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Plus House Larvik (ZEB Pilot House)

The Plus House, Norway’s first Multi-Comfort House was inaugurated in September in Larvik. The construction of this boldly contemporary house, designed by the architect firm Snøhetta, is the initiative of two Building Distribution Sector brands: Optimera and Brødrene Dahl. They worked with ZEB (Norway’s Research Centre on Zero Emission Buildings), Saint-Gobain Weber, Saint-Gobain Gyproc (Construction Products), Saint-Gobain Glass (Innovative Materials), insulation company Glava and Brockman. It produces more energy than it consumes by harnessing solar and thermal power, and the addition of a wastewater heat recovery system.

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© Paal-André Schwital

  • The building material supplier Optimera and Brødrene Dahl has jointly developed and defined Multikomfort, to increase knowledge about future energy technology, building systems and materials, and to facilitate the selection of solutions and products for homeowner, building and plumbing.
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© Bruce Damonte

ZEB Pilot House, situated in a less-than-glamorous industrial stretch of Larvik, Norway, some 80 miles south of Oslo. Even though it’s out of the limelight, the ZEB house—a collaboration between Snøhetta and the Research Center on Zero Emission Buildings—could have a major impact on residential architecture going forward: Not only is it a zero emissions house, it’s a “plus house,” meaning it actually produces excess energy. It’s enough that an electric car could drive for 12,500 miles on the surplus energy from the ZEB.

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© Snøhetta

“We believe that the focus on sustainability and innovation in architecture is of great importance, and we are honored by the chance to bring focus to this in our industry through our work. We believe architecture has an important role in solving the immediate challenge of energy consumption and production. We can actually reduce the CO2 footprint.” – Snøhetta

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© multikomfort

Design Features:

  • The house focuses on offsetting carbon emissions and on the choice of sustainable materials, from the outset. The concept of the project was to create a center of excellence to develop repeatable solutions for sustainable living.
  • The volume of the house describes a single family house, however, the building is intended for use as a demonstration platform to facilitate learning on building methodology for plus houses with integrated sustainable solutions.
  • Mainly wooden construction, built on site. Carrying construction in glued wooden beams, delivered precut. Conscious choice of materials with as little concrete as possible and reuse of old bricks. Old railway sleepers was used in the construction of the garage.
Plus-House-Larvik-ZEB-Pilot-House-By-Snohetta-16-Paal-Andre-Schwital-759x506 Plus House Larvik (ZEB Pilot House) / Snøhetta

© Paal-André Schwital

  • The 200-square-metre Multikomfort House covers its own energy needs, and generates enough surplus energy to heat the swimming pool and even charge the family’s electric-powered car.
  • The house is a plus house. By using high-tech solutions it produces the energy required for daily operation. Energy is collected from the sun and groundwater. Moreover, it has full utilization and recovery of energy from waste water.
  • An outdoor atrium with fireplace and furnishing opens for outdoor dining from early spring to late fall. A feeling of cabin life, in one of the world’s most advanced family houses, in a room with walls of stacked firewood and bricks.
  • Design follows the environment. The house needs a large roof for solar panels, and this influence the design. In addition great effort has been put to combining comfort with energy efficiency.
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© Paal-André Schwital

  • The heating system for this house is designed with basis in a Nilan Compact P Geo 3 with an integrated 3 kW ground source heat pump. The heat pump can retrieve energy from either an energy well of 100m or an earth circuit at 150m. It is intended to cover 80% of the energy demand for heating. According to the test conducted by the Danish Technological Institute in accordance with EN 14825: 2012, the heat pump has a SCOP of 5.17. The remaining 20% of the heating comes from 16 m² of solar collectors from Hewalex mounted on the roof, which supplies hot water to the heating system. The heat is accumulated in a 400 l tank from Oso, and distributed in the house with underfloor heating from Uponor throughout the 1st floor and in the bathroom on the 2nd floor. In addition, it is installed a large radiator from Lyngson on each floor. Heat distribution is designed to use only part of the system at the same time, and this paves the way to test how the system can be optimized.
Plus-House-Larvik-ZEB-Pilot-House-By-Snohetta-24-Paal-Andre-Schwital-759x506 Plus House Larvik (ZEB Pilot House) / Snøhetta

© Paal-André Schwital


Plus House Larvik is a pilot project on a family house out of the ordinary. By optimising architectural qualities and technological solutions, the house serves both the living and energy needs of a family house, in addition to generating enough energy surpluses to power an electric car year-round.

The house is the result of a collaboration between the architecture and design firm Snøhetta, Scandinavia’s largest independent research body SINTEF, Zero Emission Building (ZEB) partner Brødrene Dahl, and Optimera. The project describes a single family house, however, the building is primarily intended for use as a demonstration platform to facilitate learning.

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© Bruce Damonte

The house in the garden has a characteristic tilt towards southeast and a sloping roof surface clad with solar panels and collectors. These elements, together with geothermal energy from energy wells in the ground, serve the energy need for the house. The project has a strong focus on retaining home-like qualities through non-quantifiable properties. Emotive comfort and sense of wellbeing have governed the design process to the same extent as energy demands.

Daylight, views, and contact with landscape and outdoor space are reconciled with the need for balancing sealed walls and windows. Heating and cooling is solved passively through placement of glass surfaces, orientation, house geometry, and volume. Materials have been chosen based on thermal characteristics and embodied energy, but also on the basis of their ability to contribute to a good indoor climate, air quality, and aesthetic qualities.

Focus has been put on creating a homely house and the outdoor atrium with fireplace and furnishing, surrounded by stacked firewood and bricks, contribute to this atmosphere – a feeling of cabin life in one of the world’s most advanced family houses.

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© Snøhetta

The landscape is formed as a garden where visitors can walk around the building and discover the elements that make this an exceptional family house. The garden has a swimming pool and a shower, both utilising solar-generated thermal heat surplus, a sauna heated with firewood, and storage rooms shielding from neighbours. A breakfast spot on the eastern side, with a view to the neighbouring farmland, paved with recycled timber blocks, creates an inviting surface. The grounds employ a variety of spaces that can be enjoyed year-round, with the inclusion of fruit trees and vegetable gardens to accommodate small scale food production.

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© Snøhetta

To achieve ZEB-OM classification the project is required to document and verify a minimum of 100% CO2 offsetting. Renewable energy production via photovoltaic and solar-thermal panels integrated in the building envelope enables offsetting of carbon emissions generated by the burning of fossil fuels in power stations. By offsetting in this manner we reduce emission of other greenhouse gasses simultaneously. Focus on carbon emissions associated with building materials represents a new direction in the vital drive toward a sustainable construction industry.

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© Paal-André Schwital

About ZEB:

The aim of the Research Centre on Zero Emission Buildings (ZEB) is to promote the realization and diffusion of zero emission buildings. The goal of creating buildings that do not contribute to climate change is defined here in its most ambitious form: zero emission buildings must achieve a balanced carbon footprint throughout the course of their whole existence, including construction, operations, and demolition.

ZEB develops materials, components and building concepts, methods and tools that can help ensure that future buildings do not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions over its lifetime. Through its industry partners, research ZEB a unique opportunity to test out new solutions and new products.

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© Snøhetta

Project Data:

Project name: Plus House Larvik (ZEB Pilot House)
Location: Ringdalskogen, Larvik, Norway
Coordinates: 59.113765, 10.112460

  • Type By Characteristic: Green & Sustainable House, Contemporary House
  • Type By Site: Countryside / Suburb House
  • Type By Size: Medium House – (201 sqm – 450 sqm)
  • Type By Materials: Wooden House

Project Area and volume:

  • Gross floor area : 202 sqm
  • Heated area: 202 sqm
  • Cooled area: 0 sqm
  • Façade area: 229 sqm
  • Glazed area: 59 sqm
  • Floor height: 3 m.
  • Gross total volume: 610 m3

Status: Built
Construction Cost: 675,000 Euros
Completion Year: 2014


  • 2015 – WAN Awards – Category: Sustainable Buildings – Winner
  • 2015 – Mies van der Rohe Awards – Nominees

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Optimera and Brødrene Dahl (Saint Gobain)
Architects: Snøhetta – Akershusstranda 21, N-0150 Oslo, Norway
Builder: Brødrene Dahl and Optimera
Construction company: Espen Staer AS.
Text Description: © Courtesy of Snøhetta, ZEB-Zero Emission Building, multikomfort
Images: © Snøhetta, Bruce Damonte, Paal-André Schwital, EVE, multikomfort

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Plus House Larvik (ZEB Pilot House) / Snøhetta
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