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Studies in wood

Almost as far north as you can get, on the edge of the Barents Sea in northernmost Norway, Båtsfjord is eagerly awaiting its new school. A unique, custom-designed wooden structure in a most magnificent setting.

Båtsfjord, the small fishing village in Finnmark, Norway, is beautiful and well sheltered. Central Båtsfjord, in a bay on the eastern part of the Varanger Peninsula, is home to around 2,200 permanent residents. With nearly 10,000 landings annually, this is one of Norway’s leading fishing villages.

The new school being built in Båtsfjord will be the world’s northernmost school built in mass timber, and forms part of a larger community concept. A gigantic wooden building with a swimming pool and library will be the municipality’s new hub for learning, culture and sport. The exciting and somewhat unusual mix of residents in Båtsfjord lies at the heart of the concept according to Mikkel Stagis, lead architect at Ola Roald AS.

“In addition to the permanent residents, people from various countries gather in Båtsfjord. People move here to fish, live here for a few years and often lack the usual social connections. Båtsfjord’s new school is meant to be a meeting place, a glue that binds people together,” says Mikkel.

Building schools in wood makes sense from both a financial and a health perspective

The Ola Roald architectural practice is well known in the field of wood construction. With several high-profile projects in recent years, mass timber buildings have become something of a hallmark of the company. There was never any doubt that Båtsfjord’s school would also be built entirely in wood.

“Building schools in wood makes sense from both a financial and a health perspective. Prefabricated mass timber elements make the construction process fast and the material’s ability to regulate the indoor climate is an important factor for us. Wood breathes and we firmly believe that students thrive in the environments we build. Many people report better concentration and less sick leave in wooden schools,” explains Mikkel.

Båtsfjord has a short-runway airport and is also accessible by a road open all year round connected to the E6, the Arctic Ocean Highway. This local road over the Båtsfjord mountain pass is being used to deliver the 35 truckloads of wood products (1,521 cubic metres) up north from Setra’s factory in Långshyttan.

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The installation has to be completed before the snow arrives. Sometimes stormy winds blow in and delay the process. Tore Kalland, project manager from Harald Nilsen, Thomas Orskaug, Abico Massivtre and Christoffer Lind, Setra, check the time.

 

Christoffer Lind, project manager at Setra, talks about meticulously planned deliveries, where each shipment is made in a specific order as requested by the customer. In order to achieve the special geometry of the building, Setra has pre-fabricated round beams and entire staircases in wood, which arrive in Båtsfjord with the steps already in place. The project makes use of structural elements that allow for quick installation.

“Time is a huge challenge for us all. Our customer, frame supplier Abico Massivtre, has to be ready at the appointed time. The construction window is unusually short in Båtsfjord, which is snow-free from June to October, after which everything grinds to a halt. The slightest error on our part has major consequences in such a time-sensitive business. We simply have to plan properly and deliver each shipment at exactly the right time.”

One of the biggest challenges is managing the logistics

The first three shipments were made at the end of May and the last shipment is due in late September. One of the biggest challenges of the project is managing the logistics, acknowledges Johann Hjalmars-son, CEO of Norwegian firm Abico.

“The transport distances are unusually long. We’ve done many wood projects, but never this far north. The distance from Setra’s factory is about 1,600 kilometres and our office in Oslo is 1,950 kilometres away. It’s not like you just swing home and pick up something you forgot,” says Johann.

Abico Massivtre is responsible for the design, supply and installation of the glulam and mass timber for the school in Båtsfjord. CLT from Setra is transported by truck, with between 35 and 40 cubic metres of wood in each load. Finding a really good logistics solution has been essential for the project.

“We carefully evaluate different delivery solutions in all our projects. Road transport makes most sense for Båtsfjord. We use a local carrier who delivers fish and other goods to Sweden and then has spare capacity on the way back. The wooden elements from Setra fill up what might otherwise have been an empty truck,” explains Johann.

"We’ve done many wood projects, but never this far north."

Johann Hjalmarsson, CEO of Norwegian firm Abico

The school is being built in a unique location with very particular conditions, and the building itself will be just as special, with rounded shapes, a boat-like appearance and lots of exposed wood in all interiors. Another challenge for the project is the weather, since Båtsfjord is exposed to strong winds and has many months of snow. The form of the school plays on the name of the town (Boat-fjord), but it is also designed to suit the conditions of the harsh landscape, explains Mikkel Stagis.

“Using geometric calculations of wind and snowfall, we arrived at a triangular shape with soft, rounded corners where snow can circulate freely around the building instead of forming heavy drifts. As there are long periods of darkness, we also focused on natural light conditions. The building needs to make use of all the available daylight,” says Mikkel.

Christoffer Lind is proud of Setra’s involvement in the construction of Båtsfjord’s school.

“This is an unusual and very cool project to be part of. What could be better suited to a fjord landscape than a real wooden ship,” Christoffer adds with a smile.


Text: Marie Karlsson
Image: Klas Sjöberg

Published: 2023-01-16

Fact

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Project: New school building
Comprises: One building, three floors with spaces for teaching, sports and culture.
Location: Båtsfjord, Norway
Built in: 2022–2023
Gross Area: 8,450 m2
Developer: Båtsfjord Municipality
Architect: Ola Roald AS
Structural engineer: Rambøll AS
Frame: CLT and glulam
Building Contractor: Harald Nilsen AS
Building Materials: CLT, glulam, concrete and steel

Building Materials

Frame including roof primarily in mass timber, as are interior walls. The theatre, music areas, basement and swimming pool employ concrete. Posts and beams are mainly glulam. Steel use is limited for environ-mental reasons, and the building is mostly a pure wooden structure.

Quantity of Wood:
Approx. 1,500 m3 CLT and 240 m3 glulam.

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