In an age of ever-increasing environmental awareness, one young Finnish company is pioneering new concrete production and design. LUONNONBETONI, meaning ‘natural concrete’ in English, is a start-up company making inroads into sustainable building materials.

Based in Nummela, Vihti, in Southern Finland, LUONNONBETONI was founded in 2017 by architects Kristiina Kuusiluoma and Martino De Rossi, and Vihdin Betoni – a factory producing prefabricated concrete elements, who together identified a need for cement-free building materials.

Kuusiluoma explains: “We are two founding architects from Studio Collaboratorio, and we were seeking a way to produce strong, ethical and environmentally-friendly building materials. We use natural materials like wood, clay and straw in our architectural work and became convinced of the need for more ecological stone-based products. We came across rammed earth – one of the oldest building techniques known to mankind – and that inspired us to create LUONNONBETONI.”

A cutting-edge product born from tradition

LUONNONBETONI is made from unburned clay and aggregates. Aggregates consist of granular natural materials such as sand, gravel and crushed stone, which give LUONNONBETONI products their unique patterns and hues. Raw clay imparts moisture-balancing and heat-storing qualities, while clay’s plasticity enables floors or walls to be built without seams – which is great news for designers.

Neither cement nor other energy-intensive industrial processes are used in the production of LUONNONBETONI. Its key properties of hardness and durability are achieved by compressing the sifted clay and aggregate extremely densely into the desired shape. The surface is then sealed with linseed oil wax or other natural sealants, so it repels moisture and dirt, and is easy to clean.

“We started mainly by doing floors and are now piloting exterior walls. It’s all going on now! There is a lot of overseas interest. Ecological values are becoming more prominent in Finland, Scandinavia and Europe. However, we need to take an environmentally-conscious approach to operating and delivering over large areas both at home and abroad,” says Kuusiluoma.

The company’s products have been used in everything from stylish flooring and elegant staircases to luxurious bathrooms. “Our material has a classic, timeless beauty, and similar processes have been used since ancient times. It is preferred by interior designers and architects as it is aesthetically pleasing but also feels good. LUONNONBETONI is versatile and high performing,” she says.

LUONNONBETONI: building an eco friendly future with natural concrete

Detail of LUONNONBETONI wall.

It can be dyed using natural pigments, and the pattern, while reflecting the materials used, can be matte or glossy. As it is both a surface and a body material, it is cost-efficient, since boards, tiles or other floor-coverings are not needed.

Cement production accounts for eight per cent of CO2 pollution globally. No burning or chemical processes that release CO2 are used in the production of LUONNONBETONI. “Not only is the product ecologically friendly but it is 100 per cent recycled and reusable – it can be easily removed and upcycled without losing its strength and quality. And of course, it can go straight back into the earth,” she continues.

Helsinki’s Finlandia Hall is one of the country’s most iconic buildings, designed by world-renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, to host visitors and a wide range of events. The ongoing renovation of Finlandia Hall’s white marble façade started for the second time in March 2022, following its original renovation in the 1990s.

LUONNONBETONI: building an eco friendly future with natural concrete

Architects from Studio Collaboratorio, Kristiina Kuusiluoma and Martino De Rossi, developed LUONNONBETONI together with Vihdin Betoni.

The city of Helsinki was keen to restore the iconic building for concerts and congresses the world-renowned architect had intended. Aalto’s goal was, on the one hand, to endow the building with the elegance of white marble, both outside and inside; on the other hand, he had a soft spot for the south and wanted to bring some of it to the north.

This gave LUONNONBETONI the opportunity to work with the discarded Carrara marble from the Finlandia Hall façade that was set to be replaced. LUONNONBETONI will be showcasing the upcycled Carrara marble alongside its other products during the prestigious Milan Design Week, ‘Alcova’, in April 2023. “We’re really excited to present this upcycled material in Milan. LUONNONBETONI is the way forward for the restoration of older buildings,” says Kuusiluoma. “It’s an exciting time in eco-friendly construction materials and we at LUONNONBETONI are proud to be at the forefront of this building revolution.”

LUONNONBETONI: building an eco friendly future with natural concrete

Left: The LUONNONBETONI surfaces in Espoo Museum of Modern Art EMMA match the iconic concrete architecture by Arno Ruusuvuori, providing an ecological exhibition design. Right: LUONNONBETONI floors and exterior walls of a restaurant in Päivölän Piha.

Milan Design Week 2023 takes place 17-23 April.


Instagram: @luonnonbetoni

Collaboratorio - Architecture & Research
Instagram: @collaboratoriohelsinki

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