Skelleftå’s wooden construction strategy has had a profound impact on this Swedish city

Therese Kriesel, Head of planning at Skellefteå

Skellefteå has had a wooden construction strategy in place for almost 20 years. 

“Wood is the natural way to meet our demands for sustainable construction, a sustainable society and sustainable energy,” says Therese Kreisel, Planning Manager.

The fact that the renowned and praised Sara Cultural Centre , one of the tallest wooden buildings in the world, is located precisely in Skellefteå, 80 miles north of Stockholm, is no coincidence. The forest is close by, the area has a historical tradition and is the future of wood research — and efforts to articulate the municipality’s first wooden construction strategy began in 2004.

Therese Kreisel is the municipality’s planning manager and a qualified architect. She believes that the strategy is crucial for the area, and that the timber industry is an important part of Skellefteå’s DNA: 

“Wood is part of our urban identity and an essential element of both our tradition and our future: research into wood technology and wood product development are conducted at our campus,” Therese Kreisel says. 

Other materials are still being used to build buildings in Skellefteå, of course, in spite of the city’s wood construction strategy.  

“But it’s great that wood is leading the way and inspiring other materials to become as sustainable as possible, such as fossil-free steel and more sustainable concrete. Wood can play a bigger part because it’s renewable and circular. I think we’ll see a future where we make even bigger demands on both ourselves and the wood industry as a whole — we’re far from finished,” Therese Kreisel says. 

There are already many homes and other properties built of wood in Skellefteå. And, after having built one of the tallest wooden buildings in the world, Skellefteå is now in the process of building the longest wooden bridge in Sweden in the city centre. 

“I think it’s important to show how wood can play a key role as a material, and what wood is capable of. The style of the new bridge is slightly reminiscent of an existing 18th-century steel bridge and will probably attract a lot of attention when it is completed next year,” says Therese Kreisel, who notices heightened curiosity among contractors. 

“Building in wood is a quick process and increasing numbers of architects are realising its benefits. I think wood will become a crucial component of future construction projects.  

The many wooden construction projects in the city attract visitors to Skellefteå who want to see and learn. This week, for example, the European Confederation of the Woodworking Industries, CEI-Bois, is visiting the city. The organisation gathers representatives from 21 European countries in the woodworking industry, and it is celebrating its 70th anniversary by visiting Skellefteå this year. 

“This attention is vital for the city, and the international interest is great. Many people want to make use of the lessons we have learnt here in Sweden. I also see increasing numbers of young people realising that they have a future in the wood industry, which is very pleasing,” Therese Kreisel says.