News Brief

From Norway, A New Standard for Energy-Positive Design

Powerhouse buildings are designed to offset their full life-cycle energy costs.

The Drøbak Montessori School in Norway, designed by Snøhetta to meet the requirements of the Powerhouse standard.

The Drøbak Montessori School in Norway is the first educational building designed to the Powerhouse standard.

Photo: © Robin Hayes (Courtesy of Snøhetta)
The Powerhouse Drøbak Montessori secondary school in Norway, equipped with solar panels and a ground source heat pump, will produce more energy over its lifetime (close to 30,500 kWh a year) than the total amount of energy that will ultimately be used for its construction, operation, and demolition.

The school, which serves 60 students, was designed using passive strategies, such as a compact building volume and increased exterior insulation. According to the Powerhouse website, the school requires less than a quarter of the energy of conventionally designed facilities of the same size.

It is one of the first projects completed by the Powerhouse group, a coalition of companies that include development firm Skanska, architecture office Snøhetta, real estate company Entra, consulting firm Asplan Viak, aluminum manufacturer Sapa og, and the environmental nonprofit Zero Emission Resource Organization.

The main definition of a Powerhouse, according to the group’s website, is a building that “shall during its lifetime produce more renewable energy than it uses for materials, production, operation, renovation, and demolition.” This definition is further elaborated through 20 additional criteria that detail, for example, how the lifetime energy balance is to be calculated, assuming a 60-year operational phase. The criteria also state that the project’s energy production must be from renewable sources located on the building or the site, or from the sea close to the site.

The Powerhouse group has also renovated of a pair of office buildings in Oslo to the Powerhouse standard and is currently constructing a new office project in Trondheim. Snøhetta has also designed a Powerhouse hotel near Bodø and Lofoten that’s scheduled to open in 2021.

Owners and developers interested in the standard can collaborate with members of the Powerhouse group to design an energy-positive project. (At least two of the affiliated companies must be involved for the project to be eligible for certification.) Powerhouse auditors then monitor material selection and construction and, once the project is completed, verify performance to complete the certification process.

The Powerhouse group plans to evolve the standard and expand its reach by applying the standard on projects abroad, exploring ways for projects to leverage smart technology, and developing a version that can be applied at the neighborhood scale.

For an in-depth look at the construction and operation of a Powerhouse building, see the following reports:

“Powerhouse Kjørbo: Evaluation of construction process and early use phase”

“Pilot Building Powerhouse Kjørbo: As Built Report”

See also HouseZero, a project of the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities, built with support from the Powerhouse group.

For more information:


Published June 5, 2018

Wilson, J. (2018, June 5). From Norway, A New Standard for Energy-Positive Design. Retrieved from

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