Isn’t it good, Swedish plywood: the miraculous eco-town with a 20-storey wooden skyscraper – Skellefteå has wooden schools, bridges, even car parks. And now it has one of the world’s tallest wooden buildings. We visit Sweden to see what a climate-conscious future looks like
As you come in to land at Skellefteå airport in the far north of Sweden, you are greeted by a wooden air traffic control tower poking up from an endless forest of pine and spruce. After boarding a biogas bus into town, you glide past wooden apartment blocks and wooden schools, cross a wooden road bridge and pass a wooden multistorey car park, before finally reaching the centre, now home to one of the tallest new wooden buildings in the world.
“We are not the wood Taliban,” says Bo Wikström, from Skellefteå’s tourism agency, as he leads a group of visitors on a “wood safari” of its buildings. “Other materials are allowed.” But why build in anything else – when you’re surrounded by 480,000 hectares of forest?
If you are wondering what a climate-conscious future looks like, small subarctic Skellefteå (pronounced “she left you”) has some of the answers. In a clearing on its outskirts, Europe’s largest battery factory is currently under construction. The next generation of electric vehicle batteries will not only be produced here, but recycled too. Electric helicopters will soon be able to shuttle visitors to the gargantuan Northvolt gigafactory, while longer-distance electric aeroplanes are being tested nearby.