How do you build the world’s most environmentally friendly furniture factory?

In June we launched our plans for building the hypermodern factory; The Plus. But The Plus is so much more than that. We actually have five goals for the project, you might call it our manifesto: The first goal being that we will build the most environmentally furniture factory in the world.

Anthropogenic climate change and loss of nature are the biggest challenges of our age. In order to reach the goal of the Paris Agreement, greenhouse gas emissions has to cut by 40 per cent by 2030. At the same time we must halt the loss of biodiversity and protect precious natural environments.

Vestre believes it is possible to create green growth, by which we mean economic growth achieved while managing the world’s natural resources in a sustainable way. We are techno-optimists and believe that the industrial sector has every opportunity to lead the way in the green shift. And we aim to prove it by building the world’s most environmentally friendly furniture factory. How? Let us tell you about some of the measures we are taking.

"Paris proof"
The Plus will generate 50 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than a conventional factory. As a result, we will more than meet the Paris Agreement’s. We will also meet Norway’s enhanced target of a 50 per cent reduction in emissions in the same period. These substantial cuts in emission levels are possible because we have chosen a building shell that meets Passivehause standards and a load-bearing structure that is constructed from solid wood, as well as low-carbon concrete and recycled reinforcing steel. In addition, a combination of fossil-free and emission-free machines will be used at the construction site.

BREEAM Outstanding
The Plus is most likely the world’s first project of its type to achieve the very highest environmental BREEAM rating by meeting the requirements for classification as Outstanding. A BREEAM Outstanding building is defined as an international innovator. In theory, less than 1 percent of all new non-domestic buildings achieve this extremely high classification, although in practice it is even more difficult. There are currently no industrial projects in the Nordic region that are close to qualifying as Outstanding. Through this project, Vestre is aiming to show that industrial projects can also be global innovators in the environmental field.

Vestre Energy Centre
The Plus will generate around 250,000 kWh of renewable energy per year, from more than 1,200 solar panels installed on the roof and in the area around the factory. In addition, 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. Together, this means the building’s energy requirement is 90 percent lower than that of a similar conventional factory.

100% electric transport
Vestre was one of the first companies to order the world's first fully electric semi-truck, the Tesla Semi. Through 100 percent emission-free transport between our factory in Torsby in Sweden and The Plus in Magnor in Norway, we will reduce our diesel consumption by over 55,000 liters a year, the equivalent to 71,000 kg of carbon dioxide.

Vestre Vision Zero
At Vestre, it’s about sustainability in every aspect of business. That is why our products come with a lifetime guarantee against rust and a 15-year guarantee on their surface coating and woodwork. But we are not stopping there. Vestre’s vision is to not make a single product that cannot live forever. This is possible through correct use and maintenance and a scheme whereby worn out furniture can, after many years of use, be returned to the factory for restoration and reuse. The Plus has a dedicated circular production line, which has been set up to handle such tasks in an efficient and energy-saving way. As a result, the factory will continually produce circular products – some for the first time, while others will be at the factory for the second or third time. This kind of circular furniture production enables us to dramatically reduce our energy consumption. The Plus is probably the first circular furniture factory in the world.

Vestre Clean Water Center
Almost 700 million people in the world today lack clean water. According to the UN, unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation lead to around 842,000 deaths every year. This problem will probably only get worse as the global population grows and climate change causes major changes to the natural environment. In The Plus, we will recycle over 90 per cent of the water used in production, while halving the use of chemical substances and selecting only the most environmentally friendly alternatives on the market.

Originally, a massive industrial development was planned for the site at Magnor, that would have resulted in the felling of over 30 hectares (approx. 75 acres) of planted pine forest (plantation forests). Instead, along came The Plus, a building whose key objective is to make its footprint as small as possible. The building has been sited at the edge of the forest and the remaining area, around 95 percent of the site, is being preserved on nature's own premises. Vestre is working with the local council to draw up a plan to preserve the area’s natural environment and gradually develop a greater diversity of flora and fauna. Measures will be put in place to ensure that everyone can come and enjoy the wonderful natural forest that is now being preserved. To further improve the biodiversity, we will cover much of the factory’s roof with natural vegetation which corresponds as closely as possible to that currently growing at the site. All necessary interventions will be carefully planned to limit their impact in terms of space and time, and to minimise any disruption to the area's wildlife. Biodiversity will be further enhanced by allowing the forest surrounding the woodland to grow wild, without the introduction of non-native species or - as today - forest management and clearing activities which remove animals’ homes, hiding places and sources of food. Many nesting boxes will also be put up to ensure that cavity-nesting birds have somewhere to lay their eggs.

Sharing is caring
Unlike many traditional industrial buildings, The Plus is a project which proudly opens up and showcases the architecture and the manufacturing processes that are taking place there. Guided tours will be available from Vestre’s visitor center. Generous windows in all wings provide views of every part of the factory at all times of the day or night. Visitors can walk up the external ramps and gain an overview of the building’s interior and the surrounding forest. Buildings that are certified as BREEAM Outstanding have a duty to share their knowledge through the Norwegian Green Building Council and the Building Research Establishment (BRE). In this way, the value of what has been created can ripple out to new projects across sectoral and national boundaries.

Leading the way
This, and so much more, is what makes The Plus the world’s most environmentally friendly furniture factory. At Vestre, we hope that by leading the way and proving that green growth is possible, more will follow. Because we cannot halt climate change on our own.

You can learn more about the project here and in the video below.