Skagen ØKOntor: Norway’s most efficient office building by Various Architects

Night view  © Various Architects
Night view © Various Architects

While world leaders get together in Copenhagen for COP15, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, our friends from Various Architects share with us a very interesting project, that is also a statement addressing sustainability in office buildings.

Skagen ØKOntor is currently the most sustainable office building currently planned in Norway.

Developed together with engineers from Ramboll UK in Bristol and Pollen Architecture in Austin, TX, the project is also a showcase of concepts that can be applied elsewhere in the Nordic countries as you will see on the diagrams and project description below.

Rendering  © Various Architects
Rendering © Various Architects

I´m very happy to see architects speaking through their projects, reacting to what is currently being debated these days and that has a lot to do with our profession.

Various Architects and believe that the ØKOntor project demonstrates that architects, engineers, and developers of new office buildings should push harder to develop highly energy efficient buildings with a zero net-carbon construction. We should not accept the minimum reductions required by law as standards, but should see them as a challenge to do better. Good luck to the COP15 representatives.

Project description and images after the break:

Diagram  © Various Architects
Diagram © Various Architects

The building’s wooden facade of individually operable insulated shutters is it’s most visible and dynamic feature. Floor height shutters can be opened during the day to allow in daylight and passive solar heat, or closed after sunset on cold days for added insulation. The shutters can transform the facade from 60% to 20% window area. The inside surface of the shutters are tiled with LED lights to produce artificial daylight during the dark winter months to help provide a well-lit and healthy working environment year round. The insulated shutters are calculated to provide an additional 15% savings on heating yearly.

Shutters open  © Various Architects
Shutters open © Various Architects
Shutters closed  © Various Architects
Shutters closed © Various Architects
Shutters mixed  © Various Architects
Shutters mixed © Various Architects

The natural resources of the seafront site are all carefully utilized by the design. 4 Quiet Revolution wind turbines on the roof provide 24.000 kWhr of clean energy (10% of the building’s energy demand). The windy and often overcast weather on the norwegian west coast, combined with long dark winter nights made wind a more efficient alternative to solar panels in this case. The sun is controlled for solar shading and passive heat in the west facing atrium space, and through the many south facing windows. Sea water is used as an energy source for both heating and cooling via water cooled heat pumps and sea water free cooling. This, coupled with high efficiency air heat recovery, demand led controls, and high levels of thermal insulation have significantly reduced the thermal plant demand. Natural ventilation is possible for most of the year, with cooling through refrigeration only necessary when sea water temperatures are at their peak (no more than 4-8 weeks a year). Green roof surfaces collect and filter the area’s prodigious rainfall in rooftop water tanks for use in low-water fixtures and fittings, reducing the need to waste treated water.

Plans  © Various Architects
Plans © Various Architects
Sections  © Various Architects
Sections © Various Architects

Low embodied carbon materials were chosen where possible to reduce the project’s overall CO2 footprint. A structural system of cross-laminated timber (CLT) panel walls and floors was chosen for being locally sourced with a high level of carbon sequestration. CLT represents a significant reduction in embodied CO2 compared to a traditional concrete or steel frame. The building exterior and insulated shutters are clad in Kebony, a norwegian wood product that is sustainable, low-maintenance, and suitable for the exposed seaside climate.

The newly implemented TEC2007 norwegian building directive requires the energy marking of all new buildings. From 2010 office buildings have a maximum allowable energy use of 165 kWh/m2/year (Energy grade C), a typical office building today uses around 270 kWh/m2/year. At 72 kWh/m2/yr the ØKOntor would achieve a Grade A energy rating, less than half the required maximum. Norway does not have a Passivehaus certification system yet, but the ØKOntor complies with the certification principals of heat recovery, excellent airtightness, summer solar shading, high levels of thermal insulation, using useful passive solar/equipment heat gains and a net energy use of less than 75kWh/m2/yr.

*Energy estimates calculated by Ramboll using IES dynamic modeling software.

Cite: Basulto, David. "Skagen ØKOntor: Norway’s most efficient office building by Various Architects" 08 Dec 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 27 May 2015. <>
  • riba

    i just hate renders of ‘building models’, quite a silly thing to do. either make the physical model or make a photoshop/render of the proposal… what’s the point of faking a model?

    • ygogolak

      That is a physical model. I hate when people can’t tell the difference between a render and a physical model.

      • public eye

        Shame on you, ygogolak. Hate yourself.

  • C.W.

    “A typical office building today uses around 270 kWh/m2/yr” Is this a standard for Norway in particular? A quick look at the CBECS database shows that the typical US office uses around 771.5 kWh/m2/yr. By that standard this building uses 10% of the energy of a typ. US office bldg (which is super)

    • Andrew


      The information given in the article is correct.

      The best part about the energy use is that Norway is 100% hydroelectric. We export practically all of our oil and gas to the world, but our own buildings and homes are all [hydro-]electric.

      We [as consumers] watch the snow and rainfall for future price indications, if there’s a lot of water in the dams we know the prices will be lower [come Winter when we need it].

  • Fudge


    I agree with you, but this is a real model. Look closer at the reflections on the plastic and you’ll see these were photos taken in their office with photoshopped skies. A model that looks like a rendered model is obviously an extremely well made model indeed.

  • james webb

    actually fudge they ARE all renders not physical models. see
    for a thread about this.
    the reflections would be from a 3d modelled room/window.

  • nice building

    Another example of a “young” office that should start building instead of constantly pestering us by uploading their sketches on the internet

  • arnold

    nice architecture (or better building), but there’s no real arch.concept. Maybe the main point of this building is develop highly eco energy efficient technology. Maybe the essence of this building is inside of him.

    Respect to Norwegian, who takes care of their nature and energy sources. This nation have very goog thinking, strategy about their future.

  • Fudge

    @James webb

    Wow, fair enough. But this brings me back to ribas question, ‘why bother?’

  • Bjorn

    About the renders:

    I would guess the rendering engine used is maxwell render or similar. This gives realistic lighting, so a 3d-model mapped with “simple” materials will look a lot like a physical model.

  • Stephen

    Think you’re missing the point, gentlemen. Visualizations aside, it is good to see that some architects are working towards sustainable solutions that don’t necessarily look like engineers have developed them. Not to bring down engineers, but I think the future role and responsibilities of the architect is a much more important discussion.

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