1 Designing for the future
There are many potent challenges our world must respond to, resolutely and with passion. Environmental crises, social justice, health crises, cultural enlightenment and economic stability, are some of the most profound issues where design can contribute to positive change.
Recognizing that buildings, and their construction operations, significantly contribute to negative climate effects, we approach each project with a focus on building responsibly while also creating places for people, plants and animals to co-exist while reducing negative environmental impact.
Healthy design is broader still and extends to all our disciplines. Snøhetta's sustainability philosophy is built on the three fundamentals of social, environmental, and economic sustainability. We are committed to conducting business in accordance with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris agreement. Our ambition is for all our projects to be carbon-neutral within the next 15 years.
Further commitments to social sensitivity are also central to our work. Shaping the built environment and designing for humanistic sensitivity is embedded in our thinking. Every project is a unique expression of the ethos of its users and location in relation to climate and diverse social constructs.
We place a great deal of emphasis on understanding the habitat of a place, which includes all its living creatures in biotic and abiotic relationships. Each project understands its specific site to best support the natural habitats that are positive for its location. Soils, vegetation, flora and fauna are all important in developing our work.
2 Research and material experimentation
We work with the world's leading experts to identify potential energy offsets through material innovation, challenging building conventions and redefining what future material use will look like in the future.
For several decades, we have researched and experimented with energy-positive structures that are net carbon neutral over their lifecycles while at the same time serving as pleasant spaces for their occupants. A key focus area for us has been to design buildings that pay back their CO2 footprint at the latest over their lifetime by returning clean energy to society, offsetting the fossil energy that otherwise exists in the energy mix. We have proven that these structures can be built with existing technology. We now aim to scale up this strategy into the rest of our portfolio and, ultimately, the rest of the construction industry.
Over the past few years, we have researched materials such as plastic, clay, wood, and different kinds of low-carbon concrete. In this work, we collaborate with various research institutions, and we strive to share our findings with the broader industry as the results come in.
We strive every day to experiment, research, learn, test, and improve to understand how we can responsibly construct buildings, spaces, and products for the future, and we welcome any new ideas that might bring our work and industry forward.
3 Interactive dialogue
Every project is unique and has different clients, users, budgets, contexts, and constraints. At the center of our working method is our integrated approach, stemming from a core belief that creating platforms for people with different perspectives and competencies to interact is a catalyst for innovation. We call this transpositioning.
In addition to our own professions at Snøhetta, we often invite others into the working processes. This typically entails including a wide variety of people – for example, through workshops – and challenging them to release themselves from normalized or professional conventions. Through this method, we foster a greater sense of possibility, free ourselves from habitual thinking, and build empathy for others involved.
By thinking less conventionally, we engage a broader spectrum of possible design outcomes excelling the project’s needs and potentialities.
4 A cycle of innovation
Collaboration and openness are key to our work. Our collective approach to conceptual thinking and our fondness for examining projects from an interdisciplinary perspective depends on a diverse group of people working as holistically and horizontally as possible so that the flow of dialogue and ideas permeates all design phases.
Our work is often appreciated by the value it places on developing unexpected yet highly valuable solutions to challenges a project may have. We like to say that we can take reality by surprise through a continuous state of reinvention. These innovations gain value as we share knowledge and successes with each other. When yesterday's innovations become contemporary standards, then progress gains success.
5 Traditional handicrafts and cutting-edge technology
Our working method practices a simultaneous exploration of traditional handicrafts and cutting-edge digital technology – a complementary relationship that drives our creative process.
At the core of our design studios are modeling workshops equipped with CNC robots, 3D rapid prototyping capabilities, woodworking equipment and hand tools. This enables prototyping to become an integral part of the design process, with ideas moving seamlessly between analog and digital worlds.
This encompasses everything from testing abstract ideas to putting things together that haven't been put together before, testing out the physicality of the element, the weight, the smell, everything that a material might contain, and referencing this back to the context of the process.