Learning sustainable construction from the Swedes


The ‘world’s largest wooden city’ is certainly a catchy headline, and one that has caught the attention of news editors and readers alike in recent media. But with mounting pressure on industry leaders to prioritise sustainability as part of a more ethical and responsible attitude to modern construction methods, should the UK be taking a leaf (pun intended) out of the book of our industry partners in Sweden?  

Stockholm Wood City
Stockholm Wood City. Credit: Atrium Ljungberg.

Urban developer Atrium Ljungberg recently announced its intentions to build Stockholm Wood City – the world’s largest urban construction project in wood. 

The pioneering project will cover a more than 250,000 sqm area in Sickla, in the southern parts of Stockholm.   

Due to its vast footprint, it is understood to be the world’s largest known construction project built in wood. 

“This ambitious project demonstrates Swedish sustainable innovation at its best,” said the firm. 

Stockholm Wood City
Stockholm Wood City. Credit: Atrium Ljungberg.

Around 2,000 homes and 7,000 office spaces will be built from wood, as well as new commercial and retail spaces, restaurants and shops. 

The benefits of a scheme like Stockholm Wood City, says Atrium Ljungberg, whose tagline is “sustainable urban development”, are many, both for the environment and for the health and well-being of its residents. 

“Wooden buildings provide better air quality, reduce stress, increase productivity and store carbon dioxide throughout the time they are in use,” said the firm. 

By creating new office space south of Stockholm’s inner city, the company believes it is providing another environmental benefit by addressing an existing deficit of workspace in that area and thereby lessening commuting time to the city. 

The project will also focus on “self-produced, stored and shared energy” at a time of high energy costs, as well as energy demand and efficiency challenges. Sound familiar?  

Sustainability in the built environment is a pressing and lasting obligation for construction firms, but most examples are often individual aspects, buildings or blocks. Incremental rather than step-change advancements.  

And despite interdisciplinary initiatives like the New European Bauhaus pushing for increased wooden construction projects, more traditional methods and conventions tend to carry the day.   

With buildings accounting for around 40% of the world’s CO2 emissions, could Stockholm Wood City mark a new era for sustainable architecture and urban development that could be adopted here in the UK?  

The UK Government’s Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener aims to decarbonise all sectors of the UK economy to meet its net zero target by 2050 – this is against a push for the construction industry to deliver around 300,000 new homes a year to address housing shortages and population growth.   

Stockholm Wood City
Stockholm Wood City. Credit: Atrium Ljungberg.

Wood results in far lower carbon emissions than steel and concrete, and timber construction has been shown to emit less pollutants and can also be made fireproof, potentially making the case for greater uptake of modular and timber construction practices. 

“This is not only an important step for us as a company, but a historic milestone for Swedish innovation capability,” said Annica Ånäs, CEO of Atrium Ljungberg“Stockholm Wood City manifests our future. From tenants, there is a strong demand for innovative, sustainable solutions – a demand that we meet with this initiative.”   

Stockholm Wood City will see Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) and circular material flows prioritised, said Atrium Ljungberg. 

The firm aims to “change the role of the urban developer”, and to be a catalyst for innovation across peer industries to construction, including manufacturing. 

Ånäs added: “Our industry leaves a big mark, and it is important for us to make a positive difference in both the shorter and longer term. We want to create an environment where our customers, those who will live and work here, can participate in the development and design of the city district of the future.” 

Construction is due to start in 2025, and the first buildings are expected to be completed in 2027. 

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