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Solar-powered office building produces more than double the energy it uses

Snøhetta’s Powerhouse Brattørkai captures solar energy during long summer days and stores it for winter

Dark angular building on a waterfront features stripes of glazing glowing during dusk. Ivar Kvaal

Trondheim, Norway, is 63 degrees north of the Earth’s equator. During the summer, daylight can stretch for 20 hours—in the winter, the sun peeks out for just four hours. Building an energy-efficient building in a climate of extremes is no small task, and yet, that’s exactly what Snøhetta has done with Powerhouse Brattørkaia, a recently completed office building in Trondheim.

Powerhouse Brattørkai is the northernmost “energy-positive” building in the world. Snøhetta estimates that on average, the energy produced by the 193,750-square-foot building will more than double the energy it consumes daily, with any extra energy being stored and distributed to nearby buildings and transportation through a local micro grid.

An angular office building sits among a cityscape at dusk. The building features a circular cutout on its slanted roof, carving out vistas for spaces within. Ivar Kvaal

The ambitious building has a slanted, pentagonal roof covered in solar panels. All told, the building is clad in more than 32,000 square feet of solar panels that generate around 500, 000 kWh a year. The energy generated during the long days of summer will be stored on site and used during the darker winter months.

A facade covered in solar panels. A circular cutout in the middle clears some room for curved windows for the interior.

Of course, an energy-positive building needs to do more than generate kilowatts—it also has to be efficient. Snøhetta designed the building to bring in as much daylight as possible. A circular cut-out allows light to stream into the interior. It also creates a light-filled atrium that doubles as a public garden. To minimize the amount of energy spent on artificial light, the building is outfitted with “liquid lighting” that brightens and dims depending on the amount of activity happening in any given area.

Snøhetta estimates that over the course of a 60-year lifespan, the building will generate enough energy to offset not just daily energy consumption but also the costs associated with construction and eventual demolition of the building.

Close up shot of curved windows.
Man checking in at reception desk, which features black counters, a gray column, and plants alongside the back wall. A woman with blonde hair is working at the desk. Ivar Kvaal