The Powerhouse Brattørkaia in Trondheim, Norway is the world’s northernmost energy-positive building and sets a new standard for the construction of the buildings of tomorrow. One that produces more energy than it consumes over its lifespan, including construction, demolition, and the embodied energy in the materials used to construct the building.
2 Unique exploration
The energy sector and building industry accounts for over 40 % of the global industry’s heat-trapping emissions combined, according to the World Resources Institute. As the world’s population and the severity of the climate crisis continue to grow, we are challenged to think about how to build responsibly – creating high-quality spaces for people while also reducing our environmental footprint.
The aim of Powerhouse Brattørkaia is threefold; to maximize the amount of clean energy produced by the building, to minimize the energy required to run it, and to serve as a pleasant space for its tenants and the 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 are clad with almost 3 000 m2 of solar panels, strategically placed to harvest as much solar energy as possible.
Trondheim is located at 63° north of the Earth’s equator where the sunlight varies greatly between the seasons. This presents a unique opportunity to explore how to harvest and store solar energy under challenging conditions.
3 Energy efficiency
The building is extremely energy efficient, leveraging a series of technologies to radically reduce energy use for its daily operations. This is accomplished through insulating the building for maximum efficiency, installing intelligent solutions for airflow to reduce the need for heating, heat recovery solutions for ventilating air and greywater (wastewater from all sources except toilets), using seawater for heating and cooling, and implementing only energy efficient electrical appliances. Daylight conditions are optimized throughout the building design and artificial light use is kept at a minimum.
The building’s structural system consists of thermal mass – low-emission concrete – which is exposed through strategic cutouts in the ceiling. The mass absorbs and retains heat and cold and helps regulate the temperature in the building without using electricity.
4 Producing electricity
On average, Powerhouse Brattørkaia produces more than twice as much electricity as it consumes daily, and will supply renewable energy to itself, its neighboring buildings, electric buses, cars, and boats through a local microgrid.
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. For the future, when technology allows, 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. Additionally, a container for energy storage has been placed nearby to supply the microgrid.
For its efforts, Powerhouse Brattørkaia has received the BREEAM Outstanding certification. This is the highest possible ranking by the world’s leading sustainability assessment method. Its solutions support the UNFCCC Paris Agreement that pursues efforts to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.