For years if someone wanted to build a building over 3 stories in Sweden, wood was not an option. It was not considered strong enough to safely support such weight. Recently, however, people have changed that. Wood is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than brick or cement. It can also be recycled and is easier to replace. We learned about this and so much more during our day spent in the company of Hans Andren. Hans has done much to promote the use of timber in Växjö and Sweden in general. He is working with a construction company to make cheaper, more versatile homes for families and individuals. The company uses pre-made materials, even entire walls, to build quality, affordable homes in record time. Since much of the home is actually made in factories, the time spent on-site is greatly reduced, limiting the chance of mold or other undesirable occurrences.
One of the timber structures
After Anders talked to us about his work with the construction company, Sohie Kim-Hagdahl talked to us about Växjö being the “Greenest City in Europe”, a title given to Växjö by the BBC. Växjö has made great advances in recent years, nearly eliminating the need for oil and hoping to be oil free in a few years. They have also made great strides in the appearance of the town. They drastically cleaned up a lake. Before it was more swamp than lake, but now it is beautiful.
After her talk, we piled into a Mercedes bus that could easily house twice our number and set off to see these fabled timber buildings. Our first stop was Arena City, a sports center built primarily out of timber. It houses the first arena made for floorball, a popular sport in Sweden. After an introduction by Anders Franzén, we were given a tour by the manager of the site who showed us how much thought had gone into the design and construction of this massive building.
We also got to see the indoor track stadium and the tennis court, which were again, beautiful. (I really like the look of wood, so I find any wooden building beautiful).
After lunch, we resumed our tour, visiting the recently cleaned lake, which was gorgeous, and visiting many more buildings made of timber. Several were eight stories tall and all looked great. We heard a little about each building from Anders, who was also sure to point out any buildings of interest we happened to drive by.
Finally, we visited Linnaeus University and after a look-around, we had a talk with Erik Serrano, a professor at the university. He finds the best ways to use and produce wood. He gave us a thirty minute presentation on his work, which included what types of wood are good for building and best for harvesting.
After this busy day, we somehow found the energy to attend a barbeque held by Monica and Stefan Nielsen. Most our our host families attended and enjoyed a wonderful dinner of chicken, salad, bread, potatoes, all the good stuff. the main attraction though, were the wonderful conversations we had with the Swedes. Several had visited the US or even married and American, so language wasn’t a huge barrier. They even let us try our Swedish skills on them, with varying degrees of success.
The next day we traveled to a local high school to talk to the kids there. After a lunch at the cafeteria (lucky us, they were serving blood pudding) we gave a 30-minute Power Point presentation about our school, our trip, and ourselves, followed by questions. They were pretty shy, but we got a couple of questions, such as our feelings on guns and if we listened to any Swedish music.
After that, we had a more intimate talk with an English class. We split into small groups of three or four and answered questions the students had prepared, such as “What is your favorite McDonald’s burger? Do you have swag? Do you want Norway’s oil?” along with easier questions like “What is the weirdest thing you’ve seen/eaten in Sweden?” or “What is your favorite place/food in Sweden?” At the end we got to talk to them in Swedish and hopefully gave them new confidence in their English skills in comparison. Overall a great couple of days.