With an investment of almost NOK 300 million, The Plus has become the single largest investment in the Norwegian furniture in decades. Commissioned by Vestre and designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), The Plus, as it is known, took only 18 months to complete and now stands as the world’s most environmentally friendly furniture factory. It is already on track to become the first industrial building to achieve BREEAM Outstanding Certification.
“Playfulness, democracy, and sustainability are at the heart of the Vestre brand and everything they do; our wooden, colorful factory in the middle of the Norwegian woods – surrounded by a 300,000 square meter public forest park where the local community can come to experience the gigantic Vestre furniture pieces sprinkled throughout – lives and breathes this philosophy. Working with the ambitious and dedicated Vestre team has been the pleasure of a lifetime.” says David Zahle, Partner, BIG.
Spanning over 75,000 square feet, the project resembles a massive plus sign embedded into the forest, a highly logistical design choice as well as an aesthetics one. The four production areas—the Color Factory, Wood Factory, Assembly and Warehouse—occupy the four ends while the middle houses the visitor center, which will help act as an education hub of sorts on resource conservation, circularity in design and more. There is also a public courtyard with rotating Vestre furniture.
Setting a New Standard for the Industrial Sector
With its completion, Vestre hopes to show that industrial projects can be global innovators in terms of environmental impact. From materials like low-carbon concrete and recycled reinforcement steel that went into making it to its day to day operations, the design of the factory works tirelessly to reduce its environmental footprint as much as possible.
The energy consumption of the building is 60% lower than traditional factories while the emission rates are 55% lower than a comparable facility. Nine hundred solar panels line the roof, providing over 250,000 kWh of renewable energy per year, with the factory also recycling 90-95% of all wastewater used in production.
The reach of the factory also extends invisibly into the surrounding landscape. This is because there are no borders, fences or confidential permissions needed to access the site. Instead, the factory is meant to embody the Norwegian ‘Right to Roam’ concept, featuring miles of hiking trails that not only pass through the grounds, but also lead up the sloping, vegetative roofs. These trails will be open to both employees and the general public year-round.
Another aspect of this openness is found in the way of transparency, both literally and figuratively. Bright, expansive windows run the perimeter of the facility, allowing employees to look out onto nature while also allowing visitors to look in on the furniture-making process. Inside, visitors can then learn more about the factory’s operations, providing an opportunity to share information that Vestre believes will be fundamental to moving the world forward.
“To us, The Plus is a crystal-clear example of Hedonistic Sustainability – showing us how our sustainable future will not only be better for the environment, but also more beautiful to work in and more fun to visit,” says Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner and Creative Director, BIG.