Energy positivity

Can a building produce more energy than it consumes? Sure, it can.
10 September, 2019
Snøhetta is ready to present its energy positive creature - the sustainable Powerhouse Brattørkaia office in Trondheim, Norway, which generates more than double the amount of electricity it needs daily.

As the energy sector and building industry account for more than 40% of global industry's heat-trapping emissions combined, according to the World Resources Institute, modern society is challenged to come up with sustainable and energy efficient solutions, to get responsible for its personal environmental footprint. Snøhetta decided to make its own contribution and set a new standard for buildings of the future. The design miracle doesn't not only produce energy while functioning. The whole process of its construction, demolition and operation, including the embodied energy in the materials used to construct the building, took lees energy that the building will generate throughout the lifespan.

Images: Dezeen
Powerhouse Brattørkaia is located in Trondheim, Norway, 63° north of the Earth's equator, with the really unusual weather conditions. The sunlight intensity and the length of the daylight hours vary greatly from season to season which presents a great challenge for solar power generation. Still the building's upper facade and pentagonal-shaped roof are covered with a total of 3,000 square-meters of solar panels. To ensure these generate as much solar energy as possible, the form of the building was created by Snøhetta to ensure there is maximum exposure to the sun taking into account the environmental uniqueness.

"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.

Images: Dezeen
Powerhouse Brattørkaia is claimed to produce more than twice as much electricity as it consumes daily, and will supply renewable energy to itself, its neighbors, electric buses, cars and boats through a local micro grid. Over a year, this amounts to a total of about 500 000 kWh of clean, renewable energy. In effect, the building "dually functions as a small power plant in the middle of the city". The building also accommodates an ample space for energy storage.

From the outside, Powerhouse Brattørkaia's size is designed to complement the neighbouring buildings, while its angular form creates the feeling that the "building is bursting with energy".

Images: Dezeen
Its waterfront façade is clad with black aluminium, which is one of the most sustainable materials, and solar panels. On the opposite side, its sloping roof of the building reveals giant circular puncture at its center.

This forms an atrium at the heart of the building, which represents a public garden and light well to feed daylight into the office spaces and the subterranean canteen.

The building also has extremely efficient insulation, smart systems that regulate ventilation, and a low-emission concrete structure that will help regulate the building's temperature using thermal mass.

"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."

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