On the outskirts of the small Scanian village of Genarp, at Kontoristgatan 10, is Ottosson Färgmakeri’s factory with its shop. It was built with the environment as its focus, long before concepts such as sustainability and ecology had gained ground in Sweden and the rest of the world.

With its green roof of sedum plants and emphasis on recycled materials, it is unique. The building is insulated with flax wool, and a large part of the façade consists of hand-made bricks from 1852. The bricks were salvaged in Esarp just west of Genarp, from a manor building that was destroyed in a storm. We managed to buy 11,000 handmade bricks. The factory is in principle self-sufficient in electricity from solar and wind power and is heated with geothermal heat. With large skylights to the north, we have natural light that is comfortable to work in. The interior and exterior wood paneling and plaster surfaces are painted with linseed oil paint, of course. For us, it has been important to create a beautiful, sustainable and creative factory environment.

Our store is adjacent to the factory and combines showroom and sales. Here, you can shop and get painting inspiration, tips and advice from our staff.

Read about a unique industrial building in Sweden

The factory in Genarp has been expanded in stages as business has grown, but the first factory building was completed in 2001 in the industrial area outside the village. As the first industrial building in Sweden, we chose a “green roof” with sedum plants from Veg Tech in Vislanda. We were attracted by the idea of having a roof that changed color according to the season, and of course that fits particularly well in a paint factory. In spring, the goldmoss stonecrop flowers bloom, and in the fall, the roof acquires a beautiful brown-violet tone. The plants absorb half of the rainfall, so we need only a few gutters.

We have insulated the walls with flax. We got the idea from a man in Denmark who had insulated his house with so-called “shives” – made from the woody by-products of flax preparation. This solution is proven to be sustainable, efficient and inexpensive. The cost of insulating the entire factory in 2001 amounted to just USD 800. We were very pleased, not least that a newly built linseed oil paint factory in Genarp could be insulated with flax from a small factory in Herning in Denmark’s Jutland region.

Five years after the first construction, we had outgrown the facility. We hired new employees, bought new machines and our warehouse shelves were overcrowded! Our major expansion in 2007 lasted an entire year. The extension was 6,200 square feet, which gave us a total factory area of 8,900 square feet with an external building height of 18.86 feet. This time we used prefabricated, insulated wall elements, but to maintain the character of craftsmanship, we ordered the elements with a brushed facade exterior side and a smooth interior side. The craftsmanship was the brushed facade, produced with the same method used since the 1960s. The beautiful structure was created by brushing semi-dry concrete with large piassava brooms.

The large wall elements (18.37 x 10.17 feet) were manufactured sequentially and transported in shuttle traffic between Hässleholm and Genarp for three days in a row. The wall elements were lifted with a large construction crane, placed in concrete frames and fixed with wooden wedges. When all the wall elements were in place, they formed a natural mold for casting the concrete floors. The roof trusses were made of wood and the roof was insulated with flax wool mats from Finland. The extension roof was made of corrugated fiber cement boards known as Cembrit, in natural and environmentally friendly raw materials without asbestos.

We still had some of the recycled Esarp bricks from the first factory construction. We used them to build a new entrance, a new office and larger staff rooms. The plant-based green roof was also laid on these new parts, thus creating a smooth transition between the first factory building and the new extension.

We chose to build our large production hall (1,800 square feet) based on the idea of a large artist’s studio. The space was designed to take in daylight from two rows of windows that dominate the long, north-facing wall. The view towards the small village of Gödelöv is fantastic.

We were able to move our large linseed oil tank, which had been outdoors for seven years, to the new, 1,600-square-foot warehouse for raw materials – also built in 2007. The story of the oil tank characterizes our way of thinking when it comes to re-use and economy, and how we have often had support and help from our network in Genarp. Our contact Rune Larsson, who also helped transport the flax wool insulation from Denmark to Genarp in 2001, knew of a 700-cubic-foot tank – an ideal size for us – that was available at a great price. We said yes, and in 2002, Rune picked up the tank and put it on our lot. The tank was sandblasted clean and painted twice with our linseed oil-based, anti-corrosion paint iron minium, and placed outdoors near the facade. It stood there until the new extension was completed, when it could be lifted into its new permanent home.

Our ambition has always been to be able to become self-sufficient for our heating and electricity. In 2009, we installed a wind turbine on the site. In 2012, we began to investigate installation of more near-surface geothermal heating, because the existing system was no longer sufficient. We did not have access to open land because we had buildings on most of the site, but with help from Lund Municipality and Skånska Energi, we were allowed to design and build a 1.8-mile geothermal heating loop underneath the arable land north of the factory. Lund Municipality was positive to the idea because no structures are to be built on the arable land in the future, and we are grateful for that. The near-surface geothermal heating system, with its loop and heat exchanger, was built in 2013. By 2018 the system had paid for itself.

In 2013, we also installed a solar panel system on the large Cembrit roof that faces south. The system consisted of 81 solar panel modules. In 2017, in connection with our next expansion, we ordered a new solar panel system. It was slightly smaller, but with an improved efficiency of 15%!

In 2017, it was time to expand again, with a new building for the packaging and distribution department. Our business was growing rapidly, and more retailers, increased exports and our webshop meant lots of shipments every day. We needed a large, open packing facility close to our finished-goods warehouse. For this, we built a wooden structure that connects nicely to the warehouse building from 2001. The south roof was covered with solar panels and the north roof with sedum plants. Inside, we set up raw wood paneling painted with linseed oil paint, and the walls were insulated with flax fiber. By this point, we knew quite a bit about smart building!

Our factory, including all its extensions, has been designed and planned by one and the same architectural firm and our friend Lars-Ingvar Larsson, at ArkitektBolaget Dalquist-Larsson. Regarding the work with the factory in Genarp, Lars-Ingvar Larsson says:

– The use of natural materials and a feeling of handcrafted premises with good daylight and acoustics were central points when I started sketching the factory building, as was the silent natural ventilation. However, combining these materials and solutions in a building in a new and exciting way required open and creative dialogue with the client and the builder. So, in retrospect, I can say that Ottosson is the best customer I have had, thanks to open communication and the ability to overcome challenges as they arose. We must also remember the builder, Christer Olofsson; it was a genuine pleasure to work with him. I must also mention the importance of the designer Göran Persson. He had solid experience and knowledge of older architecture and provided expertise when I wanted to use traditional building details and structures.

From: “A book about Linseed Oil Paint, Love and Genarp”, hopefully soon in English.