The future is here. Arriving in circular-form, Svart is a new building concept in the Arctic Circle that mixes modern design with innovation green building standards.
Set to open in 2021, it is being constructed in collaboration between MIRIS, Snøhetta and Powerhouse. International architecture and design firm Snøhetta is known for its bold designs, such as Under, Europe’s first underwater restaurant.
Photography courtesy of Miris
Resting at the base of the Svartisen glacier in Norway, Svart will feature breathtaking 360-degree views of surrounding Arctic terrain and glimpses of the Northern lights. Its architecture is inspired by local coastal building traditions in the form of “fiskehjell,” an A-shaped wooden structure used to dry fish, and “rorbue”, a traditional type of seasonal house used by fisherman.
The rorbue reference can be found in the hotel’s supporting structure – weather-resistant wooden poles that stretch beneath the water, and project the building out and over the Holandsfjorden fjord. Giving the hotel an almost transparent appearance, the poles ensure that the building physically places a minimal footprint in nature, according to Snøhetta’s website.
Given the hotel’s environmental surroundings, it was important for Snøhetta to design a sustainable building – Svart is the world’s first building to be built after the energy positive Powerhouse standard by the Arctic Circle.
What Is the Powerhouse Standard?
Founded in 2011, Powerhouse represents a collaboration in the development of energy-positive buildings, and consists of property company Entra, entrepreneur Skanska, environmental organization Zero, Snøhetta architects and consulting company Asplan Viak.
The original idea behind the alliance was that it takes more than one team to build a positive-energy building, according to Rune Stene, Powerhouse’s managing director.
To reach the rigorous Powerhouse standard, a building must be an energy-positive facility that, in the course of a 60-year period, generates more renewable energy than the total amount of energy that would be required to sustain daily operations, and to build the building, produce materials for it and demolish it.
In Svart’s case, this means that by around 2080, the hotel will have produced more energy than it cost to create and operate. It will likely meet its goal considering the building is proposed to reduce its yearly energy consumption by 85 percent compared to other modern hotels. Svart will also harvest enough solar energy to cover both its operations and the energy needed to construct it.
While other certifications like LEED, WELL and BREEAM consider environmental or social factors, the Powerhouse standard focuses solely on plus-energy facilities.
“There is no other concept as challenging as Powerhouse that we know about, when it comes to energy,” says Stene. “There are several plus-energy buildings around, but they typically only account for the operational energy, not the entire lifecycle. The material embodied energy is a substantial part of the building.”
How to Become Powerhouse Certified
Stene states that there isn’t necessarily a certification process. Rather, a report must be gathered that details exactly how the energy budget comes together to create a surplus.
When construction on a proposed Powerhouse building such as Svart is complete, the Powerhouse alliance checks the numbers (which are open to public record) to ensure that the facility is up to its standards. Stene says that, so far, Powerhouse has completed two projects, two are currently in construction and three are in design (including Svart).
The poles of the hotel double as a wooden boardwalk for visitors to stroll in the summer, according to Snøhetta’s website. In the winter, the boardwalk can be used to store boats and kayaks, reducing the need for garages and additional storage space.
“Powerhouse can be built all over the world,” he adds. “We have trademarked the logo and concept in the European Union, the U.S. and Norway.”
The two completed projects include Kjørbo in Sandvika, Norway, a rehabilitated office building, and Drøbak Montessori school, the most environmentally-friendly school in Norway. To reach the Powerhouse standard, the team for Svart made several cutting-edge design choices, including:
- An extensive mapping of how solar radiation behaves in relation to mountainous context throughout the year to optimize the harvest of energy
- A circular design of the hotels rooms, restaurants and terraces are strategically placed to exploit the Sun’s energy throughout the day and seasons
- The hotel’s roof features Norwegian solar panels produced with clean hydro energy reducing the carbon footprint
- Secluded terraces that protect against isolation from the sun in the summer, removing the need for artificial cooling
- Large windows to exploit the Sun’s natural thermal energy
Building an energy positive and low-impact hotel like Svart may sound demanding, but Stene notes that the cost to become a Powerhouse building largely depends on whether the building will be newly constructed or refurbished. Regardless, this energy-positive certification may just be gaining notice at the right time. Green building is exploring new directions like health and wellness and, considering that buildings account for 40 percent of global energy consumption today, we can all benefit from transforming them from energy consumers to energy producers.
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