Test house marks milestone for Arctic construction research project

Tuesday 15 Sep 20


Tove Lading
Associate Professor
DTU Construct
+45 45 25 17 38


Niels-Jørgen Aagaard
Head of Department
DTU Civil Engineering
+45 45 25 18 77

Largest construction research project in Greenland

With a total budget of DKK 23 million, the test house and the ABC project make up the largest construction research project in Greenland to date. The test house has been developed by Vandkunsten Architects and Rambøll with DTU as the client. The project is financially supported by the A.P. Møller Foundation, the Knud Højgaard Foundation, and the Kerrn-Jespersen Foundation. In addition, the Self-Government and municipalities in Greenland have supported the project and DTU has contributed with DKK 6.5 million.

Read more: www.abc-byg.gl

Arctic Building and Construction

The opening of DTU’s test house in Nuuk marks a milestone in the largest Danish construction research project in the Arctic

Last week, DTU opened a test house on a high cliff top in Nuuk, Greenland. The construction of the test house is an important part of the research project Arctic Building and Construction (ABC), which over the next two years will collect data from the house and take measurements on the building envelope.

"The test house and the ABC project will give us knowledge of the best way to design building in Arctic conditions."
Project manager and Associate Professor Tove Lading, DTU

The DTU researchers will also gather data from a test pavilion next to the test house. The test pavilion has six different outer wall structures, and the researchers are studying how robust they are in different weather conditions. In addition, the researchers will collect data from 12-15 other new residential buildings in Greenland.

“The test house and the ABC project will give us knowledge of the best way to design building in Arctic conditions. It’s not just about how we construct the buildings, but also about the process, logistics, how to build a good town in Arctic conditions, and what the residents think about living in the different conditions,” says Tove Lading, Project Manager and Associate Professor at DTU Civil Engineering.

The test house

The test house has an outer layer of polycarbonate that protects against wind and rain, but allows light to penetrate. Under the polycarbonate are internal, heat-insulated walls that protect the inside living space. The outer envelope also extends across two intermediate zones between outside and inside. These spaces are unheated and naturally temperate spaces that can be used as a conservatory or utility room.


Over the two-year test period, the same measurements will be carried out on the test house as on the other buildings in the ABC project. Moisture and temperature are measured at five places in the building envelope: the outside and inside of the wind barrier, the outside and inside of the moisture barrier, and the inside of the interior walls.


Data from a number of new buildings

The measurements are sent online from the individual houses to DTU in Denmark, where the researchers collect and analyse the data. The first sensors were installed in 2018, and DTU expects to receive data from all the buildings by the end of 2020. The measurement project will be followed up by interviews with residents, and their experiences will be part of the overall assessment of the quality and durability of the different structures.


Three construction strategies

In Greenland, there is no consensus on how best to build in Arctic conditions. In the ABC project, the researchers will therefore look, among other things, at whether the large amounts of data can be included in an assessment of three characteristic strategies in the Greenlandic construction industry. The three strategies are:


  • Construction with inorganic materials: To avoid mould and thus achieve longer durability and minimal maintenance.
  • Traditional building methods: If contractors and craftsmen build in the way they are used to, and stick to the familiar working methods of constructing transverse partitions and decks in concrete cast on site and with light facades, it will reduce the amount of faults. Faults are the big risk factor.
  • Alternative strategies: Several, mainly private companies, offer new construction techniques including solid wood construction in cross-laminated timber, or CLT. DTU’s test house in Nuuk is also a proposal for a new construction technique.


The researchers behind the ABC project also collect data on sustainability in Greenland. Sustainability assessments always depend on where the building is built. Sustainable construction in Greenland is not necessarily the same as in Denmark or other countries. Among other things, the transport of building materials, energy consumption, and waste disposal weigh much more heavily in the assessment in Greenland, which has few local building materials.


In order to assess the new buildings’ sustainability, the researchers have prepared a lifecycle assessment (LCA) of the three construction strategies, and have also assessed the sustainability of renovating the new builds.  


Other sub-projects in the ABC project focus on process and finances, on how to build a good Arctic town, as well as conditions such as snow, ice and wind around buildings and in urban spaces.

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