With 70 % of the country covered in forest, it might not be a surprise that Sweden has a long tradition in building with wood. Constructing residential housing and bigger buildings such as industries and public buildings in wood has become increasingly popular.

Why wood

To build with wood has a wide range of positive impacts on the living environment in cities. Due to its sound-absorbing qualities, wooden buildings reduce noise in cities and creates a pleasant atmosphere. 

The building sector stands for 19 % of the CO2 emissions and 32 % of the energy consumption in Sweden. There are several positive impacts when building with wood: It is renewable and recyclable, is easy to transport and fix due to its lighter weight, it takes less time to build, it reduces noise because of its sound-absorbing qualities, and it emits less when being produced compared to other building materials such as steel and concrete. Combining wooden construction with e.g. district heating will further decrease the CO2 emissions and the impact on our planet. 

A common fear when discussing building with wood is that it increases the risk of fires. Up until 1994, wooden buildings were not allowed to be taller than two storeys, due to the fire hazard. Thanks to new materials and technologies, this is now history. One of the techniques is cross-laminated timber (CLT), where massive panels are being glued together crosswise.

Växjö – The Modern Wooden City 

One of the cities at the forefront in Sweden when it comes to wooden construction is Växjö, which strives towards being the first modern wooden city in Sweden. In 2015, 25 % of new houses being built were made from wood, and during this year, that number should increase to 50 %. 

Being known as Europe’s greenest city, wooden construction is close at heart for the city of Växjö. The region has a large expanse of forest and is home to entrepreneurs such as Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA. On top of that, Linneaus University offers research in and development of wood construction techniques.

One of the projects in Växjö is Smart Housing Småland (SHS), an innovation environment that facilitates innovation and growth in wood and glass construction. At SHS, new technology and research are tried out in a test environment. For example, noise reduction in windows, testing of abrasion resistance to create more robust buildings, and digitalisation of the inspection process are being tried out. Residential models are also tested at SHS.

For Växjö’s ambitious strategy to work, cooperation between the municipality, the industry and society is key. By working together, new opportunities are created, and innovation and development are stimulated. In the future, even more collaboration with other actors is needed to improve the prospects of building in wood.

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