Vestre’s project manager on building ”the world’s most sustainable furniture factory” in Norway
Aiming to create also the most open and transparent factory, the facility includes a recreational area and experience park where the goal is to put the small city of Magnor on the world map as a tourist destination and to have it frequently mentioned on TripAdvisor as a recommended place to visit in Norway.
3 Aug 2022

The first half of 2022 has been busy for Vestre. Last year, the Oslo-based manufacturer presented its new line Vestre Habitats, aiming to use furniture to support biodiversity. This summer, the concept was one of the winners of the Danish Design Award 2022 and has been trialled in a research project together with the University in Bergen. During Milan Design Week, the brand presented a new furniture collection, Kinn, by Andersson & Voll in the exhibition Norwegian Presence by Kråkvik & D’Orazio. Last but not least, the new factory, The Plus, is now up and running in Magnor, Norway.

— We wanted to give a green boost to the Nordic mainland industry and somebody needs to lead the way, project manager Marianne Preus Jacobsen states. Designed by the renowned Danish architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), it’s the world’s most environmentally friendly furniture factory. The investment of approximately NOK 300 million (≈ EUR 30 million) also makes The Plus the single largest investment in the Norwegian furniture industry in decades. The factory is a global showcase for sustainable industry 4.0., meaning highly efficient manufacturing, appealing design and, in a way, an approach for what Bjarke Ingels calls ’hedonistic sustainability’. We also see it as a place for inspiration and to attract younger generations to industrial education. We are ’techno-optimists’ and believe that the industrial sector has every opportunity to lead the way in the green shift. 

The Plus, Preus Jacobsen continues, is not only a furniture factory but also boasts a recreational area and experience park, called Vestre Forest Camp.

— Here, you can experience design, architecture, and outdoor activities such as the green factory roof with 888 solar panels and Norway’s highest slide, with an over 14-metre drop into the Norwegian forest, and trails connecting industry, nature, and culture. There are poem pathways honouring Eidskog native, poet and writer Hans Børli, and art installations. This means that another goal we have is to put Magnor on the world map as a tourist destination and to have Vestre Forest Camp frequently mentioned on TripAdvisor as a recommended place to visit in Norway. All in all, The Plus and Forest Camp is a homage to the freedom to roam that we have in Norway, called Allemannsretten.

— The task of creating a sustainable, accessible, colourful production facility with a public park felt like designing a whole new typology, Viktoria Millentrup, project lead at BIG adds. Manufacturing facilities are still thought of as fenced-off buildings polluting the environment. I am excited that The Plus is a prototype for the green transition, proving that manufacturing can be sustainable, social, local, and profitable at the same time — and raising the all-important question: What would happen to the planet if all industrial buildings followed this concept?

Marianne, how can you state that it’s the world’s most sustainable furniture factory?

— The Plus will most likely be the world’s first project of its kind to achieve the highest environmental certification, BREEAM Outstanding. The building’s energy consumption is 60 per cent lower than for similar conventional factories while emitting 55 per cent fewer greenhouse gases than a comparable factory. This number is both its whole lifecycle and operations. If you include the manufacturing equipment in the equation, the energy consumption is reduced by 90 per cent. On the green rooftop, there are about 900 solar panels that will generate approximately 250,000 kWh of renewable energy per year. Furthermore, the factory will reuse 90-95 per cent of the water used in the production. The Plus will achieve the Paris Proof target for energy efficiency and on-site energy production.

The mentioned substantial reduction in emissions is possible thanks to Vestre’s choice to create a building structure with passive house standard and a supporting structure in solid wood. The building is constructed with low-carbon concrete and recycled reinforcing steel and a combination of fossil-free and emission-free machinery were used in the construction process. 

— In addition, Preus Jacobsen explains, The Plus will use surplus heat from production to heat the building. The surplus heat system is connected to an ice-water plant for cooling, heat and cold storage tanks, heat pumps, and geothermal wells that provide storage support. We were also one of the first companies to order the world’s first fully electric lorry, the Tesla Semi. We are planning for 100 per cent emission-free transports between our factories in Magnor and Torsby in Sweden.

— Sustainability, environmental considerations, and transparency have been central to exactly all aspects of the factory, both in terms of the building itself and everything around it. From ensuring good working conditions to facilitating 100 per cent electrified heavy transport and managing the forest areas around the factory. We are also happy to share our experiences and lessons. To succeed with the green shift, we must mobilize as many people as possible to participate. Therefore, we will also make unique building solutions that we have developed available for free so that it will be easier and cheaper for everyone who comes after. Sharing is caring and it is more important than ever.

With its location close to Sweden, Magnor has always been a hub for industrial development across the border. Vestre now wants to inspire and highlight how the Scandinavian countries should work together to succeed in the global market.

— We hope that The Plus gets more companies to discover all the opportunities here in the region on both the Norwegian and the Swedish side. There is plenty of room for more people here, so it would have been fantastic if more companies moved their production here, says Stefan Tjust, CEO.

Vestre and BIG have also taken help from other industry experts to achieve the mentioned BREEAM Outstanding certification, which can only be achieved if it achieves a score of 85% or above.

— We both thought that it was very important to bring the wood construction supplier Woodcon into the development process early on, which made it possible to take part in shaping and calculating the support structure in solid wood and laminated timber. Woodcon was also given responsibility for the global stability of The Plus, and carried out, among other things, a FEM analysis which is one of the most recognized methods for calculating stresses and deformations. Seen from the outside, the four factory wings are propeller-shaped, with twisted roof structures consisting of laminated timber beams from Woodcon with over 22 metres of free span. This distinctive design was created especially for The Plus, and has never before been attempted to be built, says Marianne Preus Jacobsen.