Oslo-based interdisciplinary firm unveils plans for energy-positive ‘fiskehjell’ hotel

There’s much to admire about our Scandinavian neighbours; whether it be the outstanding architecture of Stockholm, the minimalistic qualities of the region’s sought-after interior designs or, as suggested by the most recent Carlsberg advertisement, their love of natural environments. Steadily pushing the boundaries of interdisciplinary design, Scandinavia sets a precedence for architecture and design, and Oslo-based practice, Snøhetta, is indeed no exception.

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orking under Norway’s Powerhouse umbrella, a collaborative brand that brings together those passionate about fabricating energy-positive buildings, Snøhetta has unveiled its design for Svart, the first building to be modelled after the energy-positive Powerhouse standard in a northern climate.

Not only does this new hotel reduce its yearly energy consumption by approximately 85% compared to a modern hotel, but it also produces its own energy – an absolute ‘must’ in this precious Arctic environment, the architects say.

In collaboration with Arctic Adventure of Norway, Asplan Viak and Skanska, Snøhetta has designed ‘Svart’ the world’s first Powerhouse hotel, at the foot of the Svartisen glacier that runs through Meløy municipality in northern Norway. The name Svart, meaning black in Norwegian, is a direct tribute to the deep blue ice of Svartisen and the Svartisen name. As the word for black and blue are the same in old Norse, the name is a reference to the natural heritage of Svartisen, its precious glacier and its natural surroundings.

Compared to an equivalent hotel built in accordance with modern building standards in Norway, the new hotel reduces yearly energy consumption by approximately 85%. The hotel is thus the first of its kind to be built in compliance with the Powerhouse standard and will also become the world’s northernmost Powerhouse building.

“Building in such a precious environment comes with some clear obligations regarding preserving the natural beauty and the fauna and flora of the site. It was important for us to design a sustainable building that will leave a minimal environmental footprint on this beautiful northern nature. Building an energy-positive and low-impact hotel is an essential factor to create a sustainable tourist destination respecting the unique features of the plot; the rare plant species, the clean waters and the blue ice of the Svartisen glacier,” says Founding Partner at Snøhetta, Kjetil Trædal Thorsen.

A minimal footprint

The circular body of Svart extends from the shoreline by the foot of the Almlifjellet mountain and into the clear waters of the Holandsfjorden fjord. The circular shape provides a panoramic view of the fjord and an experience of living in proximity to nature.

The construction is inspired by local vernacular architecture in the form of the ‘fiskehjell’ (an A-shaped wooden structure for drying fish) and the ‘rorbue’ (a traditional type of seasonal house used by fishermen). The rorbue reference translates into the hotel’s supporting structure which is built from weather-resistant wooden poles stretching several meters below the surface of the fjord. The poles ensure that the building physically places a minimal footprint on the pristine nature and gives the building an almost transparent appearance.

The poles of the hotel double as a wooden boardwalk for visitors to stroll in the summer. In the winter, the boardwalk can be used to store boats and kayaks, reducing the need for garages and additional storage space. The height of structure also allows for paddlers to paddle under the hotel corpus.

The precious nature surrounding the hotel can only be accessed by boat, and there are plans to introduce an energy-neutral boat shuttle from the city of Bodø to the hotel.

An energy optimised design

To reach the Powerhouse standard, several cutting-edge design choices have been made. For example, the architects have conducted an extensive mapping of how solar radiation behaves in relation to mountainous context throughout the year to optimise the harvest of energy. The result of the study has been an important premise for the circular design of the hotel, and both hotel rooms, restaurants and terraces are strategically placed to exploit the sun’s energy throughout the day and seasons. The hotel’s roof is clad with Norwegian solar panels produced with clean hydro energy reducing the carbon footprint even further. Due to the long summer nights of this area, the annual production of solar energy will be significant.

Secluded terraces provide a shadow play in the facade of the hotel while also ensuring privacy. The facades protect against insolation from the sun in the summer when the sun is high in the sky, removing the need for artificial cooling. During the winter months, when the sun is low in the sky, the large windows of the facade allow for a maximum of insolation to exploit the sun’s natural thermal energy.

Materials with low embodied energy have been used to reach the Powerhouse standard. Embodied energy is the amount of energy that is required to produce, transport, build and replace materials and products that go into a building. Embodied energy is highest in materials produced with energy derived from fossil fuels. The use of wood in construction and cladding minimises the environmental impact of the building, and typically energy-intensive materials such as structural steel and concrete have been avoided as much as possible.

The hotel also uses geothermal wells that are connected to heat pumps. These are used to heat the building, thus reducing the building’s total energy consumption.

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