Norway's topography poses a unique challenge to builders of road infrastructure. More than 75 per cent of the country is covered by mountainous terrain. It also has 56,000 km of coastline criss-crossed by thousands of fjords. Nine-tenths of the country's area is located north of 60º latitude where there is heavy snowfall six months of the year.
Historically, many regions have been isolated. To bring the prosperity and convenience of modern living to every corner of the nation, Norwegian contractors and engineers have been forced to develop their skills in building durable roads, bridges and concrete structures. They have come far: today there are over 53,000 km of roadway and 17,000 bridges. Some 700 km of road tunnels perforate the Norwegian countryside, and 17 subsea road tunnels with a total length of approximately 60 km bring vehicles quickly and safely to their destinations.
The utilization of Norway's hydropower and petroleum resources has provided the foundation for a number of innovations in rock engineering and concrete technology. After World War II, Norway began constructing the hydropower infrastructure for which it is renowned. Today the country is home to about half of the world's 500 underground power plants, and Norwegian companies have also blasted and bored some 3,500 km of hydropower tunnels through Norwegian mountains. Having amassed decades of experience in building large concrete structures such as dams, Norway had already become a front-runner in the use of high-strength concrete when oil was discovered in the North Sea in the late 1960s. This discovery gave the Norwegian engineering and concrete industries a huge boost, ushering in a new era of lightweight concrete structures such as the world-renowned Condeep platforms. Current offshore concrete technology has culminated in the Troll gas production platform, the world's biggest offshore platform. This daring project was completed in 1996 for Shell, securing Norway's position as a world-class engineering nation.
Thanks to advances in concrete technology, it is now possible to construct longer, higher structures and slimmer, stronger bridge spans as well as lined tunnels and underground facilities in unstable rock. With decades of domestic experience, Norwegian manufacturers, contractors, consultancy companies and research institutes are now exporting their products and expertise to the hydropower, offshore and heavy construction industries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Americas and Europe.