Snøhetta completes world’s northernmost energy-positive building in Trondheim

The mantra of the design industry should not be “form follows function” but “form follows environment”, says Snøhetta founder Kjetil Trædal Thorsen

Powerhouse Brattørkaia in Trondheim was designed to not only support its own energy needs, but also neighbouring buildings and vehicles.
(Image credit: Ivan)

‘The energy sector and building industry accounts for over 40 per cent of global industry’s heat-trapping emissions combined, according to the World Resources Institute', explain Oslo-based architects Snøhetta. ‘As the world’s population and consequences of the climate crisis continue to grow worldwide, we are challenged to think how to build responsibly – creating high quality spaces for people while also reducing our environmental footprint.'

Their input towards solving this crisis? A dedication to considerate, sustainable architecture, and their latest offering – Powerhouse Brattørkaia, in Trondheim, Norway – is a case in point. Welcome to the 'world’s northernmost energy-positive building'. 

Exterior of an innovative building

(Image credit: Ivar Kvaal)

This innovative building – which houses workspaces – is cleverly designed to actually produce energy, rather than just consume it. In fact, astonishingly, it produces more electricity than it consumes – and that includes the energy that was required to build it.

Solar harvesting (through, for example, solar cells) was a key way to achieve this, while the nearby sea water contributes to both the heating and cooling system within. A sloping roof and top level courtyard were designed towards optimal orientation for solar energy production. So now, the building not only supports its own energy needs, but actually powers neighbouring buildings, electric buses, cars and boats too, through a local micro grid. 

‘Energy-positive buildings are the buildings of the future. The mantra of the design industry should not be “form follows function” but “form follows environment”. This means that the design thinking of today should focus on environmental considerations and reducing our footprint first, and have the design follow this premise,' says Snøhetta founder Kjetil Trædal Thorsen. 

Skyline and buildings

(Image credit: Ivar Kvaal)

Photo of buildings at night being reflected in the river

(Image credit: Ivan Kaavar)

Ariel view of the top of building

(Image credit: Ivar Kvaal)

swirly staircases

(Image credit: Ivan Kvaal)

picture of ceiling of a building

(Image credit: Ivan Kvaal)

Exterior of a curved building

(Image credit: Ivan Kvaal)


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).

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