Snøhetta completes Norway’s first naturally climatized mixed-use building
Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta

Snøhetta completes Norway’s first naturally climatized mixed-use building

8 May 2024  •  News  •  By Gerard McGuickin

Global transdisciplinary architecture and design practice Snøhetta has completed Norway’s first naturally climatized mixed-use building. Vertikal Nydalen is located in the Nydalen neighborhood of Oslo, a former industrial area by the river Akerselva. The visually appealing and dynamic structure incorporates a simplified and self-sufficient climate system, based on research into sustainable energy solutions.

photo_credit Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
photo_credit Snøhetta and Lala Tøyen
Snøhetta and Lala Tøyen

Over the course of several decades, Nydalen has transitioned from an industrial area into a modern business hub. The site on which Vertikal Nydalen sits had been used as a car park. In a bid to transform the neighborhood into a vibrant residential district, there was an opportunity to create a new town square — a car-free zone with a high-rise, mixed-use building. Officially opened on 25th April 2024, Vertikal Nydalen consists of restaurants at street level, five floors of office space, and apartments, spread across 11,000 square meters (approx. 118,400 square feet). “To maintain certain sight lines and gain a lighter impression, the building is divided into two volumes of different heights, where only one part exploits the plot's maximum potential of 18 stories,” explains Snøhetta. The ground floor is activated with various pockets and passageways, created for public use. The design maximizes exposure to sunlight while minimizing wind in the new plaza.

photo_credit Snøhetta
Snøhetta
photo_credit Snøhetta
Snøhetta
photo_credit Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
photo_credit Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta

Vertikal Nydalen’s design serves as a prime example of environmentally conscious architecture and is part of Snøhetta’s effort to find viable environmental solutions in the face of a climate emergency. Described by the studio as a “triple zero solution” building, no energy is purchased for heating, cooling, and ventilation. “This is achieved using geothermal wells, PV panels, a low-energy system for heating and cooling, and natural ventilation,” says the studio. “The project has more than 50 percent overall reduction of CO2 emissions from materials, transport, and energy compared to a reference project.” Water from the geothermal wells circulates in the building’s clay walls and concrete slabs when either heating (via hot water) or cooling (via cold water) is required. Vertikal Nydalen’s concrete core provides a thermal mass, ensuring the slow release of heat and cold from the floors. Heat absorbed during the day is released at night — this contributes to a stable temperature throughout the building. The heat pump that controls the heating and cooling system is powered by rooftop photovoltaic panels.

photo_credit Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta

Conventional ventilation systems in office buildings typically require ceilings lowered by up to one meter from the slab. In Vertikal Nydalen, the use of a natural alternative — without ducts or fans — saves space and opens up rooms, providing better spatial qualities and natural light. A naturally ventilated office will also require less technical maintenance and remodeling.

photo_credit Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta

The building’s angled facade and varied facets act to provide pressure differentials and velocity changes as wind hits the surface. By optimizing the wind speed, internal ventilation is improved. Snøhetta explains: “The air enters through valves in the facade, which open and close as needed. When two windows open on different sides of the building, the pressure difference forces the air to move through the premises.” Valves open more frequently when more people are in a particular area. 

photo_credit Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
photo_credit Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta

Vertikal Nydalen’s facade consists of wooden elements that are clad in heat-treated pine, adding to the overall warmth and aesthetic appeal of the structure — this pine will grey gracefully with age. A series of vertical wooden slats emphasize the direction of height. Moreover, forty-three angled balconies with a steel finish protrude from the wooden surface, enhancing the characterful quality of the facade. The perforated graphic railings and multifaceted underside of each balcony capture light from different angles.

photo_credit Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
photo_credit Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
photo_credit Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta

The use of natural ventilation set certain parameters for the building’s forty apartments. Concrete remains exposed as much as possible — adding material coverings would impact the more than three-meter-high (10-feet-high) ceilings and affect the heating and cooling. The concrete floors in each apartment have a thin oak parquet layer. Apartments range in size from 44 square meters (474 square feet) to 143 square meters (1,539 square feet), and have various layouts. Each apartment has large windows that flood the interiors with natural light. In communal hallways, oak ceiling suspensions, carpets, and soft furnishings absorb sound and add warmth. 

photo_credit Snøhetta
Snøhetta
photo_credit Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
photo_credit Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta

The building’s basement provides parking spaces and cleaning facilities for bikes (there are no spaces for cars). Two rooftop terraces are placed partially below the photovoltaic panels and wooden planters are designed to store rainwater for use in irrigation.

photo_credit Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
photo_credit Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta

Vertikal Nydalen’s development was informed by the results of two research projects, LowEx and Naturally, supported by The Research Council of Norway: “LowEx focuses on heating and cooling with very little added energy, and aims to develop new total concepts for thermal energy supply in zero-energy buildings and energy-positive buildings,” Snøhetta explains. “Naturally, with 13 participants from the Norwegian construction industry, focuses on developing new strategies for natural ventilation.” Vertikal Nydalen’s energy performance will be monitored via the Hybrids research project (an extension of Naturally). Sensors placed throughout the interior will track heating and ventilation, with feedback used to further optimize the building’s climate.

photo_credit Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta
Lars Petter Pettersen/Snøhetta

Vertikal Nydalen is a FutureBuilt pilot project that has been certified according to Norway's BREEAM-NOR environmental certification system: “Excellent” for the office area and “Very Good” for the apartments.