Raising the Roof: The Norwegian Office Championing Eco-Architecture

Powerhouse Brattørkaia, the world's northernmost energy-positive building, produces twice the amount of energy it uses.

A solar-panelled office seems like a great idea in, say, the Sahara, where there is guaranteed round-the-clock sunshine. In the Norwegian city of Trondheim, however, where the seasons are sporadic – think four hours of sunlight in the winter, and 20 in the summer – an architecture firm has produced an immense energy efficient building that could change the face of sustainable architecture.

Powerhouse Brattørkaia, created by Snøhetta, has been built to be as energy efficient as possible, with heavy insulation, heat recovery solutions for ventilating air and recycled seawater for heating and cooling. But the biggest impact of all comes from the polygonal roof, which is decorated with more than 32,000 sq ft of black solar panels that soak up the sunlight.

The building produces twice as much energy as it requires – enough, even, to offset the hidden energy costs from the building’s construction. The spare energy will be supplied to neighbouring buildings, electric buses, cars and boats through a local microgrid.

To reduce energy used for lighting, the building employs a ‘liquid light’ concept, which allows artificial light to dim up and down according to movement in the building.

The giant skylight in the roof projects natural light into the atrium, which also limits the need for artificial lighting in the building.