Originally published on Green Building Elements
Meaning more than just focusing on the environment, sustainability also means creating a sense of place and belonging. Interpreting this philosophy brilliantly, MDH Arkitekter has nearly completed Moholt 50|50, an award-winning university student village in Trondheim, Norway.
Envisioned as a community-focused commercial district featuring distinctive Scandinavian aesthetics, MDH Arkitekter’s minimalist approach and stylish use of natural materials is simply stunning.
Trondheim’s Moholt 50|50
A miniature city in itself, the Moholt student village accommodates about 2200 students of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Originally built between 1963-70, the village became the focus of an architectural competition for young architects envisioning and designing a new masterplan for the student village’s future.
A competition was organized by Studentsamskipnaden i Trondheim (SIT), the student welfare organization. The vision for the new student village is not only to provide affordable and simple housing but also to erase the “invisible border” between the surrounding residential area and the students’ housing. Making students’ everyday life more convenient is important, as well, allowing them to give greater attention to their studies while attending University.
Taking first place in the competition, MDH Arkitekter, an Oslo-based architecture firm, proposed replacing the existing central parking lot with a new, exciting “heart” for the existing housing. Moholt 50|50 student village intends to offer valuable, sustainable benefits to the entire community, with many new jobs being created by the enterprising new facilities.
With five new housing towers, about 1300 new living spaces are included, as well as a clothing store, hairdresser, supermarket, library, fitness and activity center, medical center, and even a kindergarten day care center for students with young children. A new 1,000 square meter parking facility is also under construction.
Energy Efficiency Promotes Stylish Sustainability
In terms of volume, this is the largest wood project in Europe. In search of improved energy efficiency, the aim at Trondheim’s Moholt 50|50 is to decrease carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 50 percent, compared with traditional construction methods. With many strategies to achieve this goal, the resulting student village is an appealing and stylish model of sustainability.
The entire project is being built to meet Norway‘s passive house energy standards. The structures are utilizing geothermal energy by using geothermal heat pumps for heating and cooling.
Norway is one of the world’s leading countries utilizing geothermal energy. Together with national universities, colleges, research institutes, and industry partners, the government of Norway established the Norwegian Center for Geothermal Energy Research (CGER). Its aim is to “facilitate the exploitation of geothermal energy as a national energy source and international business object.”
Driven by governmental policy, the country is reducing the dependence on hydropower by restricting demand and increasing diversity. To achieve this, new building codes with strict energy efficiency requirements were enacted in Norway between 2007 and 2010, with a goal of cutting energy needs for heating purposes by about 25 percent.
Utilizing Cross Laminated Timber
Because they breathe in carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce oxygen during photosynthesis, trees are very valuable carbon sinks. They capture and store greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming. Even when trees are felled and timber is made into construction materials, the carbon dioxide within them remains stored in the end products. Even when it is repurposed or recycled, lumber and other wooden building materials continue to store their CO2.
A promising new technology for the sustainable use of lumber in the construction industry is cross laminated timber (CLT). Almost as strong as steel, CLT technology utilizes a process similar to making plywood but on a significantly larger scale.
Panels of cross laminated timber are composed of industrial dried lumber assembled at right angles with adhesive applied across their entire surfaces. According to the American Wood Council, CLT panels allow for the transfer of loads on all sides, and retain static strength and shape indefinitely.
CLT panels can be as large as 54 feet long and 10 feet wide, and composed of three to seven or more layers. Based on the project specifications, CLT panels are prefabricated and arrive at the construction site with doors and windows pre-cut.
Reducing the Carbon Footprint with Kebony
Norway has a long history of building with wood, and Kebony, chosen for the student housing’s facade, offers additional durability and environmental sustainability. An innovative alternative to bricks, cement, and tropical hardwood, Kebony employs a patented technology using furfuryl alcohol to treat softwood from sustainably-managed forests.
Furfuryl alcohol is an agricultural by-product of corn and sugarcane industries. It is used to polymerize the cell wall of softwood, imparting greatly improved stability and durability.
A recent study by Bergfald & Company, an environmental consulting firm, reported that Kebony has a greatly reduced carbon footprint compared to tropical hardwood equivalents. Including treatment and transportation to Norther Europe, the firm states that Kebony’s carbon footprint is anywhere between 15 to 30 times lower.
Focusing on Sustainability
MDH Partner and Architect Dagfinn Sagen reported in an email to Green Building Elements, “This is an incredibly ambitious project, and once completed it will be the largest cross laminated timber (CLT) construction project in Europe.”
Sagen continued, “We chose Kebony for the build as it requires no treatment throughout its whole life cycle, and is the perfect choice when you need a cladding material that is maintenance free. Over time, it also naturally develops an attractive silver grey patina, an aesthetic that we believe really works for this project.”
Kebony Sales Manager Mette Valen stated, “The project team working on Moholt 50|50 have done an incredible job, creating a large and striking building in the midst of a built up residential area. We were really pleased to see that they placed such importance on environmental values, and we hope that the size of the build will show others that even large scale projects can place sustainability as a key focus.”