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World's northernmost energy-positive building unveiled

Powerhouse Brattørkaia aims to set a new standard for the construction of buildings by producing more energy than it consumes over its lifespan

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The energy-positive Powerhouse Brattørkaia, located by Trondheim Harbour. Copyright: Ivar Kvaal
The energy-positive Powerhouse Brattørkaia, located by Trondheim Harbour. Copyright: Ivar Kvaal

The world’s northernmost energy-positive building has been unveiled in the Norwegian city of Trondheim.

 

Powerhouse Brattørkaia, which is situated by the harbour and connects to Trondheim Central Station via a pedestrian bridge on the rear end of the building, aims to set a new standard for the construction of the buildings by producing more energy than it consumes over its lifespan, including construction and demolition.

 

Unique opportunity

 

Located 63 degrees north of the Earth’s equator, where sunlight varies greatly between the seasons, the office building presents a unique opportunity to explore how to harvest and store solar energy under challenging conditions.

 

The waterfront façade is the slimmest face of the building, allowing the project to be read at a similar scale with its neighbours. Clad with black aluminum and solar panels, the façade is reflected in the adjacent Trondheim Fjord.

 

“Energy-positive buildings are the buildings of the future. The mantra of the design industry should not be ‘form follows function’ but ‘form follows environment’,” said Snøhetta founder Kjetil Trædal Thorsen of design and architecture firm Snøhetta.

 

“This means that the design thinking of today should focus on environmental considerations and reducing our footprint first, and have the design follow this premise.”

 

On average, Powerhouse Brattørkaia produces more than twice as much electricity as it consumes daily, and will supply renewable energy to itself, its neighbouring buildings, electric buses, cars and boats through a local micro grid.

 

The aim of the project is threefold; to maximise the amount of clean energy produced by the building, to minimise the energy required to run it, and to serve as a pleasant space for its tenants and the general public.

 

The building’s site has been carefully chosen to ensure maximum exposure to the sun throughout the day and seasons. Its skewed, pentagonal roof and the upper part of the façade is clad with almost 3,000 square metres of solar panels, strategically placed to harvest as much solar energy as possible.

“Energy-positive buildings are the buildings of the future. The mantra of the design industry should not be ‘form follows function’ but ‘form follows environment”

Over a year, this amounts to a total of about 500 000 kWh with clean, renewable energy. In effect, the building dually functions as a small power plant in the middle of the city. Ample space for energy storage is built into the building footprint, allowing it to store surplus energy in the summer months of near total daylight, to then use it in the winter months when daylight is at a minimum.

 

In order to reduce energy use on lighting, the building employs a concept called “liquid light”, which allows the artificial light to smoothly dim up and down according to the activity and movement in the building. Taken together, these strategies allow Powerhouse Brattørkaia to consume only about half the amount of energy for lighting than a typical commercial office building of comparable size would.

 

Powerhouse collaboration

 

The project was commissioned by Norwegian property developer Entra and developed by the Powerhouse collaboration. The latter represents a research, design and engineering collaboration of industry partners in the development of energy-positive buildings, and along with Entra and Snøhetta consists of the entrepreneur Skanska, the environmental organisation Zero and the consulting company Asplan Viak.

 

The building provides office spaces for a diversity of commercial tenants, including construction and shipping firms, while also housing a significant public programme. A café and a visitor center at the ground floor are open to the people of Trondheim as an educational resource for school groups and the general public alike. The visitor centre explicates the energy concept of the Powerhouse and supports public knowledge and discourse on sustainable building strategies for the future.

 

Powerhouse Brattørkaia has received the BREEAM Outstanding certification, the highest possible ranking by the world’s leading sustainability assessment method for an asset’s environmental, social and economic sustainability performance.

 

As part of the building’s grand opening, automotive manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and the 2019 World Car of the Year, the I-PACE, lead a demonstration of energy provenance-tracking and Internet-of-Things (IoT) co-creation during a special exhibition with non-profit IOTA Foundation’s distributed ledger technology, France’s Engie Lab Crigen, the Engie Group’s corporate centre for research and development, and Entra.

 

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The waterfront façade is the slimmest face of the building. Copyright: Ivar Kvaal
The waterfront façade is the slimmest face of the building. Copyright: Ivar Kvaal
The building employs a concept called liquid light to reduce energy Copyright: Synlig.no
The building employs a concept called liquid light to reduce energy Copyright: Synlig.no
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