Green building: world’s first energy-positive retro-fit building

Powerhouse Kjorbo, the world’s first energy-positive retro-fit building has opened its doors in Sandvika, Norway. Designed by Snøhetta, the project involved transforming a pair of office buildings erected in the 1980s into a complex that will generate much more energy than it needs over the next sixty years.

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In addition to Snøhetta, other experts in the field, including Entra Eiendom; Skanska; ZERO; Hydro; Sapa og; and Asplan Viak, were called upon to help transform the existing buildings into energy producers.

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The buildings stretch over a grassy campus, taking up 5,200 square meters of total work space, and are estimated to consume around 250kWh per square meter anually. The roof of the buildings were first outfitted with a massive solar array, which can produce 200,000kWh per year. This is much more energy than needed in the building itself, so the excess can be returned to the grid for the nearby town’s use.

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Snøhetta installed geothermal energy wells as well. These work year round to naturally draw warm and cold air to regulate temperatures in the building. New, tight fitting windows and exterior and interior sun shading will help to keep temperatures cool, naturally, in the summer, as well as permit natural daylighting. The office interior’s modern face lift fosters a better working environment complete with spiral staircases that double as ventilation shafts.

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Simple yet innovative, Snøhetta’s Powerhouse Kjorbo retrofit is an excellent example of how realistic it is to build better buildings that double as energy producers.

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