How Can New Energy-Positive Buildings Help Reduce Emissions?
The building and energy sectors have the most potential for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tackling climate change. More so, they have a responsibility to act given that, globally, CO2 emissions from the building sector are the highest ever recorded.
Construction is now responsible for 38% of total energy-related CO2 emissions, as reported at the recent COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, which looked at how buildings and cities could respond to climate emergencies using sustainable architecture.
Energy-positive buildings, also known as green buildings, minimise the amount of energy they need to function while maximising the amount of clean, renewable energy they produce. They do this through a unique combination of sustainable design, engineering, and construction practices.
Leading the movement to transform buildings from energy consumers to energy producers is Powerhouse, a collaboration between Entra, Skanska, ZERO, Asplan Viak and Snøhetta, an architect studio who contributed to the Time Square redesign. Their most recent project, Powerhouse Telemark, is an 11-storey office and co-working space and the fourth in a series of similar buildings from the expert team.
Compared to similar new-construction offices, Powerhouse Telemark reduces its yearly net energy consumption by 70%. It does so by producing more energy than it will consume over its entire lifespan, from construction to demolition, with surplus energy sold to the grid.
Known locally as the “green diamond” because of its unique conical-like geometry, Powerhouse Telemark was designed to optimise and harvest solar energy.
A total of 489 Maxeon solar panels cover the tilted roof, carports, and bike parking area, generating 240,000 kWh of energy annually. This is equivalent to almost 20 times the annual energy use of an average Norwegian household.
Even during the long northern winters, the Powerhouse generates valuable energy thanks to Maxeon’s exclusive solar technology, pioneered to absorb even more sunlight thanks to its unique and patented cell design.
The unique geometry of the building does the rest. Its dramatically tilted roof on the east-facing façade expands the panel surface beyond the extremities of the building’s volume, ensuring a maximum amount of sunlight is harvested and transformed into clean energy.
But it is more than just the design: Maxeon’s patented technology is reinventing the way renewable energy is produced for a cleaner and more equitable world.
The rooftop solar system designed and installed by local partner Skanska offsets hidden energy costs embedded in the building’s construction and eventual demolition, confirming its energy-positive status. It also bears the hallmarks of transparency and sustainability, from raw materials to finished product.
Powerhouse Project Team
Maxeon panels are the first and only solar panels to display their raw materials through the Declare label. Like a food product label, it helps designers and consumers understand how the panels are made, including raw materials, manufacturing location, panel life expectancy, and recyclability. It shows that Maxeon’s solar panels are free from harmful substances and do not require handling hazardous waste during recycling.
Along with its sister project, Powerhouse Brattørkaia, Powerhouse Telemark signals a growing investment in a decarbonised future.
It incorporates many environmentally sustainable features alongside its solar energy system, setting new standards for the built environment.
It features recycled porcelain floor tiles, upcycled furniture, wooden cladding, and triple-isolated windows. The building is also efficiently cooled and heated via a geothermal water system with minimal artificial lighting throughout.
The building also features sturdy materials known for their resilience and low-embodied energy, such as local wood, gypsum, and environmental concrete. As a result, Powerhouse Telemark obtained BREEAM Excellent certification, the highest possible ranking by the world’s leading sustainability assessment method.
Above all, the Powerhouses support the recent COP26 Glasgow Agreement pledge of pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. They are also a sustainable model for future workplaces post-COVID.