| SWEDEN |
INNOVATION AND PRECISION
Like Germany, Sweden is equally a European market leader of prefabricated modular structures by a large margin. Almost 85% of all detached houses constructed in Sweden are built using prefabricated methods. By comparision, Japan which has one of the world's most developed prefab manufacturing industry builds 20% of it's houses with prefab. The country's production output increased due to demand growing out of the housing crisis experienced by post war Britain towards the start of the 1950s. Industrial capacity in Sweden emerged unscathed from WWII and the nation became a production centre for Europe. The manufacturing industry was established by the Swedish aircraft manufacturer Saab, which was born in the 1930s when Sweden recognised the need to develop it's own weapon industry in preparation for an inevitable world war. It was a demanding task requiring the development of a highly-skilled and advanced technology-based cooperation. To acquire the needed experience, Saab started it's manufacturing process by acquiring licensing to build a replica of the German Junkers aircraft for the Swedish armed forces. By that time, the Germans have already moved on to other aircraft technology. But the opportunity to study the design of the Junkers enabled the Swedes to learn complex engineering skills through trial and error. And when American engineers arrived at the plant, the Saab 17 aircraft was born. It was the first light single-seater to be built completely from metal. Hence, the following year it was quickly followed by the Saab 18 which was declared to be the smallest yet fastest twin-engine bomber in the army. It was a big achievement for a young engineering company with limited resources. And after just a few years in service, Saab exceeded expectations by developing highly advanced fighters that included ejection seats. Commercially, the company was successful but quickly realised that their market will shrink after the war has ended. Consequently, it turned it's attention to the car industry. The move coincided with Sweden's plan to extend development to rural areas by investing heavily in it's road infrastructure.
But the country has challenging weather conditions that needed a specific kind of automobile to remain stable on the slippery terrain. Up to that point, the economy relied on the import of car kits from America, because the continent lacked the necessary raw materials to build cars from scratch. However, Saab saw the gap in the market and aimed at becoming a leader in the car manufacturing industry, as opposed to an assembler of car kits. The company, thus, turned to the British for help because of their reputation to combine design ingenuity with sophisticated engineering. And when the first prototype of the official Saab two-seater car was produced, it was obvious that the aerodynamic shape of the vehicle came from an aircraft manufacturer. From the onset, it struck all the right chords with car enthusiasts. The Saab's early success proved that it was not only sleek, but also tough and reliable. It also placed Sweden on the global map for supersonic production. Soon demand in Europe was followed by demand from the USA, but the company did not want to expand quickly. So it decided to concentrate on a few affluent buyers from overseas, who later became known as Saabophiles. And in just three years, Saab managed to turn America into one of it's biggest export markets. Over the following years, the reputation of the Saab automobiles continued to be built on refined design, cutting-edge technology and outstanding performance. Today, Saab still represent a Swedish heritage synonymous with intricate craftsmanship. So when urbanisation went on full swing, the government was best equipped to roll out the Million Programme. In a country of eight million the aim was to build a million new dwellings between 1965 and 1975. It was the most ambitious housing program ever seen, and developers immedietly turned to prefabrication to help surpass their colossal goal. Also, shortage of human power was a serious obstacle to increasing the construction output, and rising wages were instrumental in causing higher building costs. Hence, standardisation and prefabrication were boosted by state support as a way for solving many of the housing challenges Sweden and Europe were facing in the aftermath of WWII.
SWEDISH TIMBER FORESTS
Sweden benefits from forests that are judiciously managed to yield some of the world's finest quality timber, which is the perfect quality to use in the construction of homes. The Million Programme was, therefore, successful in increasing the volume of prefabrication. Hence, most detached residences called "catalogue houses" turned to the use of modular factory-made parts. When energy prices jumped in the 70s, manufacturers were again pressured to make their designs and operations even more energy-efficient. Indeed, the industry has come a long way in 50 years, with speed and efficiency of manufacturing making prefab systems one of the leading methods of construction in Sweden. The ability to assemble a house in less than a month is hugely adventageous in a country with one of the world's shortest building seasons. Lindbäcks, a leading Swedish prefab manufacturer, builds components for roughly 20 multi-storey apartment buildings every full working week. It is a technological advancement made possible by a timber industry that has worked closely with the construction sector to pioneer methods for producing affordable buildings assembled with prefabricated elements. Sweden even has it's own renowned "city of timber." Växjö, which lies at the heart of a large expanse of forests in Småland in the country's south, has an age-old tradition of timber construction. Strategic environmental work supported by Linnaeus University has given it a reputation as the greenest city in Europe and a showcase of state-of-the-art wood construction techniques. Sweden's punishing climate, characterised by long winters and high levels of rainfall, means housing supplies have historically looked for ways to quickly and efficiently build high-quality, well-insulated houses using local timber. And the Husknuten prefab house village in Göteborg is one of many villages developed to showcase the ingenuity of Swedish prefab construction.
[📷 | (Top): Pierre Châtel-Innocenti | (Bottom): Johan Arthursson] ...