Bank of Norrland
In order to reduce the “green” half of Sweden’s carbon emissions—those that come from the country’s forest industries—Anders Berensson Architects proposes the world’s largest timber structure: the Bank of Norrland.
The purpose of the Bank is to store carbon dioxide; in the process, it will provide farmers with decent payment for their wood and ensuring continuity for the Swedish building and manufacturing industries in a stormy and unpredictable world, and in times of reduced wood consumption. The bank is designed to be able to store a year’s worth of timber production; the cubic kilometer of stored logs will together form the world’s largest timber structure and the largest man-made carbon dioxide storage built to date. Through the Bank, timber will be stored for future use rather than being immediately burnt for paper or fuel as it is today, a practice that releases large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
In order to become fossil-free, Sweden is in the process of reducing its consumption of oil-based products; to become climate-neutral, the country must soon deal with its forest industry, and address the questions of how we harvest wood and for what use it is put. The Bank of Norrland is a science fiction story. Its scientific component summarizes facts about Sweden’s forest industry today, whilst as fiction it suggests a new, radical forest industry that generates a new, radical architecture. The Bank of Norrland has been produced for the exhibition “Architectures of Transition” at Bildmuseet in Umeå, which is open to visitors until March 2022.
Before them was the Bank of Norrland, a structure as mighty as the sum of all storms and trees in Sweden! The Bank had been founded after a series of great storms and pest invasions had swept Sweden—these events, in combination with international criticism of the “Swedish calculation” that had purportedly allowed the country to hide 50% of its deforestation-related carbon emissions, had led the price of timber to plummet.
“The Bank of Norrland,” continued the teacher enthusiastically, “was founded after several progressive steps were taken with the goal of minimizing Sweden’s carbon emissions. In 2027, the country switched strategies, moving from the goal of becoming fossil-free, or even climate-neutral, towards a vision of becoming completely free of all forms of combustion. Biogenic fuels were phased out and deforestation was vastly reduced. In 2032, leading wood economies including Sweden, Finland, Brazil, the Congo, and Indonesia signed a treaty against ‘log spoiling,’ committing to diverting all cut wood supplies to the production of objects with an expected lifespan of more than 50 years. To secure this transition, Sweden took one step further and formed the first ‘bank’ to buy and store storm wood from farmers. The Bank of Norrland gave farmers decent payment and provided the Swedish building industry, which was heavily depended on local wood, with continuity. The idea was simple: the carbon that was bound up in the trunks of the trees would remain there, and the trees that still had to be logged or had fallen in storms would be saved for future buildings and long-lasting products. Instead of burning this wood, it would be used to build the world’s largest timber structure and largest man-made carbon dioxide storage facility.Today, the bank is half full, in terms of what it can structurally hold. At full capacity, it will extend over a cubic kilometer and contain 900 million logs—which is around 330 million cubic meters of wood! This means that there is still room for three big storms to hit Sweden’s forests in coming years. If the bank ever reaches capacity, there are two new Banks being built in Finland and Russia: the Bank of Österbotten and the Kol’skiy Poluostrov Bank.
The structure is built by placing logs on top of each other to dry in long rows. The logs form large walls that intersect to produce stable cubes. The process of drying the logs is closely monitored so that the structure doesn’t shrink too fast. As a result, all trucks must pass the humidity station and are then given a location to which they are to transport their cargo of logs. Sometimes, if it’s too windy or if the truck driver is afraid of heights, a bank pilot will drive the load to its destination within the structure.”The teacher pointed, gesturing for the students to follow. “Let’s go to the top. When arriving at their location, the driver meets a log stacker who is waiting to place the logs correctly. Since it can be windy and sometimes cloudy here, all log stackers wear clearly numbered, luminescent suits. Upon arrival, the log stackers take over the unloading process, placing the logs so as to achieve the best stability. They also give the logs one last check for cracks and forgotten bark. The log stackers then grade the wood, sending this information to the Bank’s accountants and structural engineers.
At the moment, the Bank largely consists of spruce and pine trees, but a section of birch, elm, maple, and beech is beginning to pile up at the northeastern corner. As olive wood, cypress, poplar, and laurel trees are spreading in southern Sweden, the bank is at present investigating the possibility of storing more exotic woods, and even considering the establishment of a smaller ‘Bank of Småland’ in southern Sweden.We end our tour in The Logger’s Hall, the most refined space within the structure. The hall is enclosed by stacks of Scandinavia’s best spruce logs, which create a perfect timber, the resin content of which reflects their growth at a time when Sweden was colder and trees grew more slowly. Here, you can also see the Bank of Norrland’s ceremonial tables, which—unlike the dark years of overconsumption, when people only used the trunk—are made from other parts of the tree. The Hall also affords a great view of the beautiful landscape that has emerged in this part of Sweden: here, as you can see, our biodiversity-rich forests feast on carbon dioxide.”
Over hundreds of years, the forest stores carbon that it extracts from the air through photosynthesis. This is why a forest is a carbon sink. A large proportion of the carbon is stored in the soil. A former forest will therefore continue to slowly release greenhouse gases into the air for around fifteen years after it has been logged. The rest of the carbon is stored in the trunks. Since wood is very durable, carbon can be stored in wood for potentially hundreds of years.
The majority of logged wood is used to make pulp, disposable paper products, and biofuel. Biofuel accounts for 33% of Sweden’s total national carbon emissions. Paper can be recycled up to seven times. Paper waste is then burned in heating plants, emitting further greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
One of the byproducts of pulp production is ”black liquor,” which is usually burned. This process accounts for roughly 15% of Sweden’s national carbon emissions. All emissions that result from burning wood are classified as “renewable.” For this reason, forestry is considered a crucial part of Sweden’s climate strategy.
Critics argue that because forests take a long time (60-120 years) to regrow, we would be better off conserving forests and restoring ecosystems. Climate change has already had an impact. More trees are being felled during storms due to a lack of ground frost and forest fires are hitting harder because of dryer seasons.
The 2005 hurricane Gudrun caused damage comparable to the total number of trees logged in one year: 75 million cubic meters. Under the Paris Agreement, Sweden has committed to drastically lowering carbon emissions to 55% of 1990 levels by 2030. By 2050, the goal is a decrease of 95% of 1990 levels.
These commitments will change how forests are managed in the future, placing greater focus on preservation and on the nature of wood as a durable and valuable resource. The way that wood is utilized will inevitably change, with only as much as is needed being used in order to manufacture products that will last longer, like those made in the construction sector or through carpentry. Diverse ecosystems tend to be more resilient with respect to the effects of climate change, including forest fires, parasites, water shortages, and storms.
A hurricane can cause damage to the forest. So, what happens to all the fallen trees after such an event?
Letting fallen trees lie
To avoid infestations of insects, it is important to remove most of the fallen trees after a storm; it is, however, essential for biodiversity that some of the trees are left on the forest floor, where they can decompose slowly, offering a living environment for insects, animals, plants, and fungi in the process.
aDmaged wood and wood scraps can be used as biofuel and single-use paper products that will inevitably be burned in heat plants and emit carbon into the atmosphere. Today, the majority of fallen trees resulting from storms, as well as the majority of logged timber, is used to make biofuel, paper, and pulp. If the outputs of this industry were to be reduced, this would lower the national carbon emissions substantially
Carbon storage in wood products/buildings
Fallen trees of high quality can be used for building buildings and furniture. Sawdust and other residual products can be used in boards and composites. This is the most sustainable use of wood, because the carbon that is stored in these products might not be released for hundreds of years.
Time is of the essence!
Although it takes several decades to neutralize the carbon that is emitted from biofuels, we need to lower emissions drastically within the coming decade. This is why a shift in forest management and utilization is necessary: we need to use less wood for fuel and more wood for building! Cutting down less trees would also provide climate gains such as an increased binding of carbon.
FULL SCALE FANTASIES
In producing the Bank of Norrland, we have traveled throughout Norrland, taking pictures of its beautiful landscape and its forest industry to use in photomontages. We also made furniture to put into the montages that was based on the future that the project suggests.
Storms have always swept through Sweden, felling a huge number of trees in the process. In the wake of these storms, people have often been left little time to harvest the felled timber, leaving a vast amount of useful wood on the ground. We used left-over wood from the storm Alfrida, which swept Scandinavia in 2019, to make three tables that are intended to stand in the Bank of Norrland. The design of the tables has depicts three different fantasies.The “Chopped Chunk” is a homage to the Bank, offered by an old logger in Strömsund. He used his axe to chop a table out of a spruce chunk left after the forestry machine had cleared the area after a storm. The chunk has natural cracks, which he widened with his axe and filled with the finest wood he had: four pieces of walnut that he had saved from his internship as a young logger in Canada. With only the brute force of a jämtlänning (the people of the region of Jämtland), a table was made.The “Sliced Chunk” was a gift from a forest machine operator in Glommerträsk. This operator was able to saw through the trunk much closer to the ground than most of the other operators, and she often took the extra bottom slice of wood for herself. One lonely night out in the woods, she put one of the slices on her homemade, caterpillar-yellow workbench, and used it to make a table. She put her cellphone flashlight on the table and sat quietly for hours, playing noughts and crosses with herself in its light.The “Molded Root” was a gift from steel workers in Kiruna. When spruce became extinct in Sweden, the Bank of Norrland realized that they had only stored spruce trunks. A giant search was initiated for roots and tree crowns. A root was found outside Kårböle. After meticulously 3d scanning the root, a copy of it was molded out of the hardest steel in Kiruna so that it could be saved for generations to come. Another homage to the root was made in the form of a table, which was gifted to the Bank of Norrland.
Links to Facts
- Eklöf, Göran & Rudberg, Jonas (2009). ”Världens skogar: mer än bara kolsänkor” (report). Stockholm: Naturskyddsföreningen. https://www.naturskyddsforeningen.se/sites/default/files/dokument-media/2009_skog_naturvard_skogen_mer_an_kolsankor.pdf
- Naturskyddsföreningen (2014). “Ny vår för skogen: Naturskyddsföreningens förslag till ny skogspolitik och rättsliga förstärkningar” (report). Stockholm: Naturskyddsföreningen. https://www.naturskyddsforeningen.se/sites/default/files/dokument-media/rapporter/skogspolitisktforslagSTOR.pdf
- Peñaloza, Diego (2015). “Sammanfattning.” Exploring climate impacts of timber buildings: the effects from including non-traditional aspects in life cycle climate impact assessment (licentiate diss.). Stockholm: Kungliga Tekniska högskolan.
Se även: https://www.husbyggaren.se/klimatpaverkan-fran-traprodukter-att-krossa-en-myt/
- Röstlund, Lisa & Alexandra Urisman Otto (2021). “Så försvann en sjättedel av Sveriges utsläpp från statistiken.” Dagens Nyheter (April 14, 2021). https://www.dn.se/sverige/sa-forsvann-en-sjattedel-av-sveriges-utslapp-fran-statistiken/.
- Regeringskansliet (2018). “En klimatstrategi för Sverige” (policy document). Stockholm: Regeringskansliet. http://www.regeringen.se/rattsdokument/skrivelse/2018/04/skr.-201718238/
- Englund, Göran; Holm, Stig Olof; Jonsson, Bengt-Gunnar; & van der Spoel, David (2019). “Den svenska skogen gör störst klimatnytta om den står kvar.” Dagens Nyheter (August 15, 2019). https://www.dn.se/debatt/repliker/den-svenska-skogen-gor-storst-klimatnytta-om-den-star-kvar/
- Sveriges meteorologiska och hydrologiska institut (SMHI) (2014). “Risker, konsekvenser och sårbarhet för samhället av förändrat klimat: en kunskapsöversikt” (report). Norrköping: Sveriges meteorologiska och hydrologiska institut (SMHI). https://www.smhi.se/publikationer/publikationer/risker-konsekvenser-och-sarbarhet-for-samhallet-av-forandrat-klimat-en-kunskapsoversikt-1.85310
- Skogsstyrelsen (2006). Efter Gudrun: erfarenheter av stormen och rekommendationer för framtiden. Jönköping: Skogsstyrelsen. https://www.skogsstyrelsen.se/globalassets/bruka-skog/skogsskador/rapport-efter-gudrun.pdf