insect hotels in the courtyard. Many insects and micro-organisms like piles of brushwood.

A man watering plants
7. In Kallio, the people in the neighbouring buildings were not interested in a courtyard shared by the block. There was no other choice than to renovate the building’s own yard. In the summer of 2022, stones, rolled turf, trees, shrubs and various shade plants were brought to the small yard of Helsinginkatu 23. Photo: Lasse Lecklin

8. A green courtyard makes it easier to adapt to the climate crisis

Extreme weather phenomena are increasing. There will be more heavy rainfall in Finland and difficult heat periods in summer. Flooding sewers wreak havoc in basements and residents suffer from excessive heat in their homes. Heat islands, where these phenomena are emphasised, are generated in densely built urban environments. These disadvantages can be prepared for by renovating the courtyard by reducing hard surfaces and increasing trees and other green material. 

Plants evaporate water and make urban climate cooler. At the same time, they create shadows in yards and also help cool apartments. Multi-layer vegetation dampens wind power, transforms the carbon dioxide in air into oxygen, binds dust particles and toxins in the air and reduces echo in a heavily built environment. 

Water from rainfall and melting snow can be absorbed into the soil and collected into underground irrigation water tanks. In this way, plants do not need to be watered with drinking water during dry periods. 

Every courtyard counts. The more diverse green courtyards there are in a city, the better the city as a whole will be able to respond to the challenges posed by the climate crisis. 

9. Rethinking parking, doing away with fences in contradiction to the plan 

In many areas of the inner city of Helsinki, parking spaces and fences between plots located on the same level are not in accordance with the local detailed plan. If the local detailed plan allows for parking, the block courtyard should focus on short-term parking spaces for deliveries, in particular. Cars for people with reduced mobility should also be given priority in assigned parking. 

There have been no permits for fencing outdoor areas since the 1970s, with the exception of fencing due to differences in altitude. If an old fence not complying with the local detailed plan is unlawfully constructed on the plot boundary, it may not be renewed, but shall be removed. Going fenceless increases communality!

People sitting and talking in the yard
In the past, there were five parking spaces in the yard and cars in garages of Pursimiehenkatu 23 in Punavuori. The residents immediately took to the yard and spend time there together and separately. The garages were renovated with storage space for residents. Photo: Lasse Lecklin

10. A green yard generates increased attractiveness and value gain

The view from the windows of your home is no trivial matter. Residents value versatile courtyards, and green vistas from windows raise the value of the apartment. Courtyard improvement will increase the attractiveness of the apartment, as the courtyard is a kind of extra living room.