Snohetta is an architectural firm with talented architects, landscape interior, and graphic designers primarily based in Oslo, Norway, and has studios in several other countries. For this project, Snohetta teamed up with Scandinavia’s largest independent research body (SINTEF), zero-emission buildings, and Optimera to design the ZED multi-comfort home. ZEB pilot house is a one of its kind zero-emission building that does not consume energy, in turn, releases surplus energy enough to run an electric car throughout the year.
ZEB Pilothouse has a total floor space of 200 m, which is equivalent to the size of the average family home. Larvik, Norway, is the location, and the concept is ‘’retaining home qualities’’ and providing ‘’emotive comfort and a sense of well-being’’ as per the architects of Snohetta. Since this is just a pilot project, no one lives there currently. Throughout the project, each stage is documented. This sustainable project was awarded the European Union Prize for contemporary architecture- Mies van der rohe award 2015.
This Snohetta project is a metal volume oriented to the southeast with an integrated void at the central courtyard. It has a characteristic tilt towards the southeast. The outdoors has a small garden for cultivating a couple of fruits and vegetables, an outdoor family pool, and an atrium with a fireplace.
The house has a living room and kitchen on the ground floor, and the upper floors house the bedroom. It has a skylit staircase that leads to the upper level. Large fins shade the house’s upper-story windows. The designers have no intention to allow shading devices like blinds as they obstruct daylight.
Even in a region where the temperature in winters goes up to negative values, this house remains a carbon-neutral home. In this project, Snohetta looked at how architecture and technology come together and ensure the optimization of the community. The inclined roof is covered with solar panels and collectors in conjunction with a geothermal energy system to meet the home’s energy needs.
There is renewable energy production with photovoltaic and solar thermal panels. While solar photovoltaic panels provide electricity to run appliances, solar thermal panels heat the water. A shallow geothermal ring is situated 2-4m deep underground. A heat exchanger located here extracts warmth to supplement the ventilation and heat circulation on the water-borne systems.
The house maintains the standards of a Norwegian passive house. It adheres to the ZEB-OM guidelines with zero-emission from all materials used in the construction and daily process. The materials used in the home and the electrical appliances also accounted for no carbon emissions. Materials are selected based on their thermal characteristic and energy incorporated in them. A quality indoor environment and good air circulation were also important considerations. Snohetta achieved building a net-zero house with the use of familiar materials.
This Snohetta design comes under the category of plus houses since it releases surplus energy. There is no potential for overheating in the home since it is highly insulated. The southeast orientation assists in the thermal performance of the building. There is also a rainwater collection system in the southern face of the house. A 5000l tank collects runoff water from a roof and, after infiltration, toilets and irrigation use water. The greywater uses heat recapture for more efficiency. Every resource is used very carefully without allowing any wastage.
Snohetta designed the ZEB pilothouse with a vision of no external energy source. All the elements in the house meet their own needs. Additionally, the energy released due to insulation and the high-quality building envelope heats the family pool and outdoor shower. Orientation, the placement of windows, and the placement of the atrium are all strategically thought out in this house. Large windows allow the required amount of natural light to cut out the excess. The glass doors also add to the required ventilation.
The indoors are sealed with wood that promotes heat retention and helps in the calculated position of the windows. Everything in it contributes to good indoor air quality and thermal comfort.
When viewed from the street, ZEB Pilot House appears to be just another house full of aesthetics. The garden, cozy atrium, swimming pool, and mixture of textures draw the eye of onlookers. Sliding glass doors close off the atrium from the kitchen and living room. The back wall of the atrium has brick cladding and firewood is stacked. The wood and brick give an organic cabin-like feeling to the modern house.
The cabin-like space was another salient feature Snohetta aimed for in the project. A homey and comfortable seating is placed in the atrium allowing outdoor dining and lazy evenings in a pleasant spring enjoying the view.
ZEB pilot house has an air and light controller that adjusts temperature and energy spent time on its own, sensing an individual’s presence in the home. According to Snohetta, a zero-emission home is possible to build, but its residents must carry forward the idea behind it. People play a crucial role in retaining sustainability. They must try to find innovative solutions rather than relying on technologies.
After an 8 Year Long Research
It is a project with huge ambitions for environmental care, implementing them by creating new construction parameters with innovative tools. The construction ensures that it will last for a lifetime without constant renovation. It is an adaptable design in itself. Throughout its lifecycle, Pilothouse emissions are documented and verified as being 100% offset.
Though no one currently resides in the house, it has set a benchmark for upcoming sustainable projects. Snohetta has secured its place in zero-emission buildings after eight years-long research and hard work.
ZEB Pilot House (2014). Snohetta Projects [online]. (2014). Available at: https://snohetta.com/projects/188-zeb-pilot-house [Accessed 18 September 2021].
Architime. RU (2016). Snohetta- A Dialogue Between Architecture and Landscape. [YouTube video]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdF-CR2Jacc&t=2116s [Accessed 13 June 2016].