An Office Building Doubles as a Power Plant


Anyone seeking concrete evidence of sustainability will inevitably encounter shining examples from Scandinavia. Perhaps it’s the region’s spectacular scenery that encourages the eco friendly mindset. One thing’s for sure, the impact of climate change close to the Arctic is far more noticeable than in many other places.

Powerhouse is a collaborative project of industrial partners from the worlds of research, design and engineering that fosters the development of energy-positive architecture. Built in 2020, the Powerhouse Telemark was the fourth project in the series. Photo: Ivar Kvaal

Norway’s sustainability approach

Norway stands for the natural splendor of the far north and the way it’s actively changing the way it uses resources. The list of its own objectives is long. By 2030, Norway plans to become climate neutral, much earlier than the neighboring EU. In 2019, almost every second car registered was electrically powered. From 2025, no internal combustion vehicles are to be registered and public transport in Oslo aims to be completely emission-free from 2028. In addition to hydropower, the country’s actively growing its wind and solar energy sector and has numerous examples of sustainable architecture and urban planning. One of Norway’s most well known architectural firms is adding to the list. The company devised a concept that’s already turned into a whole series of projects and wants to defined a new building construction standard.


A seminal office building

The purpose of the Powerhouse initiative by Snøhetta’s Oslo-based architects is to continue exploring what’s already feasible today in terms of energy-efficient and resource-friendly buildings. Following the Powerhouse Kjørbo, Powerhouse Montessori and Powerhouse Brattørkaia sister projects, the fourth energy-positive building in Porsgrunn in the region of Telemark has now been completed with project partners R8 Property, Skanska and Asplan Viak. The concept’s objective is to generate more energy than consumed throughout the building’s estimated 60-year lifespan. And this includes the gray energy that the building has already required during construction and through the materials it uses, as well as the energy needed for its subsequent demolition. To achieve this carbon footprint, the building doubles as a power plant.

The building features versatile offices to co-working spaces all the way to a restaurant and a rooftop terrace with a view over the town with its industrial flair. Photo: Ivar Kvaal  

Form follows the solar power gain

Powerhouse Telemark’s exceptional tilt ensures that as much of the roof surface as possible can be used for photovoltaics. Above the first few stories, the east-facing facade tilts 45° outward, significantly increasing the size of the top stories compared with surface area at the bottom. The result is a vast roof that’s at a 23° angle. The PV cells on the roof and the south-east-facing facade generate 256,000 kWh of electricity annually. This translates to about 20 times the energy consumption of an average Norwegian household.


The sustainable architecture mindset

The building construction and interior design mirrored the sustainability remit down to the last detail. To create shade, the north-facing facades are clad with wood slats. Highly insulated walls and triple glazing meet the passive house standard. What’s more, thermal concrete component activation and a water-circulation-based LowEx system with a geothermal well at a depth of 350 meters ensure the building is heated and cooled as required. All these aspects indirectly lead to a low carbon footprint.

The interiors stand apart for their understated, Nordic aesthetic. The office areas offer quiet areas for deep work and ergonomic workspaces flooded with daylight. The IN office chair stimulates movement and is a comfortable place to sit in the workplace. Photo: Ivar Kvaal

A clever low-tech/high-quality mix

The interior is all about lots of natural light, versatile spaces and hard-wearing, regionally sourced and recycled materials. But sustainability equally means planning ahead. Adaptable and reversible solutions are more in demand than ever, particularly given the different working environments that need to be able to change in a (post) pandemic era. Which is why focusing on people is all the more important when designing interiors. And, above all, furniture’s required that encourages a healthy office environment. The IN office chair at the Powerhouse Telemark underscores this definition of sustainability. It supports 3D dynamic sitting and fosters a feeling of well-being in the workplace.

Powerhouse Telemark is one of the most energy-efficient, sustainable and impressive buildings worldwide. Which is why it was vital that we chose a sustainable and attractive interior design concept. Furniture plays a part in our well-being each and every day. We’re delighted that Wilkhahn’s chairs meet the desire for a superior aesthetic and high standard of quality in equal measure

– Elin Tufte Johansen, head of HR at R8 Property

Further information

Click here to read more on the Snøhetta website


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