The earliest origins of Byggnads, and the basis on which it was ultimately set up, lie in the Swedish Woodworkers Union which was formed back in 1889, at a time of catastrophic poverty in Sweden.
60 years later, in 1949, the different Trades Unions representing those employed in woodworking, cement-working, heating and sanitation installation and the construction industry, together with some smaller trades groups, amalgamated into a combined Building and Woodworkers Union. The Bricklayers Union also joined in 1961.
The local unions which building workers formed in the mid-1880s began increasingly to enter into open conflict with employers who refused them decent working and living conditions. In 1889 and during the immediately following years building workers in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg were drawn into conflicts which, irrespective of their outcome, taught them decisive lessons about how to organise themselves into unions.
In 1989 Byggnads celebrated its centenary and its then-President, Bertil Whinberg, wrote the following lines in a publication issued to mark the event:
"No progress has ever come of its own accord. Every improvement in wages, working conditions, influence and social security has been met with determined opposition from people who by virtue of longstanding custom or birth regarded themselves as having a right to more of the good things in life than should be granted to workers."