Back to Case Studies

Dalarnas Villa - Built Research Project Investigating Sustainability

Created on 04-06-2022 | Updated on 08-06-2022

Dalarnas Villa is a built education project of a wooden two-story single-family house in Sweden. Reducing the negative impact on the climate and fostering a healthy indoor environment for the household were among the key pillars of designing and constructing this house to be utilized as an investigative case study by researchers at the Swedish Dalarna University in collaboration with local suppliers. Thus, in the journey of investigating sustainable and cost-effective solutions, this house is built using eco-based materials and is provided with smart energy systems aiming to have a positive impact on the outdoor environment – by reducing CO2 emissions and promoting energy savings – and the indoor environment – by enhancing air quality and ventilation. Thus, the project received The Nordic Swan Ecolabel.

The initiating story behind this project was the increasing number of complaints and insurance cases and in particular concerning moisture and water problems. Therefore, the Swedish insurance company Dalarnas Försäkringsbolag financed the project and collaborated with Dalarna University to investigate sustainable solutions to prevent fire and water damage in houses. Moreover, the project aimed to economically, environmentally, and socially investigate these solutions to involve the main three aspects of sustainability.

The main purpose of presenting this research project as part of RE-DWELL case study library is to understand an example of sustainable housing life cycle costs. The life cycle costs of this house were originally calculated and published as part of Petrović et al. (2021) research analyzing Dalarnas Villa as a case study using their proposed framework that combines life cycle assessment (LCA) – which is an environmentally-focused analysis – and life cycle costing (LCC) – which is an economically-focused analysis. This project design and construction resulted in reduced running costs for occupants, however, the investment costs were high. Understanding why this rise in initial costs would inspire the search for alternatives to encourage sustainable solutions in the context of affordable housing provision. Exploring long-term sustainable solutions with a positive impact on the climate and the household, while keeping their initial costs feasible for housing stakeholders, is penetrated in three RE-DWELL projects ESR1, ESR4, and ESR14.

Architect(s)
Dalarna University

Location
Dalarna region, Sweden

Project (year)
2017

Construction (year)
2019

Housing type
single-family housing

Urban context
-

Construction system
wooden system

Selected option
Built

Reference documents

Icon document

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

View

Description

The Dallarnas Villa has been designed by students from Dalarna University and constructed by high school students under the supervision of local entrepreneurs. This project aimed to provide an artifact for the AEC industry and local authorities to reveal practical approaches to supporting energy efficiency, and enhancing safety from fire, housebreaking, and water-related damages with the least environmental impacts. The house was built in 2019 and will be rented out to a Swedish family where researchers would be allowed to further investigate correlations between the indoor environment and energy use. The project received The Nordic Swan Ecolabel license (Holén, 2019). This license is given after passing a tough list of requirements to prove that the materials are chosen for a certain product – in this case, the Dalarnas Villa project – have a less environmental impact than other similar products, thus providing better choices to support the environment ("History of Nordic Swan Ecolabel", 2022).

 

Investigating the use of sustainable materials and smart energy systems to reduce negative environmental impacts and find cost-effective solutions was the main purpose of constructing Dalarnas Villa (Petrović et al., 2021). For the materials used in this project, Table 1 in the pdf attached, summarises the different house components along with their materials, adapted from (Magnusson, 2020; Petrović et al., 2021). It can be seen that the structure system is based entirely on wood as a sustainable material in Sweden. In addition, wood panels have been utilized for the façade.

For the smart energy systems, the following systems have been 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 for testing to search for cost-effective solutions that would improve indoor air quality and provide energy savings. In addition, the house has a water control system with a switch that detects, alerts, and shuts off the water supply in the following cases: if there is a leak; if there are no occupants in the house, and/or in case of potential risk or damage due to water freezing.

 

Petrović et al. (2021) carried out LCC analysis in their study using One Click LCA software. The analysis of this built house has been conducted using several economic parameters. In this article, we will present the study’s LCC results for the following economic parameters:

  • The House Life Span: 100 years
  • Inflation Rate: 2%
  • Discount Rate: 5%
  • Energy prices Escalation Range: 2-6%

 

The LCC analysis included costs over the lifetime of the house, from pre-construction to the end-of-life stage following the lifetime structure of EN 16627 standard. The LCC for this house shows that investment-related costs present the highest percentage occupying around 70% of the total life cycle costs. Within these investment-related costs, labor made up half of the costs in this life cycle stage, followed by building materials, installations, and other pre-construction costs. This reflects the ongoing issue of labor 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). In addition, this high percentage emphasizes the crucial potential of the industrialized construction sector to reduce construction labor (Qi et al., 2021).  

The overall costs occurred in the usage stage count for approximately 23%. Within this stage, maintenance costs are the highest, followed by replacement costs. After 50 years, both maintenance and operational costs are notably increasing, but the operational energy and water costs are slowly increasing. To understand the effectiveness of utilizing solar PV panels system on the operational energy costs, Petrović et al. (2021) conducted LCC with and without the PV system. The results showed that without these panels, the operational energy use costs would almost get doubled over the 100 years lifespan. In addition, energy would have to be purchased from the grid. The only value that is decreasing over the 100-year life span was the end-of-life costs which counted for 7%, as the study assumed it would be demolished. In case this house was designed for disassembly, end-of-life costs would rise, but the solution would be more sustainable from the initial costs, resource efficiency, and environmental impact perspective (Petrović et al., 2021).

 

With regards to the environmental impact and energy used in materials production, this house included some successful and unsuccessful sustainable materials. The sustainable materials contributing to a reduction in CO2 and GHG emissions are:

  1. The wood-based materials are environmentally friendly due to a lower-embodied fossil carbon and less energy is needed to produce them.  
  2. The cellulose insulation where the CO2 emissions resulting from its manufacturing are significantly lower compared to the common insulations made of glass or stone wool.

However, the price of cellulose insulation as an ecological material is approximately twice as much as insulating alternatives. From an affordable housing perspective, this might not be an economically friendly option.

Unsustainable materials might be economically better for construction but have negative environmental impacts. For instance, some of the un-environmentally friendly materials used in Dalarnas Villa is the non-wood materials such as concrete. The high energy demand to manufacture cement for concrete results in high greenhouse gas emissions. The production of glass and steel materials harms the environment as well but less than concrete.

For the environmental performance with regards to the embodied emissions in manufacturing the smart energy systems used in Dalarnas Villa, the ground heat pump proved to be a better solution than PV panels. The production process of the heat pump generates lower levels of embodied carbon. On the contrary, the PV panels have higher production costs and contain metals that rely on intensive energy to be produced. Over the 100 years of this house life span, (Bojana Petrović, 2021) suggested that the use of a heat pump and a ventilation system with replacement rates of 20 and 50 years respectively, would have a substantial contribution to the reduction of carbon emissions.  

Alignment with project research areas

The purpose of this case as a research project was to construct it using eco-based building materials and smart energy systems to investigate the reduction of climate impact in a long run and deliver cost-effective solutions. When constructing a house with a sustainability intention in Sweden, several case studies (Sterner, 2002; Berggren et al., 2018) indicated the same economic conclusion. The investment costs (for this type of housing are found to have the highest costs over its lifetime while running costs and end-of-life costs are very low. This project presented an example of the conflict that used to happen between environmental and economic goals for constructing a sustainable house in a cold climate like Sweden. For instance, cellulose insulation as an organic material was used as it has the lowest environmental impact compared to glass wool and stone wool. However, it costs as twice much as other insulation materials.

Thus, this case study would benefit the RE-DWELL research area of design, planning, and building, in particular the research projects that involve studying LCC, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), housing sustainability, and retrofitting (Figure 5). It also raises some questions about: How to calculate this house's affordability? what lessons can be learned from the construction of this case study to support housing affordability and sustainability? How to communicate and encourage higher initial investments that would cause reduced running costs in the future?

Alignment with SDGs

The uniqueness of this case extends beyond its architectural innovation and construction systems; although this case is a singly house, it demonstrates a considerable alignment with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at several levels (Figure 6). The first among the four of its alignments is the significant consideration of occupants' health and well-being (SDG 3), demonstrated through the use of user-friendly materials and the integration of the surrounding natural environment into the design atmosphere maximizing the indoor quality, this supported by up to date technologies and systems. The second area of alignment is the affordable and clean energy (SDG7), not only the cutting edge construction materials but the use of natural-friendly renewable sources of energy such as Photovoltaic cells and energy control systems. While at the same time, the role played by the communities and local educational institutions aligns with encouraging sustainable cities and communities (SDG11), paving the way for future projects and setting an example for 'good' practices. Like every similar project that considers sustainability practices, this case was planned, designed, and constructed with the highest consideration for climate emergency, from construction material to operating systems; the aim was to reduce carbon emissions and increase the performance of energy efficiency making the case in great alignment with (SDG 13) climate action goal of the SDGs.

References

Resources for the case study summary

Berggren, B. et al. (2018) ‘LCC analysis of a Swedish Net Zero Energy Building - including Co-benefits’, in Proceedings of the International Sustainable Energy Conference. Graz, Austria, pp. 343–350. doi: 10.32638/proceedings.isec2018.201853.

Bojana Petrović (2021) Life cycle assessment and life cycle cost analysis of a single-family house.

Eurostat (2021) Construction producer price and construction cost indices overview. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=Construction_producer_price_and_construction_cost_indices_overview (Accessed: 4 June 2022).

Holén, E. (2019) The Pihlblad family moves into a research villa. Available at: https://www.svanen.se/en/news/2019/juni/the-pihlblad-family-moves-into-a-research-villa/.

Magnusson, B. (2020) Dalarna’s Villa Offers Useful Lessons, Effect4buildings. Available at: https://www.effect4buildings.se/dalarnas-villa-offers-useful-lessons/ (Accessed: 14 March 2022).

Petrović, B. et al. (2021) ‘Life cycle cost analysis of a single-family house in Sweden’, Buildings, 11(5). doi: 10.3390/buildings11050215.

Qi, B. et al. (2021) ‘A systematic review of emerging technologies in industrialized construction’, Journal of Building Engineering, 39(October 2020), p. 102265. doi: 10.1016/j.jobe.2021.102265.

Sterner, E. (2002) Green procurement of buildings: estimation of environmental impact and life-cycle cost. Luleå University of Technology.

History of Nordic Swan Ecolabel. (2022). Retrieved 4 June 2022, from https://www.svanen.se/en/tasks-of-nordic-swan-ecolabel/history-of-nordic-swan-ecolabel/

 

More Resources featuring Dalarnas Villa

Article https://www.du.se/en/about-du/news-and-events/news/opening/

Article  https://www.effect4buildings.se/dalarnas-villa-offers-useful-lessons/

Article https://www.svanen.se/en/news/2019/juni/the-pihlblad-family-moves-into-a-research-villa/

Article of the technical solutions used in the Dalarnas Villa

https://issuu.com/vidzemesplanosanasregions/docs/newsletter_2020_-_effective_tools_and_instruments_/s/11324985

Article on Dalarnas Villa as a case study for investigating heating load and thermal comfort

https://beyond2020.se/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/POSTER-38.pdf  

Article on The Nordic Swan Ecolabel 

https://www.svanen.se/en/tasks-of-nordic-swan-ecolabel/history-of-nordic-swan-ecolabel/

 

Videos

https://www.renson.eu/gd-gb/news/dalarnas-villa-is-a-project-of-dalarna-university-in-sweden 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtrE4P9SO0A

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6g8SFIVAYIk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4r19_FlPV4

 

 

 

Related vocabulary

No entries

Blogposts

No entries