Ever heard of Skelleftea? Chances are, probably not. Located just below the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden, the sleepy little town of Skelleftea had gone until then largely unnoticed on the world stage. But a new architectural landmark – complete with Schindler elevators – is helping to put the city on the map.
It is Kulturhuset Sara Skelleftea, the city’s new cultural center, that’s behind this sudden rise to fame. The multi-purpose complex housing art galleries, a conference center, and a 20-story boutique hotel wrapped in a glass façade, is made entirely out of timber. That makes it the highest wooden building in the Nordics – and our Schindler’s 5500 elevators are bringing it to life.
From outside, the building oozes sustainability. First off, cement – a material requiring a lot of water and energy to produce – has been replaced by wood – but not just any kind of wood: the timber has been sourced from local forests, helping to keep transportation emissions down. A green roof also tops out the building, providing thermal and sound isolation, while fostering biodiversity and preventing water runoff.
True to the spirit of the project, the eight elevator shafts of the complex are made exclusively of timber – a nice touch but one that requires a specific expertise.
Wooden elevator shafts are not without their challenges: they’re prone to heavy vibrations. To keep vibrations in check, special elevator rails and larger-than-usual plates are needed. This means wooden elevator shafts typically need to be wider than their traditional, concrete counterparts.
"To be involved in the process early on means we were able to influence the design of the elevator shafts," says Peter Rehnström, who oversaw the project for Schindler.
"The flexibility that these elevators provide, because they’re adaptable in width and length, made them the perfect candidate for this project."
Peter Rehnström, Schindler Sweden
The building is now equipped with eight Schindler 5500 elevators. "The flexibility that these elevators provide, because they’re adaptable in width and length, made them the perfect candidate for this project."
But what about safety? Contrary to common belief, buildings made out of wood are as safe as those made of steel and concrete. While wood can burn, it is a much more predictable material than steel and concrete. Wooden Buildings are designed to be as safe as any other building and often even exceed the requirements of the building code.
As it turns out, it is not Schindler’s first rodeo with wooden elevator shafts. The team had completed similar – albeit smaller – projects in Sweden, developing a strong reputation on the market. "We’re very proud to be recognized as an expert in this field," says Peter.
But success is sometimes earned the hard way. For that specific project, our team of fitters had to put up with temperatures down to minus 25°C. "Regardless of how experienced you are, there are things you never quite get used to," Peter says with a smile.