Saturday, June 02, 2012

Learning from Swedish Home Building - A video series

I've decided to make a series of short videos about our research into Swedish home building, and my recommendations for how to apply the lessons here. Namely the USA New Wall, and Swedish Platform Framing.

I don't love being in front of the camera - eek, have you ever done this? But I think its a great way to reach more people. If you want to show these ideas to somebody, they can watch a short video to get a good introduction, rather than reading a long web page, or many blog entries.

So in that spirit we present the first video which is about why we would look to Sweden for a model for improving the performance of our homes in the US.


This video piece explains the premise of why we in the United States can benefit from adopting house building techniques developed in Sweden. Specifically this video series will focus on residential wall systems.

The video touches on many ideas which are explained in greater depth in entries to the LamiDesign Modern House Plan blog, in a series of posts tagged Letters from Sweden. Here are links to some specific topics touched on in the video:

This post "Letters from Sweden - Europe is different, Sweden is not, sort of.." elaborates on the similarities and differences between the housing industries in both countries:

The book "Coming in From the Cold" makes a detailed account of Sweden's response to the 1970's oil crisis. This book was written in the 1980s when it became apparent to scientists that Sweden was using much less energy per household than the US. This was 25 years ago. Sweden has gotten even better at it since then. US, not so much. We describe the book here:

We also made a fairly detailed examination of the typical construction of a Swedish residential wall. This will expand on the very brief description in the video, and you can find that here:

You read the entire Letters from Sweden series by clicking on the respective link under the blog post title.

The USA New Wall, and Swedish Platform Framing are an outgrowth of this research. You can find details of the USA New Wall here:

And Swedish Platform Framing here:

If you need assistance implementing the USA New Wall or Swedish Platform Framing in your projects, we are here to help. Please contact us.


  1. Nicely done!

    Have you had any feedback, professionally, about your NewWall designs? What do your peers think?

  2. I've gotten some very positive feedback from both builders, and architects. I've been noting such comments in my LamiDesign Twitter stream (mini blog in the right side column here) as well as in the LamiDesign Facebook page. You should follow those if you want to see these comments and links.

  3. Thanks for sharing your work on improved wall design! It's great that we don't have to reinvent the wheel to dramatically improve the energy efficiency of residential housing stock in the US. After seeing the videos and reading the blog posts, I had some questions about the USA New Wall design.

    1. Taking a closer look at the diagrams of Swedish walls in this first video in the series, I noticed that the first wall had OSB sheathing just behind the gypsum wallboard, while the second wall had no sheathing layer at all, raising the question of how it manages shear loads. The second wall also had some interesting details to keep the windscreen off the studs.

    In contrast the USA New Wall has a sheathing layer outboard of the studs. Can you go into more detail about these differences and the adaptations you made to the Swedish practices to arrive at the USA New Wall design?

    2. After seeing the video, I also wondered whether it was necessary to carry the interior vapor barrier over the first floor ceiling in a two story house. Between stairwells, unsealed cavities in partition walls, etc., that there wouldn't be much practical benefit to carrying this layer of the exterior wall over ceilings that weren't part of the building's thermal envelope.

    3. Can you post or link to more details about the appropriate way to construct and seal wall penetrations for windows, doors, utility services, etc., in the USA New Wall design?

    4. Do you have any throughts about adaptations that would allow the USA New Wall to function effectively in mixed humid climates, like IECC Zone 4?

    Thanks again for all your work in putting this resource together. It is much appreciated!

  4. Chetan,

    1. What you see just behind the wall board in the Swedish walls is more like particle board than OSB. It provides for easy hanging of shelves and cabinets, as well as adding a degree of bracing. The rest of the bracing is essentially provided by the heavy wood siding. That said I don't think Sweden has the coastal winds, hurricanes, or tornados we have in various parts of the states. Bracing is likely not the same issue there.

    The Swedes have no air conditioning so their walls are as open as possible to the exterior, to keep them dry, and to prevent any moisture from becoming caught in the wall. In the US we tend to have air-conditioning, even in many houses in the coldest climate zones in the states. That's just the way we roll. So part of the reason the USA new wall does not follow the Swedish model here is because we often will benefit from a tight outside surface even in a cooling climate if it can keep hot humid summer air from blowing directly into the wall cavity. The other reason is american builders are used to sheathing on the outside. We are trying to make this easier for them.

    2. You misunderstood. The interior vapor retarder does not carry across the first floor ceiling in a two story house, only the second floor ceiling.

    3. No I can't. Essentially it is not any different than any other high performance wall system. Details will vary with window and door products.

    I've offered a lot of information about these systems. If you need more, then we can talk about consulting.

    4. I am in the northern tip of Zone 4, and frankly I would use these systems here. But not in the rest of Zone 4. I've not studied best practices for those zones. Although the Swedes are not building for those climates, and there is less reason to look to them as a model, a lot of the lessons apply or inform for these other climate zones. I want to look at it some day, but first there is more work to do with these systems for the heating zones.