Danish architecture studio Bjarke Ingels Group has designed the world’s most sustainable furniture factory, in collaboration with the Norwegian manufacturer, Vestre. Named The Plus, the factory development is burrowed within a forest, near the village of Magnor, in the eastern part of Norway. It is located in the geographical midpoint between Vestre’s headquarters in Oslo and its existing steel factory in Torsby, Sweden.
The factory, endeavoring to be a global destination for high-efficiency production and sustainable architecture, is envisioned as a village for a community dedicated to the clean, carbon-neutral fabrication of social and urban furniture.
The 6500 square meters open production facility includes a visitor center and a 300-acre public park for hiking and camping. The innovative name derived from the cross shape of the built form, consisting of four green-roof-covered wings, namely, the warehouse, color factory, wood factory, and assembly area. These wings connect at the center, the heart of the building, where the logistics office and exhibition center are located. The four production units are built with a 21-meter column-free spanning and a 3-meter wide service corridor, for structural stability and technical infrastructure.
A central circular atrium, with large glass windows, serves the dual purpose of exhibiting the latest outdoor furniture collections, varying with the different seasons, as well as an outdoor plaza for visitors and staff to experience the inner workings of the factory with complete transparency.
Each wing has an alternating ceiling corner lifted to create an inclined roof, allowing indoor-outdoor views of the production facility and the forest canopies. Along with two of these wings, the sloping roofs are extended to form a pathway for visitors to hike up and down while providing uninhibited access and view of the central courtyard.
An all-accessible ramp allows wheelchairs and strollers to meander the serpentine path and enjoy the immersive experience of the pine trees. The Plus strengthens Vestre’s vision of amalgamating social and democratic spaces with a future enriched by technology, yet grounded in history and nature.
“With Vestre, we have imagined a factory that simultaneously is front of house and back of house”, said the founder of BIG, Bjarke Ingels.
“Conceived as the intersection of a road and a production line, it forms a large plus connecting everything to everything. The radical transparency invites visitors and hikers to enjoy the whole process of manufacturing while providing the workers the thrill of working in the middle of the forest”, he further added.
Designed as an exemplar of sustainable architecture, the building will generate 50 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than a conventional factory of comparable size. It is expected to be the first industrial project in the Nordic region to achieve a BREEAM Outstanding rating, the highest environmental certification. The building is based on the principles of renewable and clean energy, abiding by Vestre’s motto of eco-friendly production and becoming a ‘Paris Agreement-proof’ building.
Constructed using carefully selected materials with the least environmental impact- local timber, and low-carbon concrete with recycled steel reinforcement- the building will be powered by renewable energy sources. The energy supply system is a combination of 1200 photovoltaic panels, placed on the roof and angled according to optimal solar efficiency. Excess heat from the panels is connected to an ice-water system for cooling, heating, and cold storage tanks. The buildings’ energy requirements will be 90 percent lower than a similar conventional factory, as per the architecture studio.
Several Industry 4.0 solutions, such as smart robots, self-driving trucks, a tablet to manage the factory, are employed. The movement of the materials between the facilities is undertaken using a fleet of all-electric Tesla trucks. Every machine in the facility is assigned a unique color from Vestre’s collection of 200 colors, which overflow to the floor and lead back to the central roundabout. This colorful archipelago creates a visual cue that helps explain the workflow of production. It also benefits the visitors who tour the facility, by easily following the laid paths, as if touring a museum.
Jan Christian Vestre, CEO of Vestre said that “Vestre will be the world’s most sustainable furniture manufacturer.”
“Building The Plus will be an important step in reaching this goal. By using cutting-edge technology and Scandinavian collaboration, we can produce faster and greener than ever. In that way, we will ensure global competitiveness through our leadership in environmentally-conscious production”, he further added.
Once complete, The Plus will be an incredible feat in terms of sustainability, challenging the stereotypical notions of traditional factory design. It will become a desirable destination, where visitors and hikers can enjoy, successfully integrating industrial architecture with recreational ventures.