In 2015, Snøhetta was commissioned by Drøbak Montessori School to design their new secondary school facilities on a site surrounded by beautiful forest in Drøbak, Norway. It is the first Powerhouse educational building.
The rectangular building is positioned close to the forest edges, creating a large outdoor play area in close connection to the surrounding nature. Passive measures such as a compact volume, high U-values and materials that are low in embodied energy, ensure the building´s low energy demand.
Drøbak Montessori School
The design arises from the energy concept, the qualities of the site and the Montessori education principles, in addition to a strict financial scope. The architecture is intended as a social and educational tool, built around the Powerhouse concept as the central design element.
A multi-disciplinary team was established from day one, working out the plans for how the world’s first Powerhouse school could be realised. Teachers, students, school and foundation management, and the entire professional community needed to optimise the technical solutions, were gathered around the drawing table. Together, they found solutions which are in harmony with the Montessori education method, while also taking the environment into account.
The school has around 900 square metres of heated space organised on one storey, in addition to a lower storey under the parts of the building where there is a natural decline in the ground. The energy need constitutes less than a fourth of the usual level for schools of the same size. The building will produce 30,500 kWh through generation of solar electricity.
The body of the building is intersected by an angular plate, a so-called “solar plate.” The solar plate collects fresh air and uses the stack effect to lead the extract air out. To achieve maximum effect of the solar cells, the solar plate is orientated directly towards the south with a 33-degree incline. The solar plate also creates social and educational arenas in the form of outside and inside amphitheaters and stairs which govern the school’s spacial organisation and logic. The solutions for heating, cooling and ventilation are based on the principles used at Powerhouse Kjørbo, but have been further developed and optimalised with a view to the function and cost of the building.