A design proposal for a series of tropical islands has just won the Helsinki Energy Challenge. The goal of this contest is to decarbonize heating systems in the capital city by 2030. Projects like Hot Heart by Carlo Ratti Associati are going to make that happen.

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Hot Heart is a series of islands that store thermal energy and can support tropical forest ecosystems from all over the world. The islands are actually 10 basins that are cylindrical in shape. Each measures almost 740 feet in diameter. The basins serve as hot water reservoirs that are capable of storing millions of gallons of water. The system works like a thermal battery.

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rendering of island made of human-made domes with a forest in the center

Four of the 10 reservoirs are enclosed in transparent domes, and this is where the floating forests will thrive. These tropical ecosystems will serve as social gathering spots, and the domes will be warm even during the harsh Helsinki winters. Imagine sitting in a rainforest during the coldest day in Helsinki!

rendering of sauna inside a dome

Here are the basics of how it works: seawater heat pumps convert wind and solar power into heat, which is stored in the Hot Heart reservoirs. An AI system controls the production and consumption of thermal energy and will help to stabilize the national energy grid. In fact, the system is expected to provide for all of Helsinki’s heating needs by the end of the decade. It will produce zero carbon emissions. The cost? It will be 10% lower than present-day heating costs.

rendering of pedestrian path flanked by dense tropical trees

The Hot Heart project is expected to be fully implemented in 2028. The proposal was developed by Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) in collaboration with Ramboll, OP Financial Group, Danfoss Leanheat, Transsolar, Schneider Electric, schlaich bergermann partner and Squint/Opera.

rendering of domes floating on water at sunset

Once complete, this will be the largest infrastructural facility of its kind. The idea was inspired by a Finnish concept of Jokamiehen Oikeudet, meaning that everyone has the right to relax and enjoy nature. Harnessing nature’s energy to provide carbon-free heating solutions is definitely a great way to enjoy the natural world. This design also still respects the environment even while harnessing energy thanks to the tropical biomes and the zero-emission design.

+ Carlo Ratti Associati

Images via CRA