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New homes for 137 students

The student accommodation at Tallkrogen in Stockholm has been planned and built to be affordable for tenants with limited financial means.

There is a severe shortage of student accommodation in both Sweden and Norway. For students in Stockholm, it takes an average of two years to get a single room and five years to get a flat. And the situation is not going to improve in the foreseeable future – many years of building will be needed to bring an end to the accommodation queues. But the ambition is there, and many projects are under way. Between May and September 2015, tenants moved into 137 new student flats at Tallkrogen in the south of Stockholm.

Tallkrogen is an older residential area with scope for densification, and the property company Abacus, which is part of the Järntorget Group, decided to build student accommodation there. To keep costs down without compromising on quality and standards, Abacus opted for prefabricated flats supplied by Moelven Byggmodul AB. The result is attractive, space-efficient flats at prices that won’t drain student finances.

The seven blocks have been built in the centre of Tallkrogen, next to the underground station. This means that tenants have both easy access to local amenities such as shops and restaurants and just a short journey time by underground to the university and central Stockholm.

 ‘This is a quality product at an extremely competitive price, thanks to good cooperation between us and the developer, Abacus,’ says David Öberg, sales manager at Moelven Byggmodul AB.

Well-thought-out design

He considers that these student flats stand out in a positive way, a view shared by many and one of the reasons why the project was a finalist in “Building of the Year 2016”. In competition with 19 other construction projects – buildings, roads, bridges and car parks – the student accommodation in Tallkrogen came a creditable second. “Building of the Year” is the most important competition for the Swedish building sector, rewarding the best new structures in terms of quality, financial aspects, design and cooperation.

 ‘Reaching the final was great, and coming second among so many exciting projects was unbelievably great,’ says David Öberg, and points out that the architects have created a well-thought-out and appealing design with carefully considered details.

Philip Wikberg, Abacus’s project manager for the student accommodation in Tallkrogen, agrees: ‘The competition was tough,’ he says. He was part of the project right from when the application for planning permission for Tallkrogen was submitted to the municipality, and subsequently held the reins of the project.

The developer is pleased with the end result: seven four-storey blocks comprising a total of 137 flats, a mixture of one-room flats of 26 m2 and two-room flats of 37 m2.

 ‘They are fine buildings of a high standard,’ Philip Wikberg concludes.

Blend into the surroundings  

All the flats have a fully fitted kitchen. The kitchen and living area have laminate flooring, while the bathroom has linoleum. All the flats also have French windows. Each flat has a loft storage area, and there is a communal laundry room in three of the buildings. 

The seven buildings have rendered facades in shades that blend in with the other buildings in the area. The walls around the entrance doors are faced with oiled oak, and the flats have brightly coloured letterboxes.

 ‘We’ve previously built student accommodation at Telefonplan in Stockholm and we have several other projects in progress. Our ambition is for Abacus to be the largest private manager of student accommodation in Stockholm. The challenge is finding suitable sites, as we have to build on municipal leasehold sites, which are in great demand. But we’re getting there! We’re in the process of planning a further 450 flats and have several land allocations in progress,’ says Josa Lundbäck, CEO of Abacus.

 ‘There is a significant need for student accommodation and there was a lot of interest in the 137 flats we built in Tallkrogen, with more than 1000 students queueing up to get one,’ he says.

Low rents

Abacus is focused on the Greater Stockholm region and currently has no plans to build in other student towns, although Uppsala is a possible exception.

 ‘The Group has recently opened an office in Uppsala, so projects there may become relevant in time,’ says CEO Josa Lundbäck.

Like Philip Wikberg and David Öberg, he is pleased with the attention the project in Tallkrogen attracted as a result of its high ranking in “Building of the Year”.

 ‘This is a well-considered project in terms of scale, number of residential units and colour choice, but in other respects it’s extremely simple and unpretentious.

‘We’ve previously built high-standard, good-quality flats with Moelven Byggmodul AB as supplier, and these student flats demonstrate the same high level of quality, albeit with a slightly simpler finish. Thanks to the goodwill of Abacus’s shareholders, we offer some of the most reasonable student accommodation on the market in Stockholm,’ says Josa.

The standard monthly rent in Stockholm for 26 m2 is SEK 5600 but the students living at Tallkrogen pay SEK 4850, and also get a 50% discount in July and December. 

Fireproof wood in large buildings

The new T2 arrivals terminal in Oslo Gardermoen Airport’s Central Building West was opened in September. Fireguard fire-retardant treated spruce ribs supplied by Moelven Wood Prosjekt have been used in the ceilings of the new terminal.

Anyone who has been at Oslo Gardermoen Airport will have noticed its distinctive combination of wood and concrete. Wood is also an important aesthetic element in the new arrivals terminal in Central Building West – at least if you look ceilingwards. 

The fire safety requirements for large public buildings previously meant that other materials such as plaster or stone were used.

‘At Moelven, we have long experience with fire-retardant treated wood, which opens up the possibility of using wood-based solutions even in large public buildings,’ says Sven Egil Holmsen, general manager of Moelven Multi3. ‘The magnificent Kimen Cultural Centre in Stjørdal and the new arrivals terminal here at Gardermoen are both good examples of this.’

Increased demand

Holmsen explains that Moelven is experiencing an increased level of interest in fire-retardant treated wood for large building projects among architects and developers, something that doesn’t surprise him.

 ‘Fire-retardant treated wood is both sustainable and locally sourced, qualities and characteristics that many architects and developers are keen to embrace these days. This type of material lets you create a distinctive aesthetic expression and meet stringent fire-safety requirements at the same time. For example, you can easily vary the dimensions of the ribs, and the surfaces can be varnished in different shades to make a statement.

Unique characteristics

Moelven Multi3 is ahead of the pack as a supplier of fireproof wood and uses Moelven’s unique Fireguard liquid in the impregnation process. The substances used in the impregnation and the process itself have both been documented as environmentally friendly, and the products are CE marked in accordance with the EU Building Products Directive.

 ‘In the event of prolonged exposure to fire, the wood would gradually be converted into charcoal rather than catching fire, and would give off little smoke. This would also protect the underlying material from fire. An airport has very high traffic levels and, if there is a fire, it’s particularly important that the materials do not contribute to the fire spreading and smoke building up, so that evacuation can be carried out as easily as possible,’ explains Holmsen.

Innovative solutions

Planning, production and delivery of the ceiling elements for the project were handled by Trysil Interiørtre AS. These elements were made using ready-varnished, fire-retardant treated spruce ribs supplied by Moelven Wood Prosjekt. The ceiling elements in the new terminal cover a total area of 4500 m2, and the assembly work was carried out by Acusto AS as a subcontractor to Hent AS.

 ‘The building owner OSL AS and representatives of the user group had extremely specific requirements, and we had to adapt the elements to the chosen load-bearing construction and technical installations such as lighting, ventilation and sprinklers,’ says Erik Owrenn, product manager at Trysil Interiørtre AS.

As well as integrating technical installations, the elements also had to be easy to dismantle to allow inspection of the ceiling. 

 ‘Based on this, we developed a combination of fixed and hinged elements, which, if necessary, would allow 90% of the ceiling to be opened up without taking elements down from the load-bearing system. Working with our excellent subcontractors and partners, we delivered a solution that resulted in a very good outcome with everything functioning as it should,’ says Owrenn.

Several good characteristics

Sven Egil Holmsen of Moelven Multi3 points out that fire-retardant treated wood from Moelven offers several other product advantages apart from fire safety. For example, acoustic solutions have been used in the new arrivals terminal to give a good, pleasant reverb.

 ‘This is a big advantage in an arrivals terminal, where there are often a lot of people and a lot of noise. Sound-absorbing fabric in the space between the ceiling ribs reduces the sound level very effectively,’ says Holmsen. 

Moelven’s range includes both ribs and panels made from Nordic wood varieties such as spruce and pine, as well as fire-retardant treated plywood and Kerto. Ribs and panels can be combined on walls and in the ceiling for an exciting look. The ribs used at Gardermoen are in four different dimensions with different widths, giving the ceiling an elegant and tranquil appearance.

Sweden’s first solid-wood school

Herresta School in Järfälla, north-west Stockholm, is virtually CO2 -neutral, and the choice of building material provides staff and pupils alike with a pleasant environment. It was actually going to be a traditional concrete-built school. Then someone said, why not wood?

‘Isn’t building a school in wood in rainy Sweden just asking for damp problems? I searched online and found three schools that had been built in solid wood in the UK, which has more days’ rain in a year even than Sweden,’ relates Ian Craig, project manager for Järfälla Municipality.

Study visits were made to the three schools, and the findings were extremely positive.

 ‘As soon as we walked in the door of the first school, we were aware of the warm, cosy and pleasant atmosphere,’ says Ian Craig.

The study trip to the UK led to a quick decision: Herresta School in Järfälla would be built using solid wood. The school has now been built, and the choice of material has resulted in a building that is virtually CO2-neutral.

Pilot project

Christian Tell agrees.He is production manager at Skanska and held the reins during the building of Herresta School.

 ‘We’re not so used to working with wood, and this was a pilot project. It was a very positive experience. Wood is an easy material to work with, and the working environment is fantastic. Drilling into wood is quick, with little noise or dust. And it smells good when you’re handling wood,’ he says, adding that his colleagues are keen to work more with wood in the future.

 ‘The building time on site is shorter too. If you’re smart in how you load the various components for transport, it’s like working with a giant Lego set,’ says Christian Tell.

Good planning

Logistics are key, something that is reinforced by Fredrik Morell. He is project manager at Moelven Töreboda AB, which produced all the glulam as well as supplying solid wood from a partner in Austria.

 ‘Usually, it’s our employees who calculate the dimensions and produce design drawings. In this case, the client had already done that, so our task was to produce glulam and buy in solid wood based on the calculations we received.’

 ‘We also planned the logistics. In total, around 50 vehicles transported blocks of solid wood from Austria, and of course it was important that they were loaded correctly and driven to Järfälla in the right sequence to avoid reloading,’ explains Fredrik Morell.

The deliveries from Austria went direct to the construction site in Järfälla, where they were coordinated with deliveries of glulam from Töreboda. The delivery process lasted around a year.

 ‘The effective production time at the factory for the glulam beams and joists we needed was around a month,’ says Fredrik Morell.

He relates how the project has created ripple effects for Moelven Töreboda AB. Wood has become a popular building material in recent years, and Morell says that the school project has attracted a lot of interest. Many people have come on study visits to the construction site, and he says that the environmental aspect is becoming increasingly important in discussions with various clients.

 ‘We’ve had a number of new enquiries concerning small projects in solid wood – mostly for schools. Sweden’s municipalities are clearly becoming increasingly interested in sustainable building,’ he says.

Unique building

Herresta School in the Barkarbystaden area of Järfälla has become an important reference project for all the parties involved: the municipality, Skanska, Moelven Töreboda AB – and Liljewall arkitekter, the architects who designed the school.

‘This is a really special wooden building, and it’s interesting to have been involved in designing something so different,’ says architect Lars Olausson.

From the street, it looks like any other modern building with its glass facades and wooden cladding. There is nothing to reveal that this is a unique building and, when Lars Olausson started sketching, he had no idea that he would be leaving his mark on the first building of its kind in Sweden. What he did know was that the level of environmental ambition was high: the building was to be certified under the Swedish Miljöbyggnad classification system, and at gold level.

 ‘Experience with solid-wood buildings is limited, and we’ve worked to find special solutions, for example creating an acoustic suitable for a school. 

‘The sound environment was certainly one of the big challenges, but fire safety and damp protection also required solutions that we hadn’t worked with previously,’ explains Lars Olausson.

 ‘One important difference between wood and concrete is that sound and vibrations are transmitted differently in a wooden building. This meant we had to feel our way on site to find ways of solving the challenges. We also had to tackle the problem in different ways in different parts of the building. Sound doesn’t behave in the same way in different-sized rooms, and this places different demands on acoustics in a classroom from in a foyer.’

Choosing solid wood again

Ian Craig stresses that the municipality, too, has learnt much from the project, and both he and the staff at the school are extremely satisfied with the result.

‘The staff think the school is fantastic, and most would rather work at Herresta School than at other schools in Järfälla Municipality,’ he says.

And now it’s the turn of another school-building project: a slightly smaller school covering a total area of 1000 m2. And the plan is once again to build in solid wood.

 ‘The experiences from Herresta School have been so positive that using solid wood again seems an obvious choice,’ Ian Craig concludes.

The world’s tallest wooden building

Close to both the sea and the city, the world’s tallest wooden building rises to a height of 51 metres. A home in “Treet” – the tree – offers airy, high-quality living space based on spruce from deep Norwegian forests.

The Treet residential building in Bergen comprises 14 storeys in wood and is a full four storeys taller than any other wooden building in the world. Not only is it unique, it is also historic.

 ‘It’s been a global race, with many countries voicing their intention to build a tall wooden building. But Norway got there first, putting Bergen on the map among architects and experts the world over,’ says Rune Abrahamsen, graduate engineer and Norway’s leading specialist in glulam and wooden load-bearing constructions. Employed by Sweco at the time, he was the consultant engineer in the building project and one of the brains behind the innovative building.

It’s not just the size but also the building method that makes the building ground-breaking: Using glulam in combination with modules, as has been done in Treet, is something completely new. The building has been constructed by stacking modules to make the first four storeys, followed by a reinforced storey with glulam structures and a concrete slab on the top as the basis for another four storeys, before another supporting platform on the tenth storey.

 ‘This is where the innovation lies. We established a building system for wood that functions for great heights. This hasn’t been done for housing purposes previously, so there wasn’t much to lean on,’ says Abrahamsen, pointing out that the challenge is that wood is a light material and can oscillate significantly at height.


The planning group made up of representatives from the main contractor and subcontractors – a dedicated development team – worked with academics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) to test and calculate the damping factor.

‘A tall wooden building can be compared to a blade of grass. When it’s windy, there is movement, and it would have been uncomfortable living in the top storeys.’

Physical testing and estimates assessed the damping factor for Treet to be 1.9. After the building was constructed, it was measured at an impressive 1.89.

 ‘It must be said there have been many clever people involved in this work and many high-powered brains behind the various parts of the project,’ says Abrahamsen, who acknowledges he is pleased to have taken part.

 ‘It was an incredibly exciting process that culminated in a successful project – a building containing a lot of wood in which it is pleasant to live and people can enjoy a good quality of life,’ he sums up.

Large span Rune Abrahamsen is now manager of Moelven Limtre, which also made a significant contribution to the process, both in terms of innovation and deliveries. The 45 metre trusses, partly visible both inside and outside, were produced and assembled by Moelven Limtre AS.

 ‘These were enormous frame works, delivered with millimetre precision,’ he states. 

Abrahamsen believes using wood in buildings affects how people experience the building, and gives it distinctive characteristics.

 ‘We Scandinavians have long traditions of building with wood. We’re used to wooden houses: they make us feel comfortable, we like the smell and I think many people find them warm. Quite simply, wood changes the whole atmosphere of a building and the indoor climate,’ he says. 

Special indoor environment

Entrepreneur Bjørn Myreze has bought one of the 62 flats in Treet. As well as the great location and functional living space, he cites the indoor environment as a particular attraction.

 ‘The first thing that struck us as we came into the building was the fresh air,’ says Myreze, who explains that they had originally intended to buy a flat on one of the top storeys.

 ‘Instead, we chose the ground floor. We fell in love with the flat as soon as we walked into it. We’d never imagined it would be possible to live so close to the sea but here we’re almost living on the water, rather like being on a boat,’ he says. 

He thinks the fact that the house has been built in wood makes a big difference in how it is perceived.

 ‘Even outside, the wood is the first thing you are aware of and, with wooden structures and surfaces inside, the whole building seems to breathe. The balance between wood and modern technology has produced a fantastic building that is also environmentally friendly, with a top energy rating of A under Norway’s Energimerke scheme. And you get both sea and city views into the bargain,’ he comments. 

More high wooden buildings in prospect

Rune Abrahamsen believes Treet will just be the starting shot when it comes to constructing high wooden buildings.

 ‘We’re already seeing more and more people moving to the cities, and this trend will only increase in the future. Space in urban areas is in short supply, and one way of using the space better is to build “up”. High wooden buildings in cities are the ultimate answer to meeting the environmental requirements of the future and being able to build sustainably,’ he states, adding that the problems are even more acute in countries with higher population densities.

Treet has provided much valuable experience, and every week Abrahamsen receives enquiries about the building from all over the world – from students, publications and industry insiders wanting more information and a guided tour.

 ‘I can’t accommodate every request, but there have been a number of guided tours of the building, most recently with a delegation from France,’ he relates. 

Being involved in innovative development projects is a high priority for Moelven Limtre.

 ‘In terms of both hours and expertise, we devote quite a lot of resources and people to being innovative in projects. We want to be out in front all the way, and not just in Norway, but internationally too,’ he states. 

A new, ground-breaking landmark building in wood is now ready on the drawing board. Flats in the 18-storey Mjøstårnet building in Brumunddal near Moelven, which will rise to more than 70 metres, are now up for sale.

Demolish or renovate?

When consulting company EY Norway needed to renovate its head office in Oslo, they considered demolishing everything internally and starting from scratch. Instead, they invested in interior systems from Moelven Modus, cut costs by 50% and impressed the Green Party.

In just a few years, new technology has changed the working day at many Norwegian companies, placing entirely new demands on physical working environments. This was the situation at EY, which has over 1000 employees at its head office at Oslo Atrium in Bjørvika.

 ‘The challenge was to transform an outdated cubicle landscape of around 9000 m2 over three storeys into a modern, activity-based workplace,’ explains Bjørn Vorkinn, Nordic Real Estate Lead at EY. The criteria for the design and functionality of the new work premises were already set out in EY’s global “Workplace of the Future” concept. The question was whether and how it could be done, and at what cost. 

Considered several options

Vorkinn says the company considered several different options before selecting Moelven Modus as a partner for the comprehensive renovation project.

 ‘One option was to get the landlord to demolish everything internally and build from scratch, and we also considered moving to new premises, as the lease was originally due to expire in 2018. At the same time, we were keen to stay at Oslo Atrium, where we’ve been since 2003. So we started looking into the possibility of doing something ourselves. It was at this stage that we entered into a process with Moelven Modus to look more closely at possible solutions, focusing on reuse, building time and costs.’

Big environmental gain

He explains that it quickly became apparent that interior systems were the most practical and cost-effective way of updating the premises. The environmental focus was another important consideration.

 ‘Being able to keep the technical solutions in the ceilings and making extensive reuse of partitions and materials meant we saved a lot of money. By reusing various materials, we were able to reduce the volume of waste by 67 tonnes.’ These figures are impressive and should inspire others to choose the Modus method when it comes to renovating older office premises. Such a decision means savings in terms of both costs and the environment. 

Good planning important

Vorkinn emphasises that good planning and organised processes are the alpha and omega in making a success of large-scale renovation projects.

 ‘We ran several workshops with all the different departments, at which we mapped our requirements and, working closely with architect Birgitte Magnussen from Moelven Modus, sketched various solutions within the template. It was extremely important to make sure that the premises would support the processes that EY’s various work tasks and projects require at any time.’ 

Big savings

He is highly satisfied with the end results of the renovation.

 ‘We’ve gained exceptionally good flexibility in the premises in terms of being able to make optimal use of the space, and the premises now meet all the requirements of our “Workplace of the Future” concept. The interior systems from Moelven Modus mean that in future we can easily change and modify our space as required, while continuing to operate more or loss normally at the same time. The process has also enabled us to free up 2100 m2 of space, which means reduced operating costs and the opportunity to sublet and generate good earnings.’

Vorkinn believes the threshold for thinking green will go down significantly if it means you can reduce costs at the same time, in both a short-term and long-term perspective. It is evident that many people still associate an environmental focus with high levels of investment, but the Modus method clearly shows that this does not need to be the case.

Positive employees

Before the renovation work started, internal surveys showed that 82% of employees were sceptical about the new office solutions.

‘People are always sceptical about big changes,’ says architect Birgitte Magnussen of Moelven Modus. ‘But for EY’s employees, sitting on their own in individual offices no longer makes sense when many work tasks are undertaken collaboratively and on a project basis. Now, employees can spend a two-week period in one area, for example, and then sit somewhere else for two months depending on the project they’re working on. A large number of staff are also out of the office for a lot of the working day and only come in at the end of the day to recap at the PC, in which case they don’t need a permanent desk.’

She emphasises that the primary aim of activity-based workplaces is to provide office facilities with solutions that offer employees the best possible conditions to carry out their various work tasks well and efficiently.

Covers all needs

‘EY’s premises now include quiet rooms for those who need to do focused work on their own, project rooms of various sizes, practical desk islands and telephone rooms, as well as a few “office cubicles” that can be used for periods. Each entrance area has cloakrooms with lockers for employees’ personal items, and the largest meeting rooms are also located here. Considerable time has also been devoted to making sure there is adequate daylight in all working areas,’ says Magnussen.

She adds that a new survey shows that 82% of employees are happy with the new premises.

 ‘In fact, several people who previously preferred to sit behind a partition have now started to creep out from their cubicles. There was a rapid change of attitude among the sceptics! In many ways, younger employees expect modern companies to provide activity-based workplaces. I believe premises with modern design and contemporary solutions are a competitive advantage for companies seeking to attract the best people.’

Borlänge investing in modular schools

In a short time, Moelven Byggmodul has built five schools in Borlänge, and a further two are at the planning stage. Population growth in the Swedish municipality has already exceeded the forecast for 2020, leading to a significant need to erect new public buildings quickly.

The increasing influx of people into Sweden’s cities and urban areas is bringing new challenges. Infrastructure and municipal services have to be developed, expanded and sometimes reorganised.

Prefabricated modules offer many advantages. The modules are produced in a controlled environment protected from the elements, such that the risk of damp damage is eliminated entirely. Building at factories is rational and time-efficient, and the technique means that assembly times at the building site are short. This offers advantages in terms of quality and the environment, as well as good cost control.

Borlänge Municipality does not have guidelines stipulating that wooden buildings or prefabricated solutions must be the first choice. The most cost-effective option is chosen, and it is highly unlikely that a building constructed on site will be cheaper than a prefabricated one.

Best price

‘The call for tenders was open to all, and we also received offers from competing companies for on-site construction options but it proved more reasonable to go for a modular approach,’ explains Johan Forsman of the municipal property company AB Stora Tunabyggen, which is the developer.

Four tenders were submitted, and Moelven Byggmodul’s proposal was in total NOK 10 million cheaper for three schools than the next cheapest, which involved three schools built on site.

Five years ago, Moelven Byggmodul AB built a school in Ornäs and Trollskogen preschool in Borlänge. In autumn 2016, the latter gained an extension to house a nursery and a school for children at primary and intermediate level (years 1-6). The extension covers a total area of 1480 m2, providing space for 200 children. Two other schools of the same size were built in the municipality earlier in 2016.

‘We also have options on a further two schools to be built in conjunction with existing schools. These, too, will be built on the modular principle, and they should be ready to move into towards the end of 2018,’ Johan Forsman explains.

Good planning

The school buildings were designed by an architect engaged by the developer. The construction details were then adjusted by designers at Moelven Byggmodul AB, who adapted them to the company’s production.

‘Good planning enabled the on-site assembly time to be kept down to ten weeks – but this makes particular demands of logistics,’ explains Robin Sjölin, Moelven Byggmodul’s supervisor at Trollskogen School.

‘With such a short assembly time, different occupational groups have to share the site and work in parallel. The carpenters and painters are employed by Moelven, and we also use many external suppliers, including electricians, plumbers, ventilation specialists, locksmiths and floor-layers. For this to work, all the work tasks have to be carried out in the right order. But we have many years’ valuable experience of planning building projects of this kind so that they run seamlessly,’ he says.

‘In this particular case, there’s an extra supplier involved,’ points out Johan Bergkvist, Moelven’s project manager.

‘The corridor linking the old and new buildings has been built by an independent contractor, who is responsible for commissioning and for ensuring that the lock and alarm systems and various other things are all working as they should when the school is taken into use. The cooperation with the contractor has gone without a hitch. The entire process has run extremely smoothly, given the tight schedule we’ve had to keep to,’ he says.

A good alternative

Jan Larsson is sales manager at Moelven Byggmodul AB in Torsby, which supplied the schools to Borlänge Municipality. He has worked in the company for more than 20 years and seen how interest in modular buildings has increased over that time.

‘We’ve built a lot here in Borlänge previously, and we get many enquiries – not just from this region but also from other parts of Sweden. In the Stockholm area, and Mälardalen in particular, there is a tendency for modular building to be seen as an attractive alternative. And it’s not just about schools: there is a similar interest with regard to old people’s homes and other types of buildings,’ he explains.

‘A growing number of people have discovered the advantages of prefabricated alternatives: the short building time, lower costs and high flexibility. And, of course, a modular building can even be moved if necessary,’ finishes Jan Larsson.