The Powerhouse Brattørkaia has an eye-catching design. (Image credit: Ivar Kvaal/courtesy Snøhetta)


A new landmark building recently opened in Trondheim, Norway and it may be a leap forward in renewable energy. Snøhetta’s Powerhouse Brattørkaia is a new sustainable office building that’s been dubbed as the most “energy-positive” building in the world. By using numerous solar panels, it produces more than double the amount of electricity it consumes on a daily basis.


The 193,750 square foot building is hard to miss. Sitting on the waterfront overlooking Trondheim Fjord, the first thing you’ll notice is its slanted, pentagonal roof. It’s a unique design that’s actually covered in solar panels. In total, the building holds more than 32,000 square feet of solar panels that generate roughly 500,000 kWh a year. And since daylight during the summer in Trondheim can stretch for 20 hours, the energy generated during this time will be stored on-site and used during the dark winter months when the sun is out for four hours.


“The solar panels produce the most energy when the angle towards the sun is 90 degrees. Thus, in order to harvest enough energy for the building to be net energy positive over its lifespan, the angle of the roof needs to be adapted to this, given its specific location. Closer to the equator, the ideal roof angle would be flatter, and towards the poles it would be steeper,” says senior architect Andreas Nygaard. “The area underneath the roof also plays a central role here—the more square meters in the building, the larger the surface needed to harvest solar energy to ensure that the building produces a net energy surplus.”


But the solar panels aren’t the only thing that makes the building efficient. The building is designed to bring in as much daylight as possible. This is achieved with a circular cut-out that lets light flow inside the building. There’s also a light-filled atrium that’s a public garden as well. To cut back on energy spent on artificial light, the building has “liquid lighting” that brightens and dims depending on the amount of activity happening in any area.


Snøhetta also aimed to make the interior as efficient as possible. There’s a special concrete that helps regulate temperature. The office floors and walls are designed to circulate hot and cold air, which should cut back on cooling and heating costs. And since the building sits on the waterfront, seawater will be used to cool the building as well. Snøhetta believes the building will be able to generate enough energy to offset daily energy consumption and the costs of construction and eventual demolition of the building, over 60 years.


Trondheim also launched a new transportation system using electric and hybrid buses. The energy stored by Powerhouse Brattørkaia will be used to charge the new buses waiting to start the routes from the waterfront.


It all sounds promising, but so far, Snøhetta has been quiet on the overall cost of construction or how long it will take to break even. Still, they hope to set a new standard for the building industry with the ongoing climate crisis.


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