Comfortable with wood

Södra Hemlingby in Gävle offers green spaces, exercise trails and great opportunities for recreation, making it a place where many people want to live. Gavlegårdarna is responding to this demand by building 132 climate-smart rental apartments in natural materials.

With cross laminated timber (CLT) frames and slate cladding, the newly constructed four-storey buildings will blend in beautifully with their natural surroundings. The choice of wood and stone materials is part of the housing company Gavlegårdarna’s conscious desire to create comfort and convey a natural feel with a focus on ecofriendliness.

“There are many ways to put the environment first. We use materials that fit in well with the area, that are sustainable and that also work with the architecture of the blocks. This is our first project involving multi-storey buildings made of CLT, and it was a good one to start out with, as the buildings are not too high,” says Mattias Janson, Construction Manager at Gavlegårdarna.

“The project has high aesthetic standards.”

The development was designed by White Arkitekter and comprises a total of six buildings, in three different designs. Five buildings are identical in size, while one building is slightly smaller. There will be a total of 132 rental apartments, featuring exposed wood in the stairwells and inside the homes – something that requires a little extra care, explains Amanda Roberg, Project Manager at the frame supplier Setra.

“We like the fact that the wooden elements in the buildings can really be seen and felt. It gives clear character to the homes and reinforces the feeling that solid wooden buildings are being constructed. But delivering visible quality demands a little more from us. It requires a higher-quality raw material and high precision throughout, from production to packing and transport, so that the exposed walls remain blemish-free,” says Amanda.

Cross-section of the finished building. Block 2 under construction.

Sustainability and environmental considerations are not only the basis for the choice of materials, but run like a common thread throughout the project – not least when it comes to production and logistics.

The raw material comes from the forests of the Mälardalen region and is sawn in Heby. Then the shipment from Setra’s factory in Långshyttan takes just a couple of hours to reach Gävle by road from Avesta. Mattias Janson feels particularly fortunate to have been so close to the materials and deliveries in these times.

“Of course it feels good to have local partnerships, as they bring so many positives, not least in terms of sustainability. But it has struck us that the supply issues experienced by the construction industry during the pandemic could have caused us many delays. The same goes for the uncertainty surrounding cement. We didn’t know about any of this when we made the decision, but today we’re very happy that we chose to build in wood,” says Mattias.

The apartment blocks in Södra Hemlingby are being built in close cooperation between the developer Gavlegårdarna and the main contractor Byggpartner. Setra’s job is to produce and deliver the frames, i.e. the supporting wooden structures, in the form of glulam and CLT, while Byggpartner and Limträteknik have been responsible for the structural engineering.

The exterior walls and load-bearing core walls are also produced by Setra. Magnus Emilsson, Structural Engineer at Limträteknik, explains the advantages of the large, prefabricated elements that are assembled directly on site.

“The exterior design of the blocks really stands out. Wooden buildings with slate facades are unusual.”

“The design of the structure takes into account the number of elements that need to be installed. We want to reduce assembly time and Setra’s ability to deliver such large elements means we can minimise the number of crane lifts and assembly stages. On this project, we’re working with CLT in panels up to 3.5 x 18 metres in size and floor elements that are as long as 12.3 metres. That is a real time-saver,” says Magnus.

Another difference between building in wood and in concrete is the way the structural elements, i.e. walls and floors, are assembled and fixed together. With wooden elements, great emphasis is placed on the details and the design of good fixings.

“In designing good connections, as well as load-bearing capacity, we also have to ensure robustness. In principle, the building should be able to withstand the collapse of one wall without the whole block coming down. We need to decouple wooden elements from each other to prevent sound from spreading between apartments and at the same time we need to meet fire regulations, which require the structure to be tightly sealed. The detail solutions for a wooden building are more challenging than for a concrete one, and that is of course also true here in Södra Hemlingby,” Magnus explains.

The processes are being fine-tuned as the build progresses, and the team is constantly finding details that can be improved. Amanda Roberg at Setra describes the project in Gävle as an exciting learning process.

“With many steps being repeated, we can be efficient in both production and delivery. We’re learning as we go. I’m sure it will be a great place to live and we’re proud to be part of the apartments in Södra Hemlingby.”

Text: Marie Karlsson
Photo: Klas Sjöberg


Published: 2022-05-02

Södra Hemlingby

Project: New development in Södra Hemlingby

Comprises: Six blocks, 132 rental apartments of 1–4 rooms

Location: Södra Hemlingby, Gävle

Built in: 2020–2023

Gross Area: 15,177 m2

Developer: Gavlegårdarna

Architect: White Arkitekter in Uppsala

Structural Engineers: Limträteknik i Falun

Frame: Setra

Building Contractor: Byggpartner

Construction Materials: CLT and glulam structural frames. Concrete foundations, with facades clad in black, dark grey and green slates.

Wood is also used in the stairwells of the buildings and in the interiors, with exposed wood in the apartments on the long sides of the blocks.

Dimensions: The largest CLT frames measure 3.5x18 metres. The floor system measures up to 12.3 metres.

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