Réka Tóth, 28, sits in ASCHAN café Helsinki, and fills our booth with laughter.
“Most people went to Valencia! But to me this project sounded so appealing that I was not concerned about the weather,” she smirks.
Réka is in Helsinki as part of the Climate-KIC Pioneers into Practice programme. She has travelled all the way from Hungary to spend a month analysing smart city indexes and sustainability issues in Kalasatama, especially the new Sompasaari area.
“I think that the whole idea of Kalasatama of being like a test bed is unique. There’s willingness to interact with people and grow participation from the smart city perspective. This is something I haven’t seen that often,” Réka says.
Pioneers into Practice is Climate-KIC’s mobility programme for professionals. Funded by the European Union, it offers talents a chance to get new experiences and fresh ideas by working in new environments: one month in the home country and another abroad. In total, the programme lasts half a year.
“I wanted to get new experiences and find a place where there’s a gap I can fill. I wanted to meet new people with various kinds of backgrounds. When you combine different types of people with diverse expertise and willingness to work together, it’s when innovation can happen,” Réka ponders.
Réka has a degree in Economics, followed by studies and degree in architecture and building engineering. In Hungary, she works as a consultant for ABUD (Advanced Building & Urban Design), a company for innovative and sustainable design.
Réka has experience in using BREEAM to assess buildings and small districts. BREEAM is the world’s leading design and assessment method for sustainable buildings. She utilised it as a framework to do a pre-assessment for Kalasatama’s Sompasaari area.
“I wanted to examine how Kalasatama would go with BREEAM, a sustainability scheme I know the best. My conclusion is that Kalasatama still has a potential to perform very well. There are huge opportunities in the development. The earlier sustainability aspects are taken into account, the more impact they will have”, Réka says.
“It’s not like BREEAM is an answer to everything, it’s only a tool. But it does have its advantages. It gives you a framework to work with, and more importantly, a sustainability team who will be responsible for joining all the actors in the area, building up trust and keeping the dialog going”, Réka reminds.
But it’s not only work that has kept Réka busy. With other pioneers based in Helsinki, she has had a great time in exploring the city, dining and travelling. For Réka, it has been fun to do things together. She has seen Porvoo, Tallinn and had a trip to Pudasjarvi to catch the northern light and ambush reindeers, among others. And she has eaten a lot of different berries, more than she could ever have imagined for.
It’s time to hit the road. Hei Réka, do you prefer smart or sustainable?
“Smartness and sustainability go hand in hand. No city can be smart without being sustainable. ICT can enable a lot of things, but it should kept in mind that technology is not the aim − it is a possible tool to make cities more liveable and adapted to the contemporary needs, ” says Réka.
And what do you bring home?
“I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and experience new things. And this is exactly what I’ve achieved”, Réka amuses.