Finnish homes for 80 years - the story of SATO
Always ready to be reformed
Travelling by tram in Helsinki, you stop at the intersection of Koskelantie and Mäkelänkatu. There is a less known landmark of "Amerinkulma" house with a tiled facade of 1980's esthetics and a distinctively detailed corner. The journey continues passing the Käpylä elementary school, and then you see a plain cosy city block with typically 1940's subdued apartment houses on a hilly yard. Geraniums on open balconies, benches near the front doors waiting for someone to take a seat. That's the first SATO house, As Oy Sato N:o 1.
"Well, it was quite extraordinary to buy a property in 1942 - it was a wartime still", Jorma Haapkylä, one of the original residents of As Oy Sato N:o 1, redollects in a video shot for SATO's 60th anniversary in the summer of 1999.
Compact one and two-bedroom apartments are the most prevalent in As Oy Sato N:o 1. To compare, in summer 2020 an apartment building is completed in Kontula, Helsinki, with mostly studios and one-bedroom apartments, although the two-bedroom homes of said house are quite compact, too.
A new world
"The losses caused by war will have to be compensated with a devoted rebuilding". This sentence from our first report of activities in 1940 is filled with emotion and sisu. A home is a basic necessity.
SATO, with Tasa Oy at Tampere, wanted the efficiency and spunk of the free markets and private entrepreneurs to be focused on helping the people left homeless because of the Second World War. The decision was made that SATO would not be building the homes itself, but would arrange a bid between domestic construction businesses to execute the construction.
The true reconstruction work did not began until after the last of the Finnish war reparations were paid in 1946. The domestic construction gained momentum after Finland began gradually relieving wartime regulations in late 1940's. Soon the Mannerheimintie 83-89's familiar tall apartment buildings were completed, as were new SATOhomes in Arabianranta and Munkkiniemi - some of them with government's "Arava" loan, some with SATO's own financing.
"The construction industry was in depression. There were no completed construction plans. The industry faced a massive unemployment", reminisced Martti Sorvari, Master of Business Administration, in spring of 1980. Sorvari was one of the founders of SATO. "Both the state government and the municipalities had an exceptionally heavy workload to carry after the war. The private sector of industries and businesses thought it was imperative to come up with options concerning the whole private sector to get the business running."
We took up the challenge.
Mastering the regional construction
You continue your journey in Helsinki by bus, and as it's veering from Hämeenlinnanväylä to Metsäläntie, you get a glimpse of the towers of Ida Aalbergin tie. On the sidewalk a mom tends her youngest while an older chap with a walker patiently waits a change to pass them by. We are now in Pohjois-Haaga, SATO's very first regional construction (32 hectares, 1,400 homes at the time).
The City of Helsinki showed an exceptional trust for a singular housing company by granting SATO not only the construction but also the mandate for town planning as well as executing the municipal infrastructure. In addition for residential buildings SATO constructed a heat nexus and a commercial building to Pohjois-Haaga in 1956-1960, and the project was pivotal in our history. We seized a passion for mastering the art of regional construction, and the same passion is still seen in our actions.
Do you know your neighborhood?
We dearly love our suburbs, prefab block houses, cities within cities.
Always ready to evolve
Zing. Zing. Zing. What is that sound? Well, you seem to have arrived in Tali, a fine place for golf swings, among other things. As your bike emerges from the shade of the city park to Kutomotie, you pedal pass Lumikki (Snow White), Tuhkimo (Cinderella) and Aurora. They are one of the last owner-occupied houses SATO has built. The block yard is spacious, and alongside the famous princesses you'll find equally pretty SATO RentHome buildings named plainly by their addresses. And there is one still under construction! That's Estelle, our first SATO FlexHome.
Nearly one in ten Finnish homes has been built by SATO, but nowadays we own "only" 26,000 SATO RentHomes. Even in early 2000's we were mostly recognised as a constructor of owner-occupied homes despite the fact that we have started to transform into housing business during the 1990's economic depression.
The depression drove SATO in difficulties, too, resulting to tens of millions of Finnish marks in operating loss, and 700 apartments unsold. We decided to add investing in rental apartments to our strategy. At the time we already owned shares of rental housing business Vatro Oy, and we decided to acquire the whole company to ourselves. We also bought Salpa Oy, and with these acquirements the foundation of our current business was laid.
"SATO recognised the opportunities and succeeded in realising them in the time of distress", said Lauri Koivusalo, Master of Laws, in SATO's 60th Anniversary History. "In the end SATO survived as a winner from a chaos that fundamentally shook the entire industry to its core."
Concepts in the 2000's
The first SATO PlusHome got its residents in 2003 in Arabianranta, Helsinki. The concept for ownership homes offered broader possibilities than usual for the customer to personalise both the materials and appliances and the whole floorplan. The final construction of the whole house was determined by the desicions home buyers made at SATO PlusKoti online service. The concept was let go after we shifted our focus on rental homes.
Apartments for seniors
SATO has in its life time built all kinds of homes, also for senior citizens and those in need of care. In 2006 we launched a SATO SeniorHome concept with Helsingin Diakonissalaitoksen Hoiva Oy, with a whole new SeniorHome building in Pitäjänmäki, Helsinki. Hoiva offered tailored services for SATO SeniorHome residents, and still does, but the concept name is no longer in use.
Star-rating for rental apartments
Ten years ago we presented a star-rating for our rental apartment to help our customers to find a correct price-quality-ratio home for their needs, and to guide our own repair operations. Most of our homes were qualified as 3 and 4-star SATO QualityHomes based on their location and condition. We have left the stars behind, but there is a wide variety of SATO RentHomes to fit different tastes.
Homes in St Petersburg
In 80 years we have had time to shortly visit our Eastern neighbour to build some commercial spaces. Homes, however, we have had in Russia for 12 years now. All 533 SATOhomes are in excellent locations near St. Petersburg centre, and you can rent a home with or without furnishing.
The home-like temporary rental apartments concept SATO HotelHome launced in 2012 and got raving reviews from customers. In Helsinki, we renovated a 1950's block house in Kamppi and 1930's homes in Kruununhaka, and in Espoo's Tapiola, a 1960's house honoring the spirit of their origins as well as decorating the apartments with care and style. The customers were both travellers from Finland and other countries as well as people working in Finland periodically. We sold the HotelHome concept to Forenom in 2018.
The most lauded of our recent concept is most definitely SATO StudioHome, a new-generation housing format that aims to provide an excellent customer experience and comfort as well as low housing costs.
More than just walls
You feel the comforting warmth of the sun as summer of 2019 is oozing through the cracks of Snellmaninkatu street. The porte cochere air cools you for a second, you hear a happy murmur from under the marquee in the courtyard. There is a mouthwatering array of sausages roasting on the grill by the stairs, and residents have brought some pretty awesome delicacies to the table. SATO has provided the furniture, marquee, and the grill.
SATOja makuja Backyard Picnic
The perfect summer weather cherished our first SATOja makuja (hundreds of flavours) Backyard Picnic happening in 2019. We threw the party in 14 SATO buildings, and had hundreds of participating residents. Click the play button and dive into the summery vibes of the backyard picnic.
In 2017 we took house management back as a part of our own day-to-day business. The traditional tasks of management were distributed to our ServeceManagers and Service Directors. Customer First attitude is part of our personnels identity and guides our work together with SATO's values.
In 2018 we launched OmaSATO service for our residents. Through OmaSATO, you can check your rent payments, make a defect report, receive current information about your building and keep up with the latest customer benefits. Reaching our customer service is also easy through the service as it identifies you as a resident automatically.
Listening to the customer
We aim to be even better housing provider, to know our customers and to offer them more than just walls. We listen to them in every turn of their customer path with versatile surveys. To include our residents in designing the SATO of the future, we ask their input for our ideas and plans in SATO Pulssi residents' panel. SATO Pulssi has retired 12/2021