The world is ready for an even fresher catchphrase than “net zero” buildings (NZB) to describe environmentally friendly buildings. Say hello to Norway's Powerhouse Kjørbo, the world’s first “energy positive building" (EPB) or “net positive" building.
Originally an ordinary office building from the 1980s, the adaptive reuse project represents a collaboration between Snøhetta, construction company Skanska, environmental organization Zero, aluminum supplier Hydro, and property management company Entra Eindom.
Image via Designboom
Another catchphrase you can expect to hear buzzing around EPBs: By combining and optimizing existing technology, buildings like Powerhouse Kjørbo can reduce energy consumption by 90%. During the course of its anticipated life (expectancy 60 years), Powerhouse Kjørbo will generate enough wattage to cover the total amount of energy used to produce the building materials, construction, operation, and disposal. The building produces six times fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional office structures.
Image via Inhabitat
Image via Arkitektur.no
Much material knowledge of old and new is vital to integrating smart solutions. Powerhouse Kjørbo retained the original façade's “expression” with a natural and maintenance-free burnt wood façade. Concrete surfaces, some reused, are good for even extreme temperatures. Energy wells in the ground provide fuel to heat pumps in winter and cooling in summer. Solar power is essential and more than enough to cover demand. The energy will heat hot water. It has very efficient insulating properties on walls, roofs, and windows. The overall need for energy is low, as seen in the below video:
Providing net zero water has a way to go: the barriers include high transportation costs, regulations, technology, finances, and culture, according to Stacia Miller, the Cascadia Green Building Council’s policy and advocacy.
So how far is the US from Energy+? Surprisingly, not too far: The Bullitt Center in Chicago has already been called the greenest commercial building in the world. Designed by Miller Hull Architects, it is also the largest structure ever built to receive the Living Building Challenge (LBC), the toughest green building certification in the world.
To date, the Bullitt Center has far exceeded its energy goals in its first year of operation. It used only 147, 260 kWH of electricity, compared to a baseline of 593,831 kWh for a building of its size. During a 12-month period, it generated 252, 560 kWH of clean renewable energy from the solar panels on its roof. After seeing how the Bullitt Center performed in its first year, “I'm certain we will be net positive energy, not just net zero,” said Denis Hayes, CEO of the Bullitt Foundation.