Wooden Buildings Reach for the Sky
The small town of Vaxjo, 94,000 inhabitants, is located in the middle of the forests of the province of Smaland, in the south of Sweden. Among Swedish municipalities, many see Vaxjo as the leader in timber construction, as timber buildings have been at the center of the city’s strategy since the 1990s. The city government has met its target of at least 50 percent of all new timber-framed buildings last year, and the municipality says it is now working on new, more ambitious plans for timber construction.
When I visited Vaxjo last summer, Catharina Winberg offered to show me around the city. At the time, Ms Winberg was a local politician and president of the Vaxjo Kommun Foretag, which oversees much of the building as well as power generation in the city. (Earlier this year, she left her post to return to the private sector.)
What I saw was impressive. Entire sections of land outside the city center have been designated as forest-only development areas. Around the city were dozens of construction sites for wooden apartment buildings, schools and more, many of which used energy saving measures, in varying states of completion.
“We really believe in wood as a material – it’s circular, it’s renewable and it’s healthy,” said Ms. Winberg. “And we have the resources nearby, so we might as well take advantage of them. “
She added, “We started working with this very early on, and it got a lot of interest. People want to know more about our strategy and see what we’ve done. So we think it’s very important to know how we’re going to continue because there are so many people watching us now. “
The latest flagship project in Vaxjo, currently in the final stages of completion, is a glass-paneled timber structure in the center of town that houses the new main train station, town hall and a small shopping center, along with a hotel whose construction is planned. .
“I think people today aspire to authentic things,” Ms. Winberg said. And it’s a very authentic place to live, with authentic buildings. They are made from the forest that we have around us.
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