The greenest school in Norway, the Powerhouse Drøbak Montessori lower secondary school, will produce more energy than it consumes when it opens its doors next year.

Delivered by Powerhouse, a coalition of sustainability-minded companies the Zero Emission Buildings Centre have likened to Tesla, the project is located in Drøbak, and designed with optimal solutions that allow for drastic cuts in energy use.

Solar panels will help the school to generate 30,500 kWh of energy each year, with the body of the structure intersected by an angular, ‘solar plate’. According to Powerhouse, this plate uses the stack effect to draw in fresh air, and is oriented directly to the south with a 33-degree incline.


Similar to Powerhouse’s first energy-positive project, Powerhouse Kjørbo, the Drøbak school features two external ground wells that provide a renewable source of geothermal energy for heating, water, ventilation, as well as cooling in the summer. These energy wells have been drilled 300m into the ground.

Further minimising energy consumption are passive design measures, such as the building’s compact volume, favourable U-values, and specified materials with “little bound energy”. In all, Drøbak is expected to use less than 25 percent of the usual energy requirements for schools of the same size.

“The design arises from the energy concept, the qualities of the site and the Montessori pedagogy, in addition to a strict financial scope,” Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, co-founder at Snøhetta, one of the practices that make up Powerhouse, says.

“The architecture is intended as a social and educational tool, built around the Powerhouse concept as the central design element.”

The new rectangular structure, containing 900sqm of heated space, will sit on the edge of a forest, creating strong connections between the indoors and nature. 

“It is particularly gratifying to see that this energy-positive building takes the environment and nature into account,” Managing Director of the Powerhouse collaboration and Chief Innovation Officer at Skanska Norway, Kim Robert Lisø, adds.


Powerhouse Kjørbo was the first Powerhouse project to be completed by the collaboration. It is also the world’s first refurbished energy-positive office building.

Joining Skanska and Snøhetta in forming Powerhouse are developers Entra, environmental NGO ZERO, and consulting practice Asplan Viak. Together, the team seeks to build a new standard for sustainable buildings around the world, beginning in cold Norway. All Powerhouse buildings must meet a strict definition of being energy positive.

This includes taking into account every stage of a building’s life cycle, from the transport and manufacture of its materials, to its eventual demolition. To find out more about the Powerhouse standard, click here.

“We want to show that energy positive buildings can pay off, even commercially. Energy positive buildings can be profitable, both for those of us who develop the solutions, and for the users. The users will benefit from the lack of electricity bills,” the team explains on their website.

“[But] no one can build energy positive buildings alone. We have to rethink to succeed. We need to become better at utilising our expert knowledge.”

Students at Drøbak will begin using their new, sustainable school premises in summer 2019.

All images courtesy of Powerhouse.