Powerhouse Moholt
The world’s first Powerhouse Student Home


Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Interior Architecture


With its wooden construction and social indoor and outdoor areas Snøhetta’s concept study for new student homes, Powerhouse Moholt demonstrates the first Powerhouse student home in the world. The 12 buildings of 4-7 floors are hosting around 800 students and will produce more energy than it consumes over its lifespan. The buildings are carbon-neutral and Moholt will be the very first Powerhouse project demonstrating a carbon-negative landscape.

Technical details

Residential, Sustainability
Design Proposal
Trondheim, Norway


21 700 m2

2 Powerhouse Paris Proof

Powerhouse is a standard based on the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degree target listing maximum and total CO2 emissions per square meter including the construction phase, energy in operations, materials, and disposal. FutureBuilt’s energy-positive buildings definition is used as a basis for energy production. Achieving the Powerhouse Paris Proof standard will require zero-emission construction sites, climate-friendly materials, recycling, reuse as part of the solution, and renewable energy production and energy efficiency.

3 Student community

As part of the Powerhouse series, Powerhouse Moholt is located in Trondheim, the fourth largest city in Norway with a population of 200 000 people. Every year 40 000 students, and 3500 internationals from 100 different countries, fill the city. Moholt student village is Trondheim’s largest, placed within walking distance from the university NTNU and renowned for its large, social, and international student milieu. Today the area consists of 80 modernist brick floor buildings of 3-4 floors (1965), a group of 5 massive wood towers of 9 floors (2017), a kindergarten, library, activity house, and café.

Photo: Snøhetta/Proloog

4 Compact and inclusive

Calculating carbon all material use and every part of the footprints counts. Careful considerations are made in how every m2 can be utilized and made attractive as flexible areas suitable for as many purposes as possible. Powerhouse Moholt balances the individual need for privacy and studies with attractive common areas enabling students to socialize. The student dorms are small, yet delicate with their wooden finishes and well-thought layouts. Common spaces allow larger groups to socialize, make meals together, and take care. The project has paid special attention to social and psychological wellness, acknowledging the fact that many students feel lonely and find it hard to make friends in a large student community.

5 ZERO-L landscaping

The project is a pilot in testing out FutureBuilt criteria for ZERO-L landscaping, a method allowing emissions from landscaping to be calculated. The effects of large-scale planting, combined with the use of bio-coal blended into the soil, are effective means of designing outdoor areas absorbing more CO2 than emitted in a 60-year life span cycle.

Accurate and thorough use of climate analyzing tools ensures the twelve buildings are placed so the outdoor areas are protected from prevailing wind from the southeast besides ensuring optimized indoor light and climate conditions.

Alongside climate tools and CO2 calculations, the discipline of landscaping plays an equally important role. Trees are placed as wind barriers and existing vegetation is allowed to frame the site and the magnificent view overlooking Trondheim City. When planting new, local and robust plants that can grow without an irrigation system are used. A broad range of outdoor recreational activities and meeting places are offered to the students. All entrances have a small plaza welcoming the students, a small winter garden is placed at the outer edge of the site, covered outdoor bike shelters are all powered by the sun, and heavy rains are handled through resilient surfaces.

6 Outdoor comfort

Trondheim has long winter seasons, and the saying is that Norwegians are born with skis on their feet. Taking on the fact this saying is just partly true, the outdoor areas offer activities inviting all to explore the joy of snow, regardless of skiing skills.

With a basis in the valuable information from climate analysis, information is provided on local conditions such as temperature, wind, snow- and rain loads. Thermal outdoor comfort is studied with the help of the UTCI-index shows Trondheim has 2338 h/year with a comfortable outdoor climate, defined as being in the range of +9 to +26 degrees Celsius. Based on this knowledge the Snøhetta landscape architect can accommodate for active outdoor measures, such as trees and built structures. For the student homes at Moholt, the added elements will provide for as much as a 60% increase in outdoor comfort on a yearly basis.

7 Climate design

The shape of the building is a combined effort between the discipline of architecture and climate analysis tools. In design the wind exposure on the site itself has been a driving form, resulting in the curving shapes. The curved geometry reduces typical wind effects, such as corner effect and turbulence. In addition, the roofs are designed with a 20-degree slope to increase the potential for solar energy harvesting, a necessity in reaching the Powerhouse definition.

Powerhouse Moholt shares common goals with the other Powerhouses aspiring to be a model for environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable architecture. Being the first student home in the Powerhouse series, it aspires to set a standard for compact and inclusive living utilizing outdoor and indoor facilities for better health and commonness among students.