BIG and Vestre on the most sustainable factory in the world

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BIG and Vestre plan the world’s most sustainable factory

Redefining the root and branch of eco-friendly architecture, BIG and Vestre aspire to create the world’s most sustainable furniture factory, called The Plus, in the middle of a Norwegian forest

Jan Christian Vestre is on a quest. He wants to create the most sustainable furniture factory in the world – and he takes his goal seriously. The young CEO of Vestre, a Norwegian outdoor furniture specialist, has been running this relatively small family business since 2012, after the death of his father (Jan Christian is the third generation at the helm), and he has clear plans for it. . This includes being recognized as the greenest furniture manufacturer on the planet, starting with an exemplary flagship production facility in the middle of a Norwegian forest, designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG).

“It’s a tool to change the world,” says Jan Christian. “We don’t want to be another company that just brings products to market. The factory is critical in this regard; it is the first step in promoting a broader shift towards greener practices. “People can share ideas about life there, have a feeling of belonging. It’s about bringing people together. We can create good and profitable new jobs and stop climate change; we can do both. We want to prove that we can build a factory that can not only meet but exceed the measures of the Paris Agreement. ‘

It’s a tall order, but Jan Christian’s enthusiasm is palpable and his architects share his passion and concerns. “It’s interesting that the two most sustainable projects we’ve ever done are factories: the CopenHill power plant in Copenhagen, and this,” says David Zahle, Copenhagen partner and architect at BIG. ‘Coincidence? Not necessarily. Factories are where many environmental problems start and where people can make a difference directly in their daily work. ‘

Vestre is shapely in terms of architecture: his first factory, designed by David Sandved in 1959, was once described as “one of the most beautiful industrial buildings imaginable”; a second factory in Torsby and its HQ in Oslo are from none other than Snøhetta. Jan Christian approached BIG directly for this latest commission, after seeing his past work and admiring his playful approach. He first met Ingels when opening another BIG project in Norway, the Kistefos Museum (W * 242). “We wanted bold ideas and a sense of humor,” he says. BIG does both, from the CopenHill power station to the ski slope, to its Lego house in Billund, which looks like a stack of the beloved bricks, and the Danish National Maritime Museum, whose courtyard below looks like the hull of a ship.

Making a building that is sustainable in every aspect, from its materials to its construction methods and its future life, is as difficult as it sounds. Many processes are still fairly uncharted territory and the reality of questioning everything in design and construction is certainly not easy, not least because everything happens during a pandemic. “We had to develop new methods to make things work. There is a lot of glass, for example. We have more than 2000 m² of windows [which could have resulted in poorer heat control], but we took care of thermal bridges, insulation and a facade that had never been done before. We tried not to compromise, ”says Vestre. Once the project is completed, the team intends to publicly share all the technologies developed and used, so that everyone can see them and use them freely in order to accelerate the transition to green technologies.

The factory, called The Plus, is a low-rise structure named after its cross-shaped plan. With an area of ​​130 m2 and a surface area of ​​7,000 m2, the building is relatively modest, but uses its space with extreme efficiency, also enhancing its outdoor spaces. The goods enter at one end and then are divided between the lumber factory and the color factory. The product is assembled in the fourth wing and then shipped to the other side.

“It’s basically a big treadmill,” says Zahle. At the heart of the building, located inside an interior roundabout, is a sunken open courtyard shrouded in glass. The non-glazed parts of the building will be clad in charred wood. The materials have been chosen to be environmentally friendly and resistant, so that the building will require as little maintenance as possible in the future.

The outdoor spaces were of crucial importance, as the space will be open to everyone. The public is invited to visit, walk and rest around the building, or on its green and accessible roof. There is no fence and it will be available 24/7. “It was very important that people inside could look into the forest and people outside could look inside – so there is total transparency,” says Zahle. “There are even windows on the roof for visitors to look into the offices. “

The surrounding nature will be partly an outdoor exhibition hall and partly a play area, filled with playfully stretched, twisted or oversized furniture from Vestre’s catalog. It will be a bit like an installation in nature, a madness of an urban place inserted in the forest. Meanwhile, the ramp to the roof and the central staircase inside the courtyard will be painted in different colors representing the 300 colors in which Vestre produces his furniture, creating a cascading rainbow.

The Plus should be completed and operational by the end of 2021; it will then open its doors to visitors in 2022. At the same time, Vestre is further improving its activities to achieve its goal of sustainable development. This dynamic will hopefully be complemented by the growth of the company. “There is a wide range of things that we are doing, and even more that we can do in the future. We are growing rapidly, ”says Jan Christian. “The goal is not growth per se, but this way we can do more. »§


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