Timber is big in Sweden. More than two-thirds of the sparsely-populated country is forest land – which equates to just under one per cent of the world’s commercial forest areas, though it provides ten per cent of the global market for sawn timber, pulp and paper. It also employs some 60,000 directly and a further 200,000 indirectly. And over the past century, these forests have doubled in size.
Biofuel, burning trees for energy, makes up a third of Sweden’s carbon emissions, according to the Bank of Norrland. It’s an extremely inefficient energy resource (more so than burning fossil fuels), which some argue re-releases the carbon the trees absorb from the soil into the atmosphere. There’s also evidence to show that cultivated forests harm the biodiversity of native land in the long term. In essence, they’re arguing that a carbon debt, over time, is accrued from forestry.
As a countermeasure, the Bank of Norrland is a conceptual storage facility designed by Anders Berensson Architects to keep one of Sweden’s biggest exports afloat – and carbon emissions in check – while the country reimagines what it means to be green.
The fictional bank is for an exhibition at a Swedish art museum, Bildmuseet, and is designed to hold a cubic kilometre of Sweden’s timber or an entire year of the country’s timber production. It would not only be the world’s largest timber facility, but also the world’s largest carbon dioxide storage facility.
Essentially, the Bank of Norrland will buy some time for smallholder timber farmers and larger corporations as the country rethinks its sustainability goals. In the meantime, the timber that’s already been felled will stay safe in storage, pausing Sweden’s carbon emission contributions to the planet.
The exhibit will be displayed until March 2022 and comes in the wake of international criticism, particularly among other European Union members, regarding the long-term sustainability of forestry.
Though not a reality at the moment, it is a sign that fighting climate change requires a radical change in the way things are done. Even countries that are considered among the most sustainable in the world have room to improve, let alone the rest of us, if we want to continue thriving on this green-and-blue planet.
For more on the Bank of Norrland by Anders Berensson Architects visit their website.