Tony Denzer, an architectural historian who heads the University of Wyoming’s school of Architectural Engineering, has a new paper and presentation out on the Swedish homebuilding industry.

Tony maintains the blog “Solar House History” which began as a companion site to his fantastic study of the history of solar housing (The Solar House: Pioneering Sustainable Design, Rizzoli 2013) which reconstructs the little-known history of the solar house, with in-depth analyses of all the major solar houses before 1973.

Greg & I met Tony at a conference in 2013 & have since traveled to Sweden several times and have struck up a kind of informal research partnership, as the history of the Swedish homebuilding industry connects to the themes developed in The Solar House, which explores the evolution of the scientific understanding of solar heating, including both passive and active technologies. It also discusses the solar house as a social movement, with many of its leading figures concerned about trends in building energy use and the dependence on fossil fuels in the mid-century period.

Denzer’s book acknowledges, but does not detail the evolution of the scientific understanding of insulation, air sealing and heat recovery – which have been pioneered in the Swedish house & which are the headwaters of the research that led Wolfgang Feist to co-found the Passive House Institute with his former professor, Bo Adamsson, after his degree at Lund University in Sweden.

We are pleased to share Dr. Denzer’s presentation and paper in the links below, which can be viewed in video format with the slides here.

His analysis provides a well documented & scholarly point of reference for builders interested in the innovations found in the Swedish homebuilding industry illustrate the value of continued exploration into the methodological and practical issues of market based solutions for lower energy houses as they have evolved in Sweden.

Thank you Tony for your efforts and allowing us to share this inspiring research. To reach Tony, for further information, or with suggestions and interest, his faculty page is linked here.

Advertized Costs of Swedish Catalog Houses converted to US currency and units
Advertized Energy Use of Swedish Catalog houses

A customer in Pennsylvania is in progress with a very good quality install so we are sharing some images of the work underway.

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Here are a few progress images from the 2019 building season.

Currently deliveries have left the factory for builds going on in Maine, Pennsylvania, Missouri, New York & New Hampshire.

The formwork arrives from WarmFörm, stacked on pallets. The installation of the formwork takes 2 men a couple days & compared to staking, lumping & stripping form boards and for non insulated methods, is super easy – the resulting slab is extremely accurate and the stemwall is ready to back-fill immediately. No waste, less labor … savings.

Another Delivery … this one in Maine!

The other fantastic thing about building a shallow foundation in a cold climate is that the construction of the driveway and the footing pad are more or less the same process – here we see that instead of digging a basement or frost footing in order to go below frost, that the house will rise on well drained pad. This site is extremely tidy and neat. Only the organic soil is moved, and that is retained and used on top of the existing soil where it will meet the frost proof insulated pad. The machines are all working from inside the footprint of the fill and driveway … in this case the homeowner is saving thousands of dollars, and shaving weeks of work … big advantage! No basement & a warm and dry floor!

The day starts with a foundation and scaffolding

The following is cross posted from Mitch Mead, a University of Michigan student who is (and I’m not making this up) Majoring in Economics / Architecture and Swedish. Bygghouse & the Swedish Women’s Education Association have underwritten a travel scholarship and Mitch joined in on a “Sweden Build” through the Bygghouse Gemba this is his published account, reposed from his blog at “Beyond Buildings“, check it out, or, better yet, get a few people together and go see for yourself how to build houses using Swedish thinking.

We’ll follow Mitch’s adventures … but this is his account:

May 1
I was up at 5:30 a.m. to head to a build site for a new home outside of Norrköping. We pulled up to the neighborhood and there were cranes and trucks everywhere expanding houses. We were greeted by our extremely friendly contact who was the head builder for the house that day. His team ranged from the ages of 16 – 50 and I realized by the end of the day why this was. When we first arrived, all that stood was a concrete foundation with some wood planks flanking its edges. The workers began using the crane to move some of the internal wall materials onto the foundation. However, things got really interesting when the panelized wall elements started flying into the air. The team clearly had done this many times and it was great to hear Swedish in a very different context. From the first wall being attached to the crane to the final wall being installed, the walls of the house were in place in 1 hour… 1 HOUR. This process could take up to weeks in the US due to constructing the correct wall structure for windows and internal sheathing. All of the team were laughing at how we were marveling over the speed and simplicity of the process. I stepped aside to speak with one of the team members who was a studying engineer and the only female on the team. She explained that she wanted to focus on the construction process within the house factories to make the on-site construction even more efficient. I described the standard US construction style to her and she laughed and left the conversation with the final sentence “You have a lot you could learn from us then”.

How to spot an American at a Swedish build site
Creating corners with panelized walls
The final wall takes the most time, but is the most satisfying piece of the puzzle
Walls completed in an hour and the first roof piece coming in hot

The roof came after the walls and this was by far the most time intensive part of the build. Arranging the trusses so they are perfectly vertical and in proper alignment with the walls is a necessary time sink. Like clockwork, the trusses to the house were in place and being fastened at the end of another hour. Quickly thereafter, tongue and groove wood was being nailed to the trusses to enclose the house. Water-proof fabric was placed on top of the roof and then it was finally closed by adding furring strips for adding the roof tiles to. All this was done by 3:30 p.m., all on the same day. It was incredible to remember standing on a concrete surface and then experiencing the enclosed space all in a matter of a few hours difference.

OSHA certified?
First gable in place
This was the first edition of this model and the customer had specially developed trusses to create a pitched ceiling
Another hour goes by, and the trusses are in place
The roof becomes a planar element
Final product of the day is a waterproof dwelling with furring strips ready for tiles
All in a days work

This week saw the concrete slab pour for a WarmFörm build in Michigan. Enjoy this beautiful video of the concrete work this past Monday. More photos of this WarmFörm installation can be seen in the project gallery.

Matti Viio Defying Convention on working clothes

In 1972 Matti Viio worked as an electrician— first building high-tension lines and then installing domestic and industrial wiring. He found the clothes that workers wore insufficient for his needs, and he suggested modifications.

But no one listened. No one cared. In the end, Viio claimed he “got mad as hell”, but he channeled his anger into designing his own clothes as a protest against the established work-clothing industry. “I wanted to show that we workers have pride and know-how, and that our need of respect is the same as that of all other groups in society”, he said, articulating that his designs are part of a deeply Scandinavian relationship to work that involves dignity and respect, as well as a never ending dissatisfaction with the status quo.

No one working in Sweden has escaped his act of defiance – all of the brands in Sweden have had to imitate his inspiration – which has absolutely no regard for the fashion implications of clothes, low cost, or cutting corners.

Viio called his brand “Sinckers” – which in Swedish means “carpenter”. The other brands that vie for share among the working men and women of Scandinavia: Fristad’s, Blå Kladder, Mascot, Jobman – have all in one way or another, copied his vision of making exquisitely functional, high quality clothes that conform to the idea of “pride and know how” in work.
When I arrived in Sweden I dressed like all other American construction workers, which is to say my clothes seemed to be tough and suited to work, but in reality they only looked that way, when I left Sweden, it was dressed exactly like Matti Viio envisioned, wearing clothes that (literally) bore his signature.
The design moves that make work pants “Scandinvian” are the large flap pockets that essentially replace the need to wear a nail apron or toolbelt. Like all carpenter’s pants, they have a hammer loops, and a ruler slot, but the way these have been built is just better and shows off brilliant ergonomic thinking, one pair I have puts the cell phone at an angle to easily get while seated, making them my favorite.

The clothes are subject to constant experiment, each season brings bold efforts win over the fickle Swedish carpenter.

The biggest design move in Scandinavian work pants are the knee reinforcements that accommodate kneepads that come in various shapes and thicknesses. This design idea is to pants what the 3 point seatbelt was to autos – it is the perfect way to protect your knees – mostly because you don’t really notice it when it’s not actually protecting you from harm and it is easy to put on. The visual effect of this design though is like wearing a waffle, not so much about looking good as it is never having a sore knee.

From Viio’s profoundly antiestablishment, no logo, up with work origins – today come a torrent of appeals to style and fashion. Blå Kladder, which means “blue clothes” in the same sense as “saying blue collar” – has a beachhead in, where else, Minnesota, and they accept that everyone in America is going to say “blah” and not “blå”. A recent ad campaign, called “That’s what I said”, mocks the way Americans butcher Swedish, by featuring an excited African American, telling some taciturn Swedes that these clothes are “awesome” and continually saying “blah” while they look on non pulsed.

The guy in the ad is right, the pants are “awesome Swedish design”, which has never been about how it looks as much as it has about how it works. In the long run work will always been about function, and anyone who has tried Scandinavian work clothes knows this. This is exactly what the electrician who “got mad as hell” had in mind in the first place.

Links to Swedish Work Clothes:

We received an email with some questions that are very common, and it seemed like sharing the answers could be helpful to others looking into WarmFörm for their projects.

Ryan asked:
• For utilities, are these generally set in the subsoil prior to beginning the gravel base install or is it best to install utilities within the gravel layer?

• Do you recommend a geotextile layer over subsoil prior to gravel or is this overkill?

• Is there a reason to keep the vapor barrier over the first layer of foam and not over the top layer, or is this just for ease of keeping the vapor barrier flat?
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ByggStik braces with CLT mid rise construction. photo: Jonas Ljungdahl

ByggStik was developed specifically for working with high value building components and rapid building assembly. It is the perfect brace for SIPs, CLT, and other modern forms of construction.

ByggHouse was at the recent Mass Wood Conference in Portland introducing this new product to the North American market. This quickly maturing building system is in process of establishing proper work methods, which good bracing will be part of. CLT construction should have engineered erection documentation that includes the specification of bracing points, determined by calculations utilizing bracing of known load capacity. CLT buildings are going taller, and lateral forces from wind with height is going to be part of building this way. Propping your work with used 2x4s is just not going to suffice anymore.

This WarmFörm slab in Ohio is our first installation of our new Passive House WarmFörm elements. This one features the 6″ vertical face to match with the house’s 6″ thick exterior insulation. More photographs are posted in the project album.


We are preparing to introduce an expansion of the WarmFörm product offering – new face thicknesses to meet the demands of the Passive House standard. These new elements will be available in a 4″ face, 6″ face, and 8″ face. Note these Passive House Elements have no beveled top edge like the standard WarmFörm Elements in order to match up with thicker exterior insulation layers in wall assemblies. R value varies per temperature, but the foam manufacturer’s Design Thermal Resistance per inch for this Type IX foam is R 4.8/inch. So face R value at 40deg F for these Elements is 4″ R19.2, 6″ R28.8, & 8″ R38.4.

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