Flat-out fast: Race to build 30 new apartments by winter begins quickly w/ prefab modules set in place over three days


Last December more than 60 residences were deemed uninhabitable for the winter due to their exposure to avalanches. Now as the chill of fall sets in workers are racing to build 30 new apartments in just a few months before winter evacuations again make Longyearbyen’s housing crisis even worse.

The project got off to a rapid start this week as 30 pre-fabricated apartments were stacked to form three apartment buildings in Gruvedalen during a three-day time span. The hope is the interior and infrastructure work will be completed by Christmas.


A truck carrying a pre-fabricated apartment is escorted through downtown Longyearbyen this week. Workers spent three days bringing 30 units from a ship to the construction site. Photo by Marion Prudhon / Icepeople.

The new apartments are beneath new snow barriers that have been under construction for months, work on which will continue well into the coming months. Both projects are the result of an assessment that has declared about 150 structures near a mountainside in the center of Longyearbyen are at an unacceptable risk of being hit by landslides – and as a result demolition on them is scheduled to begin next fall.

“It is extraordinary to see that the first modules of housing construction in Gruvedalen are beginning to come in place, in parallel with the fact that avalanche and flood protection is taking shape,” wrote Longyearbyen Mayor Arild Olsen on his Facebook page. “So there is therefore great activity, lots of clever people and much to be happy about in little big Longyearbyen.”


A crane places an apartment unit into place at Gruevedalen this week. Photo by Roger Zahl Ødegård / Longyearbyen Lokalstyre.

The apartments now under construction are the first half of a planned 60 apartments, ranging from three to five rooms, in six buildings are scheduled to be built by 2019. Foundation work started in June after Parliament revised the national budget for the coming year to include 200 million kroner for the project.

Preliminary work included leveling the surface, building an access road, establishing the foundation framework and a district heating connection.

The apartment units arrived on a ship this week and each was transported to the construction site at speeds of less than 20 kilometers an hour with vehicle escorts at the front and rear of the cargo trucks. A crane lifted each unit into place.

More road work, water pipes and other work will be done this fall in addition to interior work on the apartment units.