Born in Sollefteå, Arne Olsson grew up surrounded by the natural beauty of northern Sweden. He graduated from KTH Royal Institute of Technology as an engineer in 1977 and then worked for Skanska for 26 years, in Sweden and further afield.
“I’ve worked at Folkhem since 2002, and over the past eight years, we’ve been striving to promote housebuilding in wood here in Sweden. We also travel around the world preaching about how important the forest is for the climate.”
Tell us about your vision for Stockholm!
“It’s abundantly clear that ignorance and myths abound about building high-rises in wood, and their importance for a world where we humans can continue to live a decent life. We therefore decided, last autumn, to do something that no-one could fail to notice. We invited 15 architectural practices to design 18 housing projects in selected locations across the city of Stockholm , which we also offered to build over a ten-year period. As well as creating 6000 new homes, this would also reduce carbon emissions for Stockholm by around 600,000 tonnes. That’s a reduction of almost a tonne per city resident.”
What are you doing to promote and realise this vision?
“We’ve printed a book containing all the proposals, which we’ve sent out to almost all the politicians and civil servants in the city, along with an explanation of all the benefits of wood. We’ve also printed a special brochure ‘Ten truths about wood’, which we hand out to all our visitors and participants at seminars, for example, when we’re going around spreading the word.”
Why are you taking this action?
“We hope we’ll be able to solve the problems of climate change and create a world that continues to be wonderful for future generations, by choosing the only renewable construction material available and one that also consumes carbon dioxide. All the other materials are finite resources, which we think is a real eye-opener. In addition, we have a tradition of designing buildings with the very best architects. We want to help build a cleaner and more attractive city. Beauty and quality are also important aspects of sustainability.”
In addition to the climate, what other reasons are there for choosing wood?
“It’s a light construction material that is well suited to difficult ground conditions and upward extensions. It’s a very quiet and clean construction method, and it creates a very healthy indoor environment to live in, without any toxic substances.”
What projects are on the cards first?
“We’re currently working on around 10 projects, the first of which will hopefully be 65 apartments at Stadshagsklippan.”
Folkhem Trä is a joint venture with Rikshem. How does that work?
“It makes things much easier for us as a relatively small company. The partnership focuses on exploiting the different strengths of the two companies. We do the developing and building, and Rikshem organises the funding. We’ve gained a partner that believes in green building, and that bodes well for the future. Since Rikshem clearly believes that wood construction is one of the solutions to the climate problem, they’re set to focus even more on building in wood. Discussions are now underway to also cover the rest of Sweden.”
Future dream projects?
“A model development in Stockholm, built entirely in wood, that can inspire the rest of the world when it comes to every aspect of sustainability.”
Do you have any advice to end with?
“Yes, to our politicians – if we built 500,000 homes in wood by 2030, we would reduce our carbon emissions by 50 million tonnes!”
TEXT: David Valldeby PHOTO: Jann Lipka