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This sustainable office building produces twice as much energy as it uses

05/09/2019
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Architecture studio Snøhetta have completed the Powerhouse Brattørkaia office in Trondheim, Norway, which is said to produce more than double the amount of electricity it consumes daily.

The sustainable harbourside building, overlooking the Trondheim Fjord, is wrapped in 3,000 square metres of solar panels, generating around 500,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year. 

3,000 square metres of solar panels cover this office building
(Image via Snøhetta)

In addition to powering the building and companies operating within, the solar energy is delivered to a local microgrid for use by neighbouring buildings, electric buses, cars and boats. Surplus energy collected during the summer months is stored in batteries to power the building through the Norwegian winter.

The harbourside building provides power to a local microgrid for neighbouring buildings and transportation
(Image via Snøhetta)

"The building dually functions as a small power plant in the middle of the city,” said senior architect Andreas Nygaard.

Designing a fully sustainable, solar harvesting building with this scale in the inconsistent climate of Norway was not without its difficulties, however. The building had to maximise exposure to the sun on the photovoltaic panels, without compromising the aesthetic of the area.

The building is optimised to harvest the maximum amount of solar energy during the summer and save it in batteries for winter
(Image via Snøhetta)

"Given the building's location this far north, the harvesting of solar energy is challenging as sunlight varies greatly across the day and seasons. The solar panels produce the most energy when the angle towards the sun is 90 degrees," explained senior architect Andreas Nygaard.

"Thus, in order to harvest enough energy for the building to be net energy positive over its lifespan, the roof needs to be relatively steep – 19 degrees in this case – to be optimised in relation to the angle of the sun."

An open atrium allows additional light to reach interior offices and the canteen, reducing the need for artificial lighting within the building
(Image via Snøhetta)

The result is an 18,000 metre square building with a pentagonal roof clad in black aluminium and solar panels. The roof slopes from the narrowest section to the widest, surrounding an open atrium in the centre that allows more daylight to reach the office spaces and underground canteen. 

A liquid lighting system is one more development aimed at reducing the amount of energy the building requires
(Image via Snøhetta)

A “liquid light” system smoothly dims up and down depending on activity in the building, reducing dependence on artificial light, while a smart ventilation system, low emission concrete structure and efficient insulation help regulate the buildings temperature.

"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."

3,000 photovoltaic panels are positioned to generate up to 500,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year
(Image via Snøhetta)

The building is connected to the local train station via a pedestrian bridge connected to the rear, and houses a visitor centre on the ground floor that aims to educate the public on sustainable building strategies for the future.

"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.

"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."

The building is part of a new generation of environmentally-focused architecture that designs buildings with sustainability and clean energy in mind from the beginning
(Image via Snøhetta)

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This sustainable office building produces twice as much energy as it uses - Time to read 3 min
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