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Green was the best and cheapest

The new Ullerud Health and Care Centre is the largest construction project ever undertaken in the history of Frogn Municipality, and it is Norway’s largest health and care centre in mass timber. Mass timber was the obvious choice of material as it was the best in terms of price and for the environment.

Frogn Municipality’s political leaders wanted a health and care centre that had environmentally friendly characteristics, and they drew inspiration from the recently built Pentagon student accommodation in Ås in terms of how they designed the tender process.

“The Municipality asked for proposals for a traditional steel and concrete building or for a mass timber building or for a building that combined both. They received a total of seven proposals, two of which were for a building in mass timber”, explains Ane Nordskar, the head of the Nursing and Care Unit at Frogn Municipality.

When the decision was being made, it turned out that one of the two proposals for mass timber was more than NOK 24 million cheaper than the cheapest steel and concrete option (see proposal C in the table below). It was therefore not a difficult choice for the Municipality, which had said in the tender documentation that it would be willing to accept a price that was up to 2% higher for a mass timber option. In addition, the project was financed by a green loan from KBN, which is to say a loan with a lower interest rate, which KBN grants to projects that lead to lower energy consumption or lower greenhouse gas emissions or that contribute to local climate change adaptation.

Source: Frogn kommune, Ullerud helsebygg i Drøbak   

“We were looking for the best, both for the safety of the centre’s residents and for the sake of the employees’ working environment. Mass timber is the most environmentally friendly and economical option, but it also breathes far better than traditional building materials, which has beneficial health effects and creates a good indoor environment”, comments Ane Nordskar.

Timber is now regarded as more sustainable for new buildings than using traditional building materials such as steel and concrete. The example of Ullerud Health and Care Centre also shows that new construction methods make it a competitive option [1].

Life-cycle and financial appraisal

The building’s life-cycle costs were important criteria and contributed to mass timber being chosen. LCCs are the total of all the costs associated with a building for its entire life, i.e. the cost of building it and all the costs associated with managing, maintaining, changing, developing, stocking and cleaning it as well as its residual value following the usage phase [2].

An LCC auditor was used during the construction process. The LCC auditor’s role was to document and verify that the life-cycle costs were within the cost limits set out in the original specification. For Ullerud Health and Care Centre, it turned out that the life-cycle costs were significantly lower. In other terms, the building will be cheaper than estimated by the original specification.

“We are committed to keeping the life-cycle costs down and to ensuring that the Health and Care Centre lasts for a long time and needs minimal maintenance. For example, we have chosen to use fibre-cement boards with only limited wood cladding of the facade”, comments Bjørn Nordvik, a Project Manager at Frogn Municipality, to

AF Bygg Østfold’s turnkey contract with options and changes was approximately NOK 270 million before taxes and duties.

“If we calculate the total expense to be around NOK 300 million excluding taxes and duties, we receive an investment grant of slightly over NOK 200 million from the Norwegian State Housing Bank. This leaves a net investment for Frogn Municipality of slightly below NOK 100 million. This means we got an unbelievable amount for our money”, comments Ane Nordvik.

P.S. The Norwegian Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi) has just published a criteria wizard for sustainable procurement that includes requirement specifications for LCCs for new buildings. Click here to read more

Ullerud Health and Care Centre is in a wonderful location just outside Drøbak next to a large golf course – nice and green all around! Photo: Torunn Brånå

Resident Elsa Irene Hansen enjoys living at Ullerud Health and Care Centre Photo: Torunn Brånå

A sensory garden has been created in collaboration with an artist and a landscape architect. The garden has been adapted for the elderly, and it has a thin protective layer that is easy to walk on instead of grass. The garden has lots of different types of flowers and vegetable beds – like a small botanical garden. Photo: Torunn Brånå

Although the building is almost entirely built out of mass timber, virtually no timber is visible due to maintenance reasons on the outside and fire regulations on the inside. Photo: Torunn Brånå


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[1] Trefokus: Treveilederen 

[2] Difi: Kriterieveiviseren