Danish “Hygge” Living: Scandinavian Mass Timber Apartments

It can be a touchy subject to ask a spouse to take time from a family vacation for a business-related side trip. During a family visit to Scandinavia last month, we were able to do so without infringing on family time.

Martin Larsen, a long time friend and owner of ML Kloak, arranged a visit to a mass timber apartment complex outside of Roskilde being constructed by Adserballe & Knudsen. This was a fantastic opportunity, as there were many apartments in various stages of construction and it was possible to see not only the finished product, but how the units were constructed.


Martin and I, along with my son Hap, met with Peter Benedikt Nielsen of Adserballe & Knudsen and Allan Nielsen of J. Jensen to walk through the apartments, which were designed to be low-income housing for the community. Approaching the apartments I was struck by the high-quality materials used in the construction. Aluminum and galvanized trim around the structure corners and windows were beautiful accents to a dark slate siding, broken intermittently by stained wood elements that provided an amazing contrast between the durability of the slate and the softness of the wood.


The slate siding was installed on an ingenious rail system that utilized notches with hooks that carried the weight of the slate siding.


Behind the slate and wood side is what we were interested in seeing, and the construction of the units was impressive. Wood I-joists were used to provide space for an insulating layer behind the siding, but also as a chase for electrical runs on the surface of the vapor shield to protect the structure from water.


The structure of the apartments utilized pre-manufactured components as much as possible. The bathroom units were pre-manufactured in Poland and delivered onsite with fixtures installed. These were also able to be stacked so that they could service both a first-floor apartment and provide a bathroom for the apartment on the second floor.


Around these bathroom units, pre-manufactured Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) panels from KLH were used to provide the entire structure for the living areas of the apartments. Walls, floors, and the roof were all constructed of CLT, however only the wall elements were left exposed for the enjoyment of the inhabitants.


The second-story units had a second floor accessed by a spiral staircase, and the space was largely left open so that future owners could add interior walls according to their needs.


Overall impressions of the apartments were that the designer and contractors focused their efforts on the quality and environmental aspects of the building to provide a truly enjoyable living space. There is a term in Danish, “Hygge”, which is difficult to describe in English but refers to a comfortable, enjoyable, relaxing space. It’s often translated as “cozy” but falls short of the true meaning. I could imagine these spaces providing the hygge atmosphere that would turn an apartment into a home.


Thanks again to Peter, Martin, and Allan for the opportunity to visit and we hope to return the favor in the future.


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