By Søren Ditlev Monrad

The smell of wood slices through the loud hammering and carving noises in the huge production hall, only a stone’s throw from the Faroese town of Hvalvík. Walls, roofs and much more are manufactured here so that they are ready to assemble into finished houses that will eventually be able to endure lashings of Faroese rain, wind and sleet.

Managing Director Helgi Olsen sits in his office above the production hall. This is where he oversees the running of his company, Norðsetur, and keeps track of the 20 employees who work here. Once a week, a bookkeeper comes in to help out but he takes care of all other administrative tasks himself.

The Managing Director gets to his feet in the middle of our conversation. He wanders into the adjacent room and comes back with tangible proof that things are going well for Norðsetur – a thick, brown order book, full of contracts for houses.

“We have so much to do that our order book is full for the next six months or more,” Norðsetur’s Managing Director, Helgi Olsen, explains, and he leafs through the huge book, pointing out orders for houses in locations such as Tórshavn and Klaksvík.

“We have no loans, and everything's paid off,” says Helgi Olsen, short and to the point.

Norðsetur has manufactured wooden element housing since 1981. This is when Helgi Olsen founded the company in his father’s joiner’s shop. Within the space of a couple of years, the elements for the houses had become so large that they could no longer be lifted by hand. In 1983, production moved to the outskirts of the town of Hvalvík – approximately 40 kilometres from Tórshavn – where there was room for a factory with machines and cranes. And Norðsetur is still on the same premises in 2017.

Norðsetur can put up a house in less than a day. Elements are delivered in the morning and the house is erected using cranes. In the evening, Norðsetur’s staff drive home, leaving behind them, for example, a 160-square-metre single-family house, completed from floor to roof.

“Before we started manufacturing houses, lots of foreign houses were built on the Faroes. Today, we can count the number of houses coming from abroad on one hand,” says Helgi Olsen. In his opinion, there is a clear benefit to manufacturing the houses locally, where knowledge of local conditions is greatest:

“It rains a lot and it's always very windy in the Faroes. You really need to take this into consideration. It’s nothing like, for example, Denmark. It damned well rains upwards in the Faroes, and the wind whistles up under the eaves. In Denmark, it’s usual to install lots of ventilation under the eaves, but in the Faroes it’s important for them to be as windproof as possible. Otherwise, water will get in. It has to be done properly, and we know how to do this best.”

Helgi Olsen believes that local production on Greenland will also be a success.

“I always believed that my company would do well. If the project in Greenland has the right people, I’m sure it’ll be fine. It should be possible to have the same production in Greenland. It requires good managers who understand money and how to compete.”