Energy Positive Hotel Set for Construction in the Arctic Circle
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on February 23, 2018 |

The average global temperature is currently 1 °C hotter than average, and we’re seeing the effects in terms of extreme heat, ocean acidification and warming, extreme storms, melting glaciers and increased sea levels. To prevent these changes from becoming irreversible, humanity needs to ensure that annual global temperatures don’t pass 2 °C over the average.

This means keeping at least 80 percent of fossil fuel reserves in the ground. While this may involve serious changes to the way we produce and consume goods, it also means relying on sustainable energy and completely rethinking the way we do so. Since buildings consume 40 percent of the world’s energy, we’ll have to rethink our buildings, as well. 

Svart is designed to be an energy positive hotel in that it will generate more energy than it uses over the course of 60 years. (Image courtesy of Snøhetta/Plompmozes.)
Svart is designed to be an energy positive hotel in that it will generate more energy than it uses over the course of 60 years. (Image courtesy of Snøhetta/Plompmozes.)

The European Union (EU) has taken steps to address this issue by requiring that all new constructions after 2020 be net zero buildings. The Powerhouse collaboration in Norway, however, takes this requirement even further. Made up of several construction firms and environmental organizations, Powerhouse isn’t just making facilities that use net zero electricity, but also buildings that actually generate energy.

Dubbed “plus houses” by the group, Powerhouse buildings “generate more renewable energy than the total amount of energy that would be required to sustain daily operations and to build, produce materials and demolish the building” over the course of 60 years. The group has worked on one project—a renovation of two 1980s office buildings that use solar panels to generate more electricity than they require for operation—and has several more in the works. This includes Svart, the “world’s first energy positive hotel concept above the Arctic Circle.”

Designed by Powerhouse member Snøhetta, in partnership with Arctic Adventure of Norway, Asplan Viak and Skanska, Svart is to be built at the base of the Svartisen glacier that runs through Meløy in northern Norway. Based on its design, the hotel would use 85 percent less energy than an equivalent hotel made by contemporary standards. 

In part, the Powerhouse approach was chosen because of the pristine location set for the hotel, where a minimal environmental footprint is necessary. As a result, the design marries the purpose of Svart as a tourist destination and an ecologically friendly facility.

For instance, the hotel’s circular shape is both meant to provide a panoramic view of the Holandsfjorden fjord on which it stands, as well as receive the optimum amount of solar energy possible throughout the year.

The exact shape of the hotel is designed so that solar panels receive the most amount of solar energy during the summer, while light is blocked from overheating the interior of the building. (Image courtesy of Snøhetta/Plompmozes.)
The exact shape of the hotel is designed so that solar panels receive the most amount of solar energy during the summer, while light is blocked from overheating the interior of the building. (Image courtesy of Snøhetta/Plompmozes.)

This design was chosen after extensive solar radiation mapping of the region. The roof features solar panels that receive ample solar arrays, while the facade of the hotel prevents interior exposure to the sun when it is at its highest point in the summer, eliminating the need for artificial cooling. In the winter, when the sun is low, the large windows of the building will let in light and heat the building. For additional heat, the hotel will use geothermal wells connected to heat pumps. 

The poles that raise the hotel above the fjord also provide a boardwalk for visitors. (Image courtesy of Snøhetta/Plompmozes.)

The poles that raise the hotel above the fjord also provide a boardwalk for visitors. (Image courtesy of Snøhetta/Plompmozes.)

Also included in the plus house formula is the amount of energy required to fabricate, transport, build and replace products and materials used in the building. This means limiting materials made with fossil fuels. For this reason, wood was chosen in the construction and cladding of the hotel, as it is less energy-intensive to make than steel and concrete. The solar panels were manufactured using hydroelectricity.

The hotel is raised above the fjord below using weather-resistant wooden poles meant to minimize the building’s footprint. The poles simultaneously provide a boardwalk for visitors and a storage site for boats and kayaks, reducing the need for garage space. To get to Svart, it may be necessary for visitors to ride an energy-neutral boat shuttle from the nearby city of Bodø.

Of course, Svart has not yet been constructed, so some of these elements may change. One significant element that already is changing is the weather itself. In January 2018, Arctic sea ice was 10 percent smaller than average for recent decades and temperatures rose over 45 °F above normal. The planet’s northernmost weather station in Greenland is recording winter temperatures above freezing. If tourists plan to visit the Arctic circle in 2021, they and the builders of Svart will need to hope there is still an Arctic left to visit. 

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