Interviews.

World’s first energy positive hotel in the Arctic Circle

Click. speaks to Zenul Khan, Senior Architect and Project Manager at Snøhetta, an architecture and design firm in Oslo, to learn more about their plans for Svart, the world’s first energy positive hotel to be built above the Arctic Circle

by Tracey Davies, Click. Travel Writer

Topic: Innovation Social responsibility Trends

Click. Takeaway

  • Svart has been designed to reduce its annual energy consumption by a massive 85% compared to a modern hotel
  • The circular hotel, which looks like a glowing glass-and-wood halo, will start construction in 2019 and is estimated to open to the public in 2021
  • The hotel will create energy from the solar panels integrated in the roof
  • The building’s geometry is optimised to harvest solar energy specific to the Arctic location
  • The term Powerhouse is used to describe plus energy buildings which in the course of 60 years will generate more renewable energy than the total amount of energy it requires

Sustainable tourism has been a buzzword in the industry for many years, but it’s about to go one step further with the world’s first powerhouse hotel.

Built at the foot of the Svartisen glacier and on the fringes of the Holandsfjorden fjord, above the Arctic Circle, Svart will be the first hotel in the world to produce more energy than it consumes. The name comes from the black-blue ice of the glacier, which is the second largest in Norway.

Zenul Khan, Senior Architect and Project Manager at Snøhetta

Zenul Khan, Senior Architect and Project Manager at Snøhetta

“Svart has been designed to reduce its annual energy consumption by a massive 85% compared to a modern hotel, but also to produce its own energy, which is essential in an Arctic environment,” says Zenul Khan, Senior Architect and Project Manager at Snøhetta.

Powerhouses, also known as plus houses, are designed to produce more energy than they consume. The concept is a collaboration between Snøhetta, Entra, Skanska, the ZERO Emission Resource Organization and Asplan Viak, and the hotel will be owned and operated by Arctic Adventure of Norway, a pioneer in sustainable Arctic tourism.

The circular hotel, which looks like a glowing glass-and-wood halo, will start construction in 2019 and is estimated to open to the public in 2021.

We speak to Khan to find out more…

Click: What is the Powerhouse standard?
Khan: The term Powerhouse is used to describe plus energy buildings which in the course of 60 years will generate more renewable energy than the total amount of energy it requires, including building, running and demolition.

Building a net-positive building in an Arctic climate is an extremely challenging task

Click: What will be Svart’s key eco-credentials?
Khan: The hotel will create energy from the solar panels integrated in the roof. The building’s geometry is optimised to harvest solar energy specific to the Arctic location. Thanks to the long summer nights in the Arctic Circle, the annual production of solar energy will be high, this means that during the summer, when daylight is abundant, the excess electricity produced will be sold to the electricity grid. During the winter, the hotel will purchase electricity from the grid, but over the span of a year it will produce more electricity than it consumes.

Click: How will the hotel be constructed?
Khan: The design is inspired by a ‘fiskehjell’, an A-shaped wooden structure used for drying fish, and the ‘rorbue’, a traditional wooden house used by fishermen. The rorbue reference will be the hotel’s supporting structure, which will be built from weather resistant wooden poles stretching several metres below the surface of the fjord. The poles ensure the building has a minimal footprint in the pristine Arctic nature and will give it an almost transparent appearance.

Snøhetta Plompmozes - Svartisen Glacier Resort Mulighetsstudie - Borealis

The hotel will use geothermal wells connected to heat pumps which will heat the building. Photo: Plompmozes

Click: Why is Svart hotel circular and how will this benefit energy consumption?
Khan: We conducted an extensive mapping of how solar radiation behaves throughout the year to optimise the harvest of energy in a northern climate. Svart’s circular shape ensures that the hotel rooms, restaurants and terraces are strategically placed to exploit the sun’s energy throughout the day and the seasons.

The hotel will also use geothermal wells connected to heat pumps which will heat the building, thus reducing the building’s total energy consumption. Energy will also be created from the solar panels on the roof.

Click: What are the biggest challenges when building in an Arctic environment?
Khan: Building a net-positive building in an Arctic climate is an extremely challenging task. To meet these conditions generally requires the extensive use of materials in order to protect from wind, rain, frost and ice. No architectural practice, entrepreneur or developer could handle this individually, it’s due to the Powerhouse collaboration that we are able to compose such strong teams with exceptional knowledge and experience of how we can build more sustainable buildings. This is truly a team effort.

Click: What can hoteliers do right now to reduce their energy consumption?
Khan: They can take conscious steps to have a real-time effect on existing hotels by implementing energy and resource saving measures. They could engage professionals that have the knowledge and experience to provide effective and sustainable solutions, and also create more awareness amongst guests and visitors. Perhaps the current accepted approach to hotel operations is also due for reconsideration?

Click: Do you have plans for more Powerhouse hotels?
Khan: Not right now, but Powerhouse is responsible for several plus house projects, including Norway’s first plus house, Powerhouse Kjørbo in Sandvika.

Find out why sustainability in travel is here to stay

Hero image: Credit to Plompmozes

Tracey Davies is a freelance travel writer and journalist

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