At the heart of the action

Helena Lidelöw has devoted her life to wood through a mix of academia, industry and a passion for the material. Now her journey has taken her way out west – from Piteå in northern Sweden to Tracy, California.

As the new Chief Technical Officer of Volumetric Building Companies (VBC), Helena will be translating her Swedish expertise in automated industrial wood construction to the US market. The assignment covers both cultural conditions and raw materials, with a focus on building sustainable wooden modules for multi-storey buildings. This is exactly what she and her former employer Lindbäcks Bygg in northern Sweden have spent many years developing unique solutions for.

Sweden is at the forefront of industrial wood construction, not least in demonstrating that manufacturing wooden modules in a factory and assembling them into buildings on site is climate-smart and efficient. The functional production process and its benefits are attracting more and more people, and Helena is delighted to see the industry evolve.

“When I first came into contact with industrial construction, around the year 2000, it was an uphill battle. Clients, builders and architects were all sceptical about producing modules in one place and building in another. But today the method is flourishing. In 2022, sustainability, carbon foot-print, fast lead times and forest resources are the buzzwords of the day. Suddenly I’m at the heart of the action,” says Helena.

“Wood is a living, tactile material that has to be handled with feeling, even in industrial production.”

With the forest on her doorstep as a child, a successful academic career in wood construction and many years of experience in production, Helena’s life is strongly influenced by her relationship with wood. She is looking forward to driving the work of VBC, which hopes to revolutionise the US housing market with prefabricated wooden modules from its newly purchased automated factory.

Over there, Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) is a big new trend, but it is just another name for exactly what we’ve been doing in Sweden for the past 20 years, Helena says.

“I’ve always loved wood and it’s wonderful to work with something that’s also a passion. It’s so exciting to be involved in creating the American homes of the future using a technology and material that I know inside out. The DfMA label is cool and this is right up my street – even though I’m a long way from home.”

Text: Marie Karlsson
Photo: Maria Fäldt


Published: 2022-05-12

Helena Lidelöw

Current role: Newly appointed Chief Technical Officer at Volumetric Building Companies (VBC) in the US.

Career: Previously research and development manager at Lindbäcks Bygg. Researcher in wood construction, Luleå University of Technology, and assistant professor in industrial construction.

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