A new office building being unveiled today in Norway follows a template that its partners hope will spark greater momentum for a smart city movement designed to slow climate change.

Powerhouse Brattørkaia will be the latest and biggest energy-positive building in Norway. Located in the city of Trondheim, which has already been recognized as one of Norway’s most technologically advanced cities, the building will generate more power over its lifetime than it consumes.

The move to reinvent buildings is seen as an increasingly critical step toward fighting global warming. A 2018 report by the United Nations estimated that buildings’ “construction and operations accounted for 36% of global final energy use and nearly 40% of energy‐related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2017.”

Boosters have long advocated the idea that the Internet of Things, driven by greater connectivity and ubiquity of sensors, has the potential to transform cities by making them far more energy efficient. But realizing that potential has often proved elusive.

That’s where the backers of the Powerhouse concept are hoping to change things. Powerhouse is the result of a collaboration between real estate company Entra, construction and development company Skanska, environmental organization ZERO, Snøhetta architects, and the consulting company Asplan Viak.

The group has completed four smaller projects using this approach. But the new office will be by far the largest.

The attention to environmentally friendly design starts with selecting and tracking the creation of all building materials. The exterior of the building is packed with solar panels, including a sloping roof that faces south for maximum exposure.

Inside, special concrete helps regulate the temperature, and the floors and offices are designed to efficiently circulate hot and cold air. The building is also situated along the waterfront, and sea water will also be used to cool the building.

Smarter mobility

Throughout the course of the year, the building will generate more power than it uses. So part of the concept is to make that excess power available to nearby users.

One of the use cases being demonstrated at the event is a partnership between Jaguar Land Rover and IOTA, a German foundation focused on research and development of new distributed ledger technologies.

Jaguar is incorporating “smart wallet” technology into vehicles that uses the IOTA Tangle distributed ledger. Using the wallet, a connected vehicle can both earn money and make micropayments for services.

For instance, the car’s sensors could spot and report potholes to an urban agency, which earns some money. It can be also used to automatically pay tolls.

In this case, the smart wallet can also track purchases of electricity from the Powerhouse building in part to also certify that the car is using green energy. The companies said this would be the first live demonstration of the JLR IOTA ewallet.

In addition, they also announced that France’s Engie Lab and Entra are now participants in this smart energy project.

While this just marks one small step toward reducing the energy usage of buildings, the Powerhouse concept points to a way forward. And if the concept is embraced, its impact could ripple into other areas, such as mobility, that could further reduce strain on the environment.