Green revival: Sustainable architectural innovations in transforming a 130-year-old Barn

At Semsvannet in Asker, near Oslo, a 130-year-old barn has been given a new lease of life. The old barn has been dismantled and rebuilt into a new and modern facility housing a workspace, farm shop, and care homes.

To support climate friendly urban development, six municipalities in the Oslo region, Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger in Norway are collaborating on the FutureBuilt programme. Their vision is to show that climate neutral urban areas, based on high quality architecture, are possible.

Futurebuilt innovative criteria for Nedre Sem Barn

In addition to being one of the first to test FutureBuilt’s circularity index, the new barn at Nedre Sem has also been a pilot for FutureBuilt’s criteria for plastic in buildings, aiming for minimal plastic usage. The construction site was nearly 90% emission-free, and the building aims for near-zero-energy standards, achieved through a well-insulated building envelope, geothermal energy wells, and solar panels on the roof. Structural elements are made of solid wood, and the basement consists of extremely low-carbon concrete with recycled concrete as aggregate.

Nedre Sem barn is innovative through the sum of the project’s exemplary characteristics. The project aimed for 50% circularity through the reuse and redesign of materials from the existing barn and other buildings, as well as designing for the reuse of building components in the future. There has also been a goal of using 100% reused materials in the outdoor areas. The project has been among the first to adopt FutureBuilt’s circularity index.

Nedre Sem Låve i Asker Futurebuilt

Biodiversity, nature-based solutions, and stormwater management

Asker municipality is the developer, and the project has aimed to significantly increase local biodiversity. During the construction phase, there was a strong focus on preserving the landscape conservation area in the best possible way. Below are the main measures summarized:

  • Mapping of biodiversity and invasive species
  • The barn is located on previously developed land
  • Original vegetable and berry gardens are being rebuilt
  • Action plan ensures control of invasive species
  • Local seeds/plants collected for revegetation
  • Topsoil from the site reused
  • Surrounding trees were protected with construction fences during the construction period
  • A landscape plan was developed, including at least 30% vegetated areas, natural meadows, and planting areas with at least 30 species of high value for local biodiversity.
  • A working group was established to provide input for garden planning, ensuring that cultural heritage and history from the area were well preserved
  • Local production of compost for use in cultivation on-site
  • Rainwater is collected locally for use in irrigation
  • A management plan ensures long-term preservation of biodiversity

Landskapsplan Nedre Sem Låve. Sweco

Following principles from the three-step strategy and nature-based solutions, stormwater is managed on-site to the greatest extent possible. A report has been prepared documenting soil conditions, flood paths, precipitation, and runoff as the basis for the stormwater management strategy. The landscape plan shows how roof water will be collected and used for irrigation in planting areas/cultivation areas.

Collaborative procurement and ethical trade

The project was carried out as a collaborative procurement, allowing Asker municipality full insight into all purchases and the ability to influence the choice of suppliers and materials. The project has followed Asker municipality’s guidelines for ethical trade, and materials have been checked according to requirements from the Swan Label – ILO conventions.

Sources and brief facts

Read and find more pictures about thisFuturebuilt project (Norwegian):!/Forbildeprosjekter/Nedre-Sem-laave

Completed: April 2024

Developer: Asker municipality (Norwegian:), Nedre Sem barn | Asker municipality

Project type: Reuse/rehabilitation/transformation Function/building type: Workspace, farm shop, care homes GFA: 2000 sqm ARCH: Ola Roald Architecture LARCH: Sweco ISO14001 certified environmental management system Contractor, project, and project management: Veidekke ISO14001 certified environmental management system Nedre Sem barn ( Environmental consultant: Asplan Viak ISO|4001 certified environmental management system Sustainable responsibility – Asplan Viak


Also read: Meta-study shows positive environmental performance ISO14001