Vertikal Nydalen
Going back to the future of energy solutions


Architecture, Interior Architecture, Landscape Architecture


In the former industrial area Nydalen by the river Akerselva in Oslo, Norway, Snøhetta has designed an 18-floor building with street-level restaurants, offices on the following five floors, and apartments on top. As a pilot in two research projects on sustainable energy solutions, Vertikal Nydalen has a simplified and self-sufficient climate system, and is Norway’s first naturally climatized mixed-use building. The project is also important in redeveloping the surrounding area into a future car-free and accessible recreational space for the public.

Technical details

Mixed Use, Sustainability
Oslo, Norway
11000 m2, 18 floors

BREEAM-NOR Excellent (Offices) and Very Good (Apartments)


Landscape Architecture, street level
Consulting Engineer, Acoustics
Consulting Building Engineer
Consulting Engineer, HVAC
Consulting Engineer, Electrical
Consulting Engineer, Fire
Consulting Engineer, Water

2 'Triple zero solution'

As a 'triple zero solution' building, no energy is purchased for heating, cooling, or ventilation in either the office spaces or the apartments of Vertikal Nydalen. This is achieved using geothermal wells, PV panels, a low-exergy system for heating and cooling, and natural ventilation. The project has more than 50 percent overall reduction of CO2 emissions from materials, transport, and energy compared to a reference project.

The building is heated and cooled down with water from geo-wells in the ground underneath the building. The PV panels on the roof power the heat pump that controls the heating and cooling system. Concrete walls absorb heat during the day and release it at night, contributing to a stable temperature in the building.

Photos: Lars Petter Pettersen

3 A new town square

The site Gullhaug Torg, right next to Akerselva, has been used as a parking lot while the area of Nydalen has undergone its transition from a traditional industrial to a modern business area over the past decades. As part of the district's transformation into a vibrant residential area, the scope was to create a town square free of cars, and a high-rise building that could be used for several purposes.

To maintain some sightlines and gain a lighter impression, the building is divided into two volumes of different heights, where only one part exploits the plot's maximum potential of 18 stories. Various pockets and passageways are created for the public on the ground floor around the building. At the same time, the design ensures good sun conditions and minimal wind in the new plaza.

4 Shaping the façade

The design of the building plays a key role in the distinctive energy solutions. The volume is designed to create pressure differences that enable the air to move through the premises without mechanical fans. The air enters through valves, or windows, in the façade, which open and close as needed. When two windows open on different sides of the building, the pressure difference forces the air to move through the premises without the use of fans, so the air circulates.

As traditional ventilation systems in office buildings often require a lowered ceiling of up to one meter from the slab, this natural solution without ducts and fans saves a lot of space – space that is better used for light and openness, and that can drastically enhance the spatial qualities of the rooms.

The angles and facets provide pressure differentials and velocity changes in the wind hitting the façade. This contributes to a better ventilation effect on the inside because the wind speed is optimized. The tapering shape towards the top increases the wind speed and the overall aesthetical impression through a narrower silhouette, but also ensures less wind down on the ground.

Construction and materiality

Thermal mass is necessary for the floors to release heat and cold at a slow pace, and concrete slabs and cores ensure this. Steel constructions support the decks, while the façade is made up of wooden elements clad in heat-treated pine, which creates a warm and tactile expression on the outside, though the color will gray over the years. Furthermore, the façade is clad with vertical wooden slats in an uneven pattern, which both contribute to a playful expression and emphasize the height direction of the building.

The façade is further characterized by the 43 angled balconies that stand out from the wooden surface with their steel finish. The railings are perforated, while the undersides are multifaceted and capture the light from different angles, providing observant passers-by with various expressions throughout the day.

The wooden façade has a low CO2 footprint and will change from brown to gray as it ages. We chose wood because we wanted something warmer than a traditional office façade. Wood is a natural, textural material with familiar aesthetics and a connection to nature.

Anne Cecilie Haug Senior Architect and Project Leader


Towering above the wood-clad structure are two rooftop terraces placed partially below PV panels. Simple wooden planter boxes are designed to lie outside the roofed areas and are partly irrigated from rainwater stored and distributed in the bottom of the boxes.

In collaboration with an ecologist specialized in urban development and landscape analysis, a selection of locally affiliated greenery will be planted based on its utilitarian and ecological value, to stimulate micro-habitats for endangered and vulnerable species, such as wild bees and butterflies.

Interior and furniture borrowed from Arper, Vitra, HEM, HAY and Myyk. Artwork by Julia Boracco, borrowed from KB Contemporary. 


The natural ventilation solution sets certain parameters for the interior. As any adage of materials would lower the effects of the raw concrete and the generous ceiling height, the concrete is unveiled as much as possible throughout the interior. Vertikal Nydalen's top floors are dedicated to 40 apartments, where sizes range from 44 sqm to 143 sqm with various layouts. Every apartment is unique, given the untraditional shape of the building. Equal for all of them are the exposed concrete ceilings, doors stretching 2,4 meters, and custom-made windowsills in oak.

As interior architects, we usually discuss what can be added to execute our vision. In this project, we have been challenged to think “only add what must be added - strip away any unnecessary materials."

Heidi Pettersvold Nygaard Senior Interior Architect and Project Leader

To adjust the experienced warmth without significantly lowering thermal capacity, a thin oak parquet layer is glued onto the concrete flooring. The apartments have a floor-to-ceiling height of over three meters and large windows allowing plenty of light, a rare quality for urban new builds, with views over the surrounding areas, most of them reaching as far as the Oslo fjord.

With the spectacular view of the city and the river running past the building, the interior architects drew inspiration from light hitting the babbling water at different times of day, creating various color schemes. The shades were then translated into three themes guiding the interior. Focus has been put on developing concepts that can withstand the test of time, avoiding trend-based directions and numerous re-decorations for the future.

The stairways are constructed using raw concrete and metal handrails, with larger wayfinding elements guiding you between floors. To add warmth and absorb sound, oak ceiling suspensions, and carpets are installed in all hallways leading to the apartments of the building. There are no garage spaces in the basement, but good facilities for green commuters with bicycle parking, locker rooms, and showers for bikes.

Naturally ventilated office spaces

The client, Avantor, is Nydalen’s leading property developer and occupies a floor of the building. In collaboration with them, three ambitious premises were set for the interior concept of their office spaces. Every material and interior supplier had to be local or strongly affiliated with social sustainability. Secondly, the client wanted to be challenged in using more color, and thirdly - they wanted the interior to reflect the neighborhood. Based on the client's keen interest in the community and neighborhood of Nydalen, the interior office concept drew inspiration from the surrounding agoras, park areas, and the river.

Acoustics and locally produced persistent furnishings were prioritized to create comfortable and functional work environments. Given the amount of exposed concrete used to enable natural ventilation, absorbents play a key role in the interior of the office spaces. Baffles made from recycled plastic are strategically placed in the ceilings to align with the triangulation of the building, halting sound waves and creating pleasant work environments.

All large meeting rooms have walls constructed with water pipes, clad in clay, and finished with a thin layer of clay tech. These walls can absorb and release moisture, operate as natural radiators, and ensure comfortable temperatures and air humidity. Naturally ventilated offices have less need for remodeling and technical maintenance, so the spaces are designed to last and adapt to the clients' changing needs.

Research projects to reduce emissions

Vertikal Nydalen results from two research projects supported by The Research Council of Norway. LowEx focuses on heating and cooling with very little added energy, and aims to develop new total concepts for thermal energy supply in zero-energy buildings and energy-positive buildings, with performance that is 2 to 2.5 times better than today's state-of-the-art.

The interdisciplinary collaboration through the research project Naturally (Naturligvis), with 13 participants from the Norwegian construction industry, focuses on developing new strategies for natural ventilation. To test and achieve the solutions used in Vertikal Nydalen, it was necessary to apply for exemption from the indoor climate requirements of both the technical regulations and Arbeidstilsynet (the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority).

The building is a FutureBuilt pilot project certified according to BREEAM NOR (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method), with the level Excellent for the office area and Very Good in the apartments.

Tracking and analyzing

To track the heating and ventilation and collect feedback that can help optimize the climate, sensors are placed throughout the areas, and all desks in the office spaces have QR codes that lead to an online register form where both positive remarks and criticism can be left. The programmed vents will be adjusted to optimize the perceived climate based on this combination of technical measurements and user-generated feedback.

The overall performance of the building will be closely monitored over the next years, and energy consumption, indoor climate, and user satisfaction will be measured through the research project Hybrids, an extension of the original Naturally. The user experience of thermal comfort and air quality will be followed up on through the project SmartTune.

Animation made by Animasjonsdepartementet for Snøhetta