Norway has been leading green design for years. Expert architects and builders in sustainable performance are creating new standards that have a far reaching, global impact.

In Drøbak, Norway, there’s a little school that’s one of the most unique — and possibly the greenest — in the world. On top, solar panels face the sun at a 33-degree angle, and beneath, energy wells tap geothermal energy. This spring, students, for the first time, attended the Powerhouse Drøbak Montessori lower secondary school, which claims to be the most efficient school in Norway. It is also the most recent building completed by a coalition of architects, engineers, developers and designers called Powerhouse.

“We have a mission to make every building energy positive,” says Rune Stene, director of technology at Skanska, a contracting firm that is part of Powerhouse. “That means that we want to tear down barriers to the industry, and to the players in the industry, and to be a showcase that we have the technology, we have the knowledge, and it’s possible to do it right now.”

Powerhouse is made up of some familiar names. The internationally renowned Snøhetta does the architecture. Entra is a real estate company, Asplan Viak a real estate firm, and Zero Emission Resource Organization (ZERO) is a non-profit foundation. Together, they’re the Captain Planet (“your powers combined!”) of energy-positive building. Their mission: to build buildings that provide more power over the course of their lifetimes than they cost to build, run and demolish.

“To be able to design the buildings that can produce that much energy, that accounts for all the lifetime energy, the design has to change from form follows function to form follows environment,” says Stene. “So you see at least in the new build projects, a different shape on the building. That’s not because it’s Snøhetta that are the architects. It needs to be that way to harvest as much sun as needed for energy production.”

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