Briefs from Svalbardposten for the week of Jan. 15, 2019


Owner still hoping for alternative heating in new building despite city mandate
A new office/warehouse building in the seaside area of Longyearbyen that hoped to implement an alternative environmentally friendly heating is being told it must still hook up to the city’s central heating system at a cost of 150,000 kroner – but the owners said they still plan to follow through on their intentions.Svalbard Bygg began construction on the building next to Longyearbyen Fire Station three years ago, and the orignal concept of a modular building of steel and concrete evolved into one characterized by wood and other ideas. The company hopes to begin using the building this spring, but its alternative energy efforts are a struggle so far. “We applied for Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund for money for solar panels on the roof,” said Trond Håvelsrud, the company’s owner. “We received a grant of 40,000 kroner. The cost is 300,000, so that was enough for us to lose it.” Håvelsrud said a fireplace to burn waste materials to help offset heating costs is being built, and the company is applying for more grants to help fund the stove and solar projects.

Three years after losing apartments, Gamle Sykehuset lawsuit goes to trial
A lawsuit by brothers Sam and Avaz Ziaei, who were hastily forced to abandon and lost their three million investment in four apartments at Gamle Sykehuset, against former owner Roy Albrigtsen for allegedly failing to disclose the building was structurally unsafe went to trial in Tromsø last week. A multitude of issues involving multiple entities are being rehashed during the three-day trial, including documents Norway’s Labor Inspection Authority and other government entities dating back to 1991 indicating the building was unsafe, evidence Store Norske as the building owner had similar knowledge when it sold the building to be used as apartments during the 1990s, and what actions former owner Geir Arne Olsen may have taken – including possibly removing a cooling system under the building that might have prevented the damage from thawing permafrost that subsequently occurred. A total of about 30 residents were forced out of 16 apartments in February of 2016 when a consulting report indicated cracks and other defects throughout the building meant it could collapse at any time. While the trial doesn’t directly affect others owning apartments, it and a second legal dispute scheduled to be heard this month could impact ongoing discussions about the owners’ losses and their responsibility for the future of the building since it may need to be demolished or otherwise made inaccessible for safety reasons.

Folk high school struggling to find safe location to open
A new folk high school scheduled to open this fall in Longyearbyen is still trying to find a suitable location, although difficulties are being encountered because some proposed buildings are in locations considered exposed to avalanches. Among the locations, for example, is the now-closed kindergarten near Svalbard Church, but city officials after consulting with The Governor of Svalbard stated the school would have to pay for any necessary infrastructure to protect the site from avalanches and landslides. The school has received an initial allocation of seven million kroner, making any such upgrades unlikely ot be affordable. A similar edict was mandated when the school inquired about using a building on Vei 222, where several apartment buildings are now empty much of the year due to avalanche risk. Headmaster Espen Klungseth Rotevatn said among the temporary facilities now being considered is space in the building in Nybyen where Coal Miners Cabins is located – although Nybyen also has been subject to evacuation orders during major storms in recent years.