The Ice Box Challenge in Oslo: Reclaimed barn timber elements for cladding


Icebox 2024 04 29 def
Visualization by A2M

About the Ice Box Challenge

  • The Ice Box Challenge is a Demonstration with and steered by DRASTIC Partner Produktif and with SirkTRE partners Ly Hytta and Hunton.
  • In this demo, A2M and Outline Arkitektur are the architects; they are known as early adopters of such regenerative design principles.
  • Please visit the official website where you can learn more about the challenge and also make a bet how much ice will be left after a month: The Challenge – Icebox Challenge 2024 – Norway, Oslo
  • Ice Box Challenge Oslo Facebook page


Harvesting from empty barns instead of forests

Omtre is not harvesting timber from virgin forests... but from existing buildings. Woodwide, there are many underused buildings that cannot serve society anymore. Instead of letting these buildings and the materials deteriorate or incinerate, Omtre develops solutions to find a new life for the materials. Harvesting timber from empty barns instead of fresh forest resources is a significant step towards more sustainable and circular building practices. This method prioritizes the reuse of existing materials, demonstrating a commitment to environmental stewardship and resource efficiency.

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Materials with stories

However, there can be tensions with cultural heritage. In Norway, the barns are an essential part of the Norwegian rural landscape, where there is a strong sense of local identity and belonging. Omtre addresses the delicate balance between sustainability and cultural heritage by meticulously archiving the metadata and history of reclaimed barn timber elements. This practice ensures that while the physical structures may be repurposed, their stories and significance are not lost. By documenting details such as the age, origin, and previous uses of the timber, Omtre preserves the cultural narrative embedded in these materials. Additionally, having a co-worker with experience in cultural heritage preservation on our team reinforces our commitment to respectful and informed use of reclaimed materials. This co-worker helps guide the process, ensuring that each project not only contributes to sustainability but also respects and honors the historical and cultural contexts of the materials used.


The history of the donation barn

  • Fjeld Ostre Norske gardsbruk

    Fjeld barn

    The farm called Fjeld in Røyse, near the city Hønefoss, was a medium sized farm in the area, with around 10 hectares of land and with 2 horses, 5 cows and 1 young, 3 pigs and 50 hens in 1948. According to the sources, the barn on the farm was built in 1898.

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    The one-unit-barn

    The barn is a “one-unit-barn", a typically Norwegian barn with all functions gathered under one roof. Like rooms for the different animals, a hay-barn and other rooms needed when running a farm. Around 1850, farming in Norway was revolutionized, and they started to work in a different way with other equipment. When this happened, they also started to build the barns in different ways – to meet the new life.

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    Traditional craftsmanship

    Traditionally, the new barn was painted red – with a color the farmers could make on their own paint from flour, water, iron vitriol and color from an earth-pigment. The cladding from the barn for the Icebox-challenge is most likely painted with this type of paint originally. The barn was built with spruce, and when they built the construction for the barn, they used axes as tools. The cladding is mostly sawn, you can see the traces from the saw-mill-blade on the back of the cladding.

What is class III in Produktif’s system and design and how does it contribute to circularity?

Based on the details provided about Produktif's Design for Assembly and Disassembly (DFAD) construction system, materials classified under Class III such as surfaces (hard, soft, vegetation, BIPV, multimedia) play a crucial role in the sustainable and modular architecture of temporary and commercial buildings.

Planning the Icebox challenge, with Omtre’s timber, photography by Wendy

Class III materials are particularly suitable for cladding because they encompass a range of surfaces that are integral to the building's aesthetics, functional performance, and energy efficiency. For instance, the inclusion of BIPV (Building Integrated Photovoltaic) surfaces aligns with sustainable design principles by generating electricity directly from the building's envelope, reducing reliance on external energy sources and decreasing operational carbon emissions.

Hard surfaces in Class III are likely engineered for durability and ease of maintenance, making them ideal for frequent assembly and disassembly, which is a cornerstone of the DFAD system. This aligns with the need for materials that can withstand the wear and tear of repeated use without compromising structural integrity or visual appeal.

Photography by Francisco Tienda
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Barn cladding used in the Ice Box Challange, Photography by Produktif

Soft surfaces and multimedia elements offer additional flexibility in use and design, enabling quick adaptation to various functional needs and aesthetic preferences, which is critical in dynamic commercial environments. Vegetation surfaces also contribute to sustainability, improving air quality and providing thermal insulation, further enhancing the building’s environmental performance.

Overall, the use of these materials in cladding under Class III in Produktif's system supports not only the architectural versatility and adaptability required in temporary and commercial structures but also promotes a more sustainable, energy-efficient construction approach. This makes them particularly advantageous in the context of modern, modular building practices where sustainability and ease of use are paramount.

Why should you use Omtre’s reclaimed barn timber for cladding ? Why is our reclaimed barn timber great for Produktif’s class III ?

Old barn timber has this timeless charm and robust performance. Sourced from abandoned barns, this material not only offers an eco-friendly solution but also adds a distinct character to any space, blending history with modern design. We list the reasons for you:

1. Aesthetic Appeal: Each piece of reclaimed barn timber brings its unique history, showcasing rich textures and deep colors formed over years of exposure to natural elements. This rustic charm is perfect for creating inviting spaces that stand out with an authentic, artisanal touch.

2. Durability and Versatility: Proven to stand the test of time, reclaimed barn timber is not only durable but also versatile. It can be adapted for various surface applications in temporary and commercial buildings, from sophisticated facades to stylish interiors, ensuring your structures are both beautiful and built to last.

3. Easy Integration: Ideal for Produktif’s DFAD system, reclaimed barn timber allows for easy assembly and disassembly, aligning with the demands of modular construction and frequent redesigns. This adaptability makes it a smart choice for dynamic environments where change is constant.

4. Eco-Friendly Choice: Embrace sustainability with reclaimed barn timber, a resource that reduces waste and the need for new raw materials. By reusing wood, we decrease deforestation and carbon emissions, making your project a paragon of environmental stewardship.

When you choose reclaimed barn timber for your Class III surfaces, you invest in material that offers sustainability, beauty, and functionality. Elevate your next project with a material that has a story as rich as its appearance. Contact for more information and prices.

Francisco at work
Photograph by Wendy Wuyts

This blog is connected with projects SirkTRE (worck package: SirkLåve) and DRASTIC. In SirkLåve, Omtre investigates new purposes for reclaimed barn timber elements. In DRASTIC, we will work with Produktif’s system and reuse reclaimed barn timber to make a shed by early 2026. However, in Drastic, we will not supply reclaimed timber elements for class III, but for class I (structural application).