Preparations are well underway for the first house in Iceland constructed from local timber only. This was reported by RÚV. Icelandic timber has been used for repairs and renovation of older buildings, but never before has a house been constructed from local timber alone: until now, timber houses in Iceland have been constructed from either voluntarily imported or shipwrecked materials.
Measuring 50 square meters, according to plans, the house, or cabin, is intended as a restaurant.
The poplar to be used for the construction comes from Vallanes. Vallanes farmer and forester Eymundur Magnússon says that counter to many people’s prejudices, poplar can be good building material, soft but solid. The timber was cut, dried by the State Forest Service at Hallormsstaður. The Icelandic Innovation Center’s tree technician, Eiríkur Þorsteinsson, then measured the wood for strength, to verify its durability as support material.
According to plans, the house will be fully constructed by next summer.
Backstory: trees vs. sheep
The State Forest Service was founded in 1907. An article on its website, titled “Forestry in a Treeless Land”, and serving somewhat as a mission statement, informs that over a century of forestry has proven that “past land-use and not climate” explains Iceland’s mainly “treeless landscape”.
At the time of the country’s settlement, eleven or so centuries ago, “birch forest and woodland covered 25-40% of Iceland’s land area”, according to the authority. The agrarian settlers then “began by cutting down the forests and burning scrubland to create fields and grazing land”, while sheep grazing prevented regeneration of woods after cutting. Sheep, they claim, have kept woods at bay far more forcefully than the seemingly harsh climate or volcanic activities. Deforestation halted mid-20th century, at the dawn of organised planting efforts. Each year since 1950, seedlings have been planted, ranging from 500,000 to 6 million annually.
Public authorities have committed to the goal of “at least 12% of Iceland be afforested by the year 2100”.