It doesn’t seem like long ago that our trusty team of cabin designers, project managers and timber frame specialists embarked on a cluster of trips to Iceland to discuss, plan and ultimately build our first structures in the “Land of Ice and Fire.” In this blog, we look back on the projects with fond memories of volcanoes, storms, fish flavoured crisps and of course timber frame buildings.
Its mid-October (by the time everything is cleared by engineers, building control and customs) with warnings of the fiercest storm to hit this region for a century (or words to that effect). In other words, we need to get a move on. Kits had made it safely to site, via boat from Grimsby, (sorry, Immingham) via the world’s roughest stretch of water (allegedly), then onwards by road to rural sites within a couple of hours of Reykjavic. All in good shape and we’re pleased to hear that it’s a good time of year to catch a glimpse of the Northern lights.
Tools had been packed within the kits on the boat with the rest checked into the hold of the plane at Manchester airport. The team from England, headed up by Pete and Steve (F&L) and joined by Wayne and Andrew follow on. Slight alarm at the sight of the hotel wrapped in timber scaffolding, unfamiliar to us as its not allowed back in England. Nerves settle when we see more conventional apparatus waiting for us on site the following day (dutifully supplied from Reykjavic at our request). Clients and hosts await, as do Magnus and Bjarni the excellent crane drivers, and Elias with his team of local builders. There’s a horse box for a welfare unit. A truck, a trailer, and sunshine, cold, wind and driving rain in equal measures.
The volcanoes, Eyjafjallajökull and Hekla watch on from a safe distance, the former famously erupting in 2010, and the latter, so they say, keen to get in on the act any day now. “Management” had carried out a “reccy” or two in the previous weeks, bases had been checked and in good order, and everything was as requested. Kits are unloaded and work begins with no dramas.
No sign of the Northern Lights.
Accommodation was perfect throughout. Food was excellent (if you stick to what you know), no takers for the infamous fermented shark. Quavers and Doritos take preference to packets of dried fish snacks but each to their own. Walls are raised and both crane drivers make light work of lifting our large factory insulated roof cassettes into place in challenging conditions.
There are horses, lots of horses. Small, extraordinarily strong and famous around the world apparently. We point out that they do look a bit like ponies, but soon learn that it’s best not to mention that.
Still no sign of the Northern lights. Wandering outside at the dead of night, with a howling wind in freezing conditions is a bit like being on the set of a Scandi Noir crime thriller.
Spectacular drives to work, long days, more freezing temperatures, rain, and sunshine. We have it all. And some drama. The storm approaches causing apprehension amongst the ranks. The first timber frame is up, fixed to the slab, with window openings hastily boarded in as the storm hits. As expected, it is indeed a lively one.
Back in the UK, “Management” lies awake in bed, thinking about the storm and the texts he had received from client number one throughout the day.
“We have a terrible storm coming, it won’t be good. I hope we still have a house.”
Just how bad can it be? We have lots of houses in the Falklands, so wind and storms aren’t a problem but could the Icelandic storms pack a punch that we are unaware of? There had been no contact with the team since 7pm. Not unexpected given the patchy coverage and the location. Had they managed to get everything finished and secured in time? Was everyone OK and safely back in the hotel, tucked up in their beds, fed and watered?
Then finally, a text message. It’s 1am in rural Lincolnshire.
“Storm over. All good!”
The rest of the kits go up without incident ready for the local teams to take over.
Still no Northern Lights.
It was an unexpected, yet successful first test of the British engineering (thanks David), our timber frame and roof cassette system, unfamiliar to most in Iceland, including the local engineers and building inspectors who signed it off. For the first structural kit to receive such a rigorous test from a local storm of that magnitude, in its lightest structural form (by that I mean, no additional loading, no timber cladding, no doors, windows, roof finish etc) must have been reassuring for the clients to see.
Whilst referencing another storm to hit that particular site some decades before, client number one had told me a story of how the previous building had been blown off the face of the earth leaving very little behind. Summing up with…
“…and all that was found of the house…was a spoon!”
A top effort all round and big thanks to all involved, lengthy planning, hard work, tough conditions, but a great experience. Wonderful people, clients who have become friends, local engineers, architects, and contractors all playing their part in making the projects so memorable and successful.
Looking forward to the next one.
Oh yes. “Management” returned a few weeks later to see the completed buildings. And saw the Northern Lights.
If you’d like more information about the cabins we could build for you, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.