Norway, a country which extends from the 58th parallel north to the 71st, has been amply blessed by Mother Nature. With plenty of room for its population, it is a land of majestic mountains and dense forests where management of natural resources is governed by the principle of sustainability.
Timber and stone comprise the cornerstones of a diverse building industry. Throughout the ages Norwegian builders have learned to cope with Arctic winds, excessive precipitation and extreme cold. Such weather requires buildings which protect their inhabitants, keep them warm, and provide a healthy living environment, and today Norway offers a wide range of building industry solutions to public and private customers all over the world.
Focus on the Environment
Forests are part of Norway's culture, a place to work and play, and Norwegians are conscious of the need to manage this renewable resource well, planting two trees for every one that is felled.
The naturally abundant Norwegian spruce and pine are refined into interior products found in most homes. Offering an attractive texture and lustrous tones, wood products add warmth to the domestic environment. A living, breathing material, wood only improves with age.
Timber is also an environment-friendly building material. When harvested, timber undergoes manufacturing processes that require little energy and are non-toxic. Timber can be exploited almost completely, from the main product to leftover wood, and once the timber has completed its life-cycle, it can be recycled without generating pollution. Norway's focus on environmental thinking is reflected in its participation in the Nordic Forest Certification scheme, which monitors the various national schemes undergoing development in the Nordic countries. Certification under this scheme bears witness to good growth conditions and sustainable forestry practice. Norway is also an active member of the Pan-European Certification Scheme (PEFC) which follows the Pan-European Criteria for Sustainable Forest Management, and which offers a Pan-European framework for the establishment of mutually compatible national certification systems and their reciprocal applicability.
The popularity of Norwegian wood has grown dramatically over the past 15 years, with exports of planed timber alone rising by 88 per cent between 1999 and 2000. Strong, lightweight, durable, and suitable for virtually every climate, timber provides great versatility. Thanks to modern fire retardant technology, treated timber structures behave predictably in a fire, retaining their stability for a longer period of time than steel structures. Offering a greater strength-to-weight ratio than aluminium, steel or concrete, wooden buildings can be erected on a less complex foundation than buildings made of heavier materials, which is an advantage in areas with poor subsoil conditions, and eliminates the need for special transport of heavy handling equipment.
Over the years, wood has come to symbolize Scandinavian chic. Pine panelling, parquet and laminated wood flooring are found in homes all over the world where people want an added touch of elegance. Wood also combines beauty with health. The quality of indoor air has become increasingly important, as people everywhere spend more and more time inside. Wood does not emit toxic gases, maintains a stable level of humidity and is easy to clean, making it the best choice for the places people work and live in.
Norway participates in international organizations and campaigns to promote the use of wood abroad, and has thus helped to spread new information about timber and its versatility. Through its membership in the Nordic Timber Council, which works to promote the use of sawn wood from sustainable forests, Norway is working to increase the use of wood in the UK through the "wood. for good." campaign and the "Nordic First" campaign, which focuses on Nordic wood. Norwegian timber is synonymous with quality, and bodies such as the Norwegian Institute of Wood Technology (NTI) test, document and certify product quality for domestic and foreign customers. These activities have increased international awareness of the qualities of wood, helping to increase its popularity as a natural alternative to other building materials.
A revolution has taken place in recent years in the global building industry, thanks to the use of Norwegian-pioneered glue-laminated wood (glulam) in industrial constructions. Laminated timber comes in a wide variety of shapes, offering complete bearing systems. Strong, inexpensive, beautiful, cost-efficient, easy-to-shape and fire-safe are only a few of the terms used to describe this building product, which is utilized in commercial buildings, sports halls, churches, bridges and a variety of other structures around the world. The load capacity of glulam is no longer the only key factor behind its selection as a building material; today the aesthetic qualities offered by such constructions are considered to be equally important. In 1999 the terminal building at Oslo International Airport Gardermoen won the international Glulam Award, which is awarded every three years.
Although timber plays an important role in Norway's building industry, Norwegian builders also draw on many other resources to offer international customers a wide range of industrial solutions. Norway is a leading exporter of natural stone for roofing and staircases, as well as of the unique Larvikite, which is used to enhance the beauty of building facades worldwide.
Rock aggregates are the most widely-used construction material in the world, and crushed Norwegian rock is exported to manufacturers of concrete and aggregates for road and pavement construction. A forerunner in the use of high-strength concrete in the offshore industry, Norway has drawn on the experience gained from successful development of concrete which is particularly suitable for bridges, tunnels and underground installations. Through participation in the European Aggregates Association, which represents the interests of the European aggregates industry at the European level, Norway participates actively in efforts to standardize aggregates, improve recycling and protect the environment.
Protection from cold and precipitation is essential during the long winter months. Norway's top-ranked insulation products, such as glass wool and cellular rubber and foam plastic to insulate homes and offices, are widely exported on the private and contract markets. When it comes to keeping heat in - or out - windows are also important, and Norway is a pioneer of double and triple layer laminated timber windows with glass with a low U-value. These windows may be kept tightly shut during the winter, with fresh air provided through state-of-the-art ventilation systems.
Norwegian companies have focused particularly on providing solutions which conserve energy, such as reliable, energy-efficient water systems which offer uniquely long life-cycles and low electricity consumption. The Norwegian companies that provide heating panels, such as Nobø Elektro, are rated among the top European manufacturers, with energy-efficient room heaters and control systems which guarantee constant comfort indoors.
Looking to the Future
The Norwegian building industry can be summed up in a single word: innovative. Traditional materials such as timber and stone are chosen by designers worldwide who then use them to give commercial buildings an avant-garde look. This is also reflected in the ongoing development of new building products, such as glulam. Once the design and construction phases of a building have been completed, the next phase is to install the components which provide a comfortable indoor environment, from lustrous parquet flooring to state-of-the-art centralized vacuum cleaners. Norwegian suppliers of building products work to remain at the forefront of their field, offering customers excellent solutions for interiors and exteriors.