The building sector accounts for about 40 % of energy and process-related CO2 emissions, according to the International Energy Agency. About a fourth of that comes from manufacturing building materials such as steel, cement, and glass. In a new one-of-a-kind project in the south of Sweden, environmental and social factors are leading the way.

The building in Trelleborg in the south of Sweden is made completely without concrete; even the foundation is made from wood. Surrounding the wood is cellular glass, rather than plastic insulation, to make the wood stay dry for at least a hundred years.

By building with organic materials that are available locally, cities can be used as carbon storage space, rather than just a carbon emitter. Instead of being a part of the problem, this building will store CO2. 850 kg CO2 per square metre of wood used is expected to be stored in the house, according to Omniplan. As a comparison, a building made of concrete lets out about 385 kg CO2 per square metre of concrete.

The building has also been covered with solar panels, energy-efficient ventilation, and heat reuse systems. The facade is made out of recycled bricks.

Loneliness a big societal issue

Another factor the architects have considered when designing the building is the social aspect. In Sweden, about 1 in 4 above the age of 16 is experiencing loneliness and isolation. In the Trelleborg building, a big focus has been on creating common areas such as a sauna, a roof terrace, and a ‘living room’ with a glass ceiling, to be used for all residents in the building. On one floor, there will be space for so-called cluster apartments with common spaces.

A modern financial model

To finance the building, a different approach has been taken. Instead of buying a ready-made standard product, the user is involved in the project as a partner. This means a certain risk, but as the user only covers the share of the actual costs, they avoid a project developer’s risk and profit margin. In addition, it is an opportunity for the user to get a say in how the house is being built. It is expected that the costs could decrease by 10-20 % with this model.

How it works

Each floor becomes its own property of approx. 235 m2, to be used as the user wishes. The apartments can for example be divided into several apartments so that the user can live in one apartment and rent out the rest. On the ground floor, there are two shop premises, and the attic can be turned into apartments.

Photo of Staffan Schartner– New buildings are always too expensive, especially in times of rapidly rising prices and lagging incomes. Most of the concepts that exist to lower the price of buildings are based on standardization, alignment, and lower quality. In the long run, it is savings that will cost us dearly, says Staffan Schartner, Architect and Partner at Omniplan.

Staffan Schartner is known for his work with social sustainability and wooden architecture for apartment buildings. He was also responsible for constructing “The Forest”, Sweden’s advanced wooden pavilion at the world exhibition in Dubai, where Smart City Sweden participated. Watch the episode with Staffan from the Pavilion in Dubai here.

For more information about the building, visit (in Swedish).

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