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Dalarnas Villa - Built Research Project Investigating Sustainability

Created on 04-06-2022 | Updated on 20-05-2023

Dalarnas Villa is a two-storey wooden single-family house in the region of Dalarna, Sweden. It was designed and built with the aim of reducing negative environmental impacts, enhancing energy efficiency, and creating a healthy indoor space for its occupants. The project also aimed to test various solutions to prevent fire, housebreaking, damp, and water-related damages in Swedish houses. Thus, the home was built using eco-friendly materials and equipped with energy systems and smart control systems to have a positive impact on both the outdoor environment (by reducing CO2 emissions and promoting energy savings) and the indoor environment (by improving air quality and ventilation).


This project is a result of a collaboration between Dalarna University and several partners, namely the insurance company Dalarnas Försäkringsbolag, local manufacturers such as Fiskarhedenvillan AB, and building material and systems suppliers. The project is as a test prototype or a living lab for research. In 2019, it was awarded the Nordic Swan Ecolabel which is the Nordic official environmental label.

Dalarna University

Dalarna region, Sweden

Project (year)

Construction (year)

Housing type
single-family housing

Urban context

Construction system
wooden system


Reference documents

Icon document

Dalarnas Villa building components and materials adapted from (Magnusson, 2020; Petrović et al., 2021)



In the Nordic countries, water-related damages in buildings (including homes) result in annual costs of several billion euros. These damages emerge from leaks in piping systems, inadequately waterproofing wet room layers, or damp-related problems which also negatively impact indoor air quality and occupants’ health. Some measures can be implemented to enhance the building sustainability that could result in huge savings and have a better impact on the environment and occupants’ health.

The Swedish insurance company “Dalarnas Försäkringsbolag decided to finance this research project to look for solutions to foment a more economically and environmentally sustainable future for housing (Magnusson, 2020; Petrović et al., 2021). In collaboration with the Dalarna University, a design competition for students was announced in 2017 (Dalarna University, 2020). The winning team proposed an aesthetically pleasing design which was also rational and sustainable. In 2019, Dalarnas Villa was constructed by high school students under the supervision of local entrepreneurs. Currently, it is rented out to a Swedish family (Dalarna University, 2020). The Dalarnas Villa received the Nordic Swan Ecolabel which is the Nordic official environmental label (Holén, 2019; Svanen, n.d.).


Construction and materials

Dalarnas Villa was an opportunity to test the use of sustainable materials and smart systems to augment safety and save energy by way of cost-effective solutions with less negative environmental impact (Magnusson, 2020; Petrović et al., 2021). Wood is considered to be a sustainable option in Sweden. Thus, the house structure system is based entirely on wood. For the façade, wood panels were utilized as well. For the energy and smart systems, they installed photovoltaic panels on the southwest side of the roof; an exhaust air circulation system, and a ground source heat pump. Each year, a new ventilation system is installed to test different solutions to improve indoor air quality and provide energy savings. For safety systems that mitigate water-related damages, they used a smart water control system. It has a switch that detects, alerts, and closes the water supply if there is a leak, no occupants in the house, and/or in case of potential risk or damage due to water freezing (Dalarna University, 2020; Magnusson, 2020; Petrović et al., 2021).


Life Cycle Costs assessment

Life Cycle Costing (LCC) calculates the costs that are incurred during the pre-construction and construction phases (known as initial costs) and the future maintenance and operational costs (Estevan & Schaefer, 2017). LCC applies discounts and inflation rates to keep future costs in line with those of today. In other words, to bring all initial and future costs over a project lifetime into a single time dimension (Jawad & Ozbay, 2006).

Petrović et al., (2021) conducted LCC analysis for the Dalarna Villa from cradle to grave following the lifetime structure of EN 166 27 standard. Over a 50-year lifespan, a discount of 7% and an inflation rate of 2 % and adding the taxes, the life cycle costs of the Villa accounted for 3,588 euro/m2. LCC conducted the study for 50- and 100-year lifespans as well as different inflation and discount rates. Over the two life spans, a common pattern has been detected:

  1. The investment-related costs had the highest share. Within these investment-related costs, labour amounted to half of the costs in this life cycle stage, followed by building materials, installations, and other pre-construction costs. This resonates with the ongoing issue of labour availability and the rise in construction prices in Europe as shown in the Eurostat chart presenting the EU construction prices and costs index (CCI) (Eurostat, 2021). This high percentage emphasizes the crucial potential of the industrialized construction sector to reduce construction labour (Qi et al., 2021), which is the research focus of ESR 01
  1. The running costs during the occupation phase - when residents were living in the house - included maintenance, replacement, operational energy and operational water costs. In this phase, maintenance costs were the highest, followed by replacement costs. After 50 years, both maintenance and replacement costs significantly increase, while the operational energy and operational water costs rise slowly (Petrović et al., 2021). The study also showed that without installing PV panels, the operational energy use costs would almost double over the 100 year lifespan.
  2. For the end-of-life costs, the study assumed the villa would be demolished. Thus, these costs were the only value that is decreasing over the 100-year life span. If it were designed to be dismantled, the end-of-life costs would increase, but the solution would be more sustainable with regard to resource efficiency and environmental impact (Petrović et al., 2021). Design for disassembly is the research focus of RE-DWELL ESR01 project.

Over a 100-year lifespan, the initial costs of pre-construction and construction accounted for almost 75% of the total LCC, while the operational costs of maintenance, energy and water accounted for almost 25% (Petrović et al., 2021).*


Environmental impact

The carbon footprint of building materials can be understood through the so-called Global Warming Potential (GWP). It is an indicator of the amount of the greenhouse gases (GHG) that trap heat in the atmosphere (Durkee, 2006). This amount is explained in comparison with a reference gas which is  carbon dioxide. Petrovic et al., (2019) carried out Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) with a focus on the villa building materials and their transportation distance to understand their environmental impact. The study calculated the GWP using One Click LCA software. The conclusions were that the thermo wood material used in the exterior envelope releases the highest amount of GHG to the atmosphere compared to the other materials which account for 514.03 Kg CO2e/m3. The next materials were concrete, cross-laminated timber (CLT) and the triple glazed windows releasing 268.68 Kg CO2e/m3, 140 Kg CO2e/m3 and 115 Kg CO2e/piece respectively (Petrovic et al., 2019). On the other hand, the wood-based materials for the structure and envelope are lower in GWP where each account for 25 Kg CO2e/m3. Thus, they can be considered more environmentally friendly.

Dalarnas Villa is a pilot project to investigate sustainable housing solutions in Sweden; houses that prioritise the quality of the indoor environment, the health of the residents and the impact on global warming. However, one of the questions to be addressed in the future is whether the increased costs of sustainable solutions will be cost-effective in the long term, as residents will pay less for maintenance and energy costs.

Alignment with project research areas

“Design, planning, and building” as a research area of RE-DWELL is concerned with the affordability of the design of sustainable housing and its construction for both housing providers and future dwellers. This case study gives an example of the life cycle costs of a sustainable house that corelates with this research area. The Dalarnas Villa project aimed to use eco-materials and investigate sustainable solutions for houses in Sweden. This villa project design and construction resulted in reduced running costs for occupants, however, the investment costs (pre-construction and construction) occupied the highest percentage of the villa life cycle costs over the 100-year lifespan. Understanding this rise in the initial costs, highlights some of the issues facing the provision of sustainable, healthy, and affordable housing. It is important to understand the impact of long-term sustainable solutions in reducing negative impacts on climate, recurring maintenance, and operational costs.

Another area of research by RE-DWELL is “Community participation”, which came into play at various stages of the realisation of the Dalarnas Villa project. This can be seen in the collaboration between the insurance company Dalarnas Försäkringsbolag and Dalarnas University.  The company is funding the design and construction of this project to act as a living villa laboratory. The company wanted to look for sustainable solutions for the Swedish community to overcome some of the most common and financially disruptive problems, albeit for residents or insurance companies. The project involved the participation of university students in the design of the villa. The villa was also built with the help of high school students and local suppliers and equipped by smart solutions from local businesses.

Design, planning and building

Community participation

Policy and financing

* This diagram is for illustrative purposes only based on the author’s interpretation of the above case study

Alignment with SDGs

SDG 3 Good Health and Wellbeing

SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy

SDG 9 Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production

SDG 13 Climate Action


The Dalarnas villa presents an example of a sustainable healthy house. It is aligned with various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The design and construction of this house is consistent with SDG 3 Good Health and Wellbeing for the following reasons: The design respects and integrates the surrounding nature and creates a pleasant sense of space through large glass windows. The house serves as a living laboratory to test new ventilation systems that improve indoor air quality, save energy and help reduce damp-related damage to the house. The use of photovoltaic panels, energy control systems, water control systems and heat pump systems contribute to SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy and SDG 9 Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure.

The Dalarnas Villa project is the result of a local collaboration between Dalarnas University, local businesses, and suppliers. Young students from the university designed the villa and secondary school students participated in its construction to learn building techniques. The aim of this collaboration was to present the prototype of a sustainable house with the following characteristics: (1) environmentally sustainable using eco-materials that have less negative impact on the environment and global climate; (2) economically sustainable to save recurrent maintenance costs for water-related damages and be energy efficient; and (3) socially sustainable by relying on local cooperation and using new systems that enhance indoor air quality that would have a positive impact on the health and well-being of the residents. These characteristics are closely related to SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production, and SDG 13 Climate Action.

*Note: these values are extracted from Figure 8 chart of the study (Petrović et al., 2021)


Dalarna University. (2020). Opening of Dalarnas Villa - Result of Collaboration. Dalarna University Official Website.

Durkee, J. (2006). US and global environmental regulations. Management of Industrial Cleaning Technology and Processes, 43–98.

Estevan, H., & Schaefer, B. (2017). Life Cycle Costing - state of the art report. ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, European Secretariat, 50.

Eurostat. (2021). Construction producer price and construction cost indices overview.

Holén, E. (2019). The Pihlblad family moves into a research villa.

Jawad, D., & Ozbay, K. (2006). The Discount Rate in Life Cycle Cost Analysis of Transportation Projects. 85th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, 1–19.

Magnusson, B. (2020). Dalarna’s Villa Offers Useful Lessons. Effect4buildings.

Petrovic, B., Myhren, J. A., Zhang, X., Wallhagen, M., & Eriksson, O. (2019). Life cycle assessment of building materials for a single-family house in Sweden. Energy Procedia, 158, 3547–3552.

Petrović, B., Zhang, X., Eriksson, O., & Wallhagen, M. (2021). Life cycle cost analysis of a single-family house in Sweden. Buildings, 11(5).

Qi, B., Razkenari, M., Costin, A., Kibert, C., & Fu, M. (2021). A systematic review of emerging technologies in industrialized construction. Journal of Building Engineering, 39(October 2020), 102265.

Svanen. (n.d.). The history of the swan. The Nordic’s Official Environmental Label - The Swan. Retrieved October 18, 2022, from

Related vocabulary

Life Cycle Costing

Area: Design, planning and building

Life Cycle Costing (LCC) is a method used to estimate the overall cost of a building during its different life cycle stages, whether from cradle to grave or within a predetermined timeframe (Nucci et al., 2016; Wouterszoon Jansen et al., 2020). The Standardised Method of Life Cycle Costing (SMLCC) identifies LCC in line with the International Standard ISO 15686-5:2008 as "Methodology for the systematic economic evaluation of life cycle costs over a period of analysis, as defined in the agreed scope." (RICS, 2016). This evaluation can provide a useful breakdown of all costs associated with designing, constructing, operating, maintaining and disposing of this building (Dwaikat & Ali, 2018). Life cycle costs of an asset can be divided into two categories: (1) Initial costs, which are all the costs incurred before the occupation of the house, such as capital investment costs, purchase costs, and construction and installation costs (Goh & Sun, 2016; Kubba, 2010); (2) Future costs, which are those that occur after the occupancy phase of the dwelling. The future costs may involve operational costs, maintenance, occupancy and capital replacement (RICS, 2016). They may also include financing, resale, salvage, and end-of-life costs (Karatas & El-Rayes, 2014; Kubba, 2010; Rad et al., 2021). The costs to be included in a LCC analysis vary depending on its objective, scope and time period. Both the LCC objective and scope also determine whether the assessment will be conducted for the whole building, or for a certain building component or equipment (Liu & Qian, 2019; RICS, 2016). When LCC combines initial and future costs, it needs to consider the time value of money (Islam et al., 2015; Korpi & Ala-Risku, 2008). To do so, future costs need to be discounted to present value using what is known as "Discount Rate" (Islam et al., 2015; Korpi & Ala-Risku, 2008). LCC responds to the needs of the Architectural Engineering Construction (AEC) industry to recognise that value on the long term, as opposed to initial price, should be the focus of project financial assessments (Higham et al., 2015). LCC can be seen as a suitable management method to assess costs and available resources for housing projects, regardless of whether they are new or already exist. LCC looks beyond initial capital investment as it takes future operating and maintenance costs into account (Goh & Sun, 2016). Operating an asset over a 30-year lifespan could cost up to four times as much as the initial design and construction costs (Zanni et al., 2019). The costs associated with energy consumption often represent a large proportion of a building’s life cycle costs. For instance, the cumulative value of utility bills is almost half of the cost of a total building life cycle over a 50-year period in some countries (Ahmad & Thaheem, 2018; Inchauste et al., 2018). Prioritising initial cost reduction when selecting a design alternative, regardless of future costs, may not lead to an economically efficient building in the long run (Rad et al., 2021). LCC is a valuable appraising technique for an existing building to predict and assess "whether a project meets the client's performance requirements" (ISO, 2008). Similarly, during the design stages, LCC analysis can be applied to predict the long-term cost performance of a new building or a refurbishing project (Islam et al., 2015; RICS, 2016). Conducting LCC supports the decision-making in the design development stages has a number of benefits (Kubba, 2010). Decisions on building programme requirements, specifications, and systems can affect up to 80% of its environmental performance and operating costs (Bogenstätter, 2000; Goh & Sun, 2016). The absence of comprehensive information about the building's operational performance may result in uninformed decision-making that impacts its life cycle costs and future performance (Alsaadani & Bleil De Souza, 2018; Zanni et al., 2019). LCC can improve the selection of materials in order to reduce negative environmental impact and positively contribute to resourcing efficiency (Rad et al., 2021; Wouterszoon Jansen et al., 2020), in particular when combined with Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA is concerned with the environmental aspects and impacts and the use of resources throughout a product's life cycle (ISO, 2006). Together, LCC and LCA contribute to adopt more comprehensive decisions to promote the sustainability of buildings (Kim, 2014). Therefore, both are part of the requirements of some green building certificates, such as LEED (Hajare & Elwakil, 2020).     LCC can be used to compare design, material, and/or equipment alternatives to find economically compelling solutions that respond to building performance goals, such as maximising human comfort and enhancing energy efficiency (Karatas & El-Rayes, 2014; Rad et al., 2021). Such solutions may have high initial costs but would decrease recurring future cost obligations by selecting the alternative that maximises net savings (Atmaca, 2016; Kubba, 2010; Zanni et al., 2019). LCC is particularly relevant for decisions on energy efficiency measures investments for both new buildings and building retrofitting. Such investments have been argued to be a dominant factor in lowering a building's life cycle cost (Fantozzi et al., 2019; Kazem et al., 2021). The financial effectiveness of such measures on decreasing energy-related operating costs, can be investigated using LCC analysis to compare air-condition systems, glazing options, etc. (Aktacir et al., 2006; Rad et al., 2021). Thus, LCC can be seen as a risk mitigation strategy for owners and occupants to overcome challenges associated with increasing energy prices (Kubba, 2010). The price of investing in energy-efficient measures increase over time. Therefore, LCC has the potential to significantly contribute to tackling housing affordability issues by not only making design decisions based on the building's initial costs but also its impact on future costs – for example energy bills - that will be paid by occupants (Cambier et al., 2021). The input data for a LCC analysis are useful for stakeholders involved in procurement and tendering processes as well as the long-term management of built assets (Korpi & Ala-Risku, 2008). Depending on the LCC scope, these data are extracted from information on installation, operating and maintenance costs and schedules as well as the life cycle performance and the quantity of materials, components and systems, (Goh & Sun, 2016) These information is then translated into cost data along with each element life expectancy in a typical life cycle cost plan (ISO, 2008). Such a process assists the procurement decisions whether for buildings, materials, or systems and/or hiring contractors and labour, in addition to supporting future decisions when needed (RICS, 2016). All this information can be organised using Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology (Kim, 2014; RICS, 2016). BIM is used to organise and structure building information in a digital model. In some countries, it has become mandatory that any procured project by a public sector be delivered in a BIM model to make informed decisions about that project (Government, 2012). Thus, conducting LCC aligns with the adoption purposes of BIM to facilitate the communication and  transfer of building information and data among various stakeholders (Juan & Hsing, 2017; Marzouk et al., 2018). However, conducting LCC is still challenging and not widely adopted in practice. The reliability and various formats of building related-data are some of the main barriers hindering the adoption of LCCs (Goh & Sun, 2016; Islam et al., 2015; Kehily & Underwood, 2017; Zanni et al., 2019).

Created on 05-12-2022

Author: A.Elghandour (ESR4)


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