Wednesday, March 4, 2009

First Impressions from Sweden

Moss-covered Swedish forest
We made it safe and sound to Sweden today, and have been warmly welcomed to the small village of Borås. What is striking me so far is that the terrain seems very similar to certain parts of Northern Minnesota, only not as cold and quite a bit wetter. Today we had the privilege of hiking through a beautiful private Swedish forest (although in Sweden there is a rule that anyone can walk anywhere; there are no restrictions on going off the beaten path), and saw many birch trees, evergreens, and many different types of fuzzy moss that covered everything in multiple shades of green. The lakes here are not completely frozen but do have ice in them, and the snow is so wet that when we backtracked our steps our footprints had softened and dissolved into faint impressions.
Light occupancy sensors in kitchens and bathrooms are common.

A few things that are sticking out to me: One is that even in these small villages, in the tiny cottage we are staying at in the woods, there are “green” aspects implemented. The bathrooms all have light occupancy sensors and low-sone humidity-controlled bathroom fans (from what I can tell). The kitchen also has a light occupancy sensor. The toilets are all dual-flush. The cottage and the main house both have in-floor hydronic radiant heating systems (the main house is fueled by a wood pellet stove) and also have on-site waste filtration systems that result in potable clean water run-off.
Wooden siding is the most popular type of exterior siding in Sweden.
Wood is obviously a prevalent item here. Most houses have painted wood siding; even with the most basic floor plans and minimal windows, they appear very quaint and cute. Most roofs are metal, and some are clay tile, and all are pitched very steeply to allow rain and snow to slide off. Wood heating is very popular in this area.
I also learned a little today about a prefabricated construction company that manufactures the walls to have plumbing and electrical wiring installed within them before they even arrive on site. The insulation is some sort of crushed stone mixed with water, but not like cement or ICF’s, from what I can tell so far. I’m looking forward to getting more information on this system and hopefully will see it firsthand.
One last thing that strikes me is that the rural communities here seem to facing many of the same challenges as in Minnesota. Schools are closing, populations are dwindling, and jobs are being lost for a number of reasons. It seems that many communities here may see that by offering a clean, affordable, sustainable way of life, people may be able (and may choose) to stay in these areas. I can’t wait to find out more about the processes involved, how housing plays a role, and to see if energy is the primary focus.
Not too bad for one day – I imagine we’ll be learning a lot more in the next month. We can get internet from time to time but rarely have more than five minutes to be online – I’ll update when I can!


Anonymous said...

Glad you're on the ground and already seeing interesting things! Love the pictures!

Anonymous said...

Wow. You are soaking a great deal up - and in only the first day. Methinks you will have things to write about for a couple of years!

Glad to hear that you arrived safe and sound that that you are being well attended to.