The Green Details of the New U.S. Embassy

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The design for the new embassy far exceeds some of the strictest energy and sustainability codes in the world.

The new U.S. Embassy at Huseby in Oslo is currently under construction. The design for the new Embassy far exceeds some of the strictest energy and sustainability codes in the world while meeting stringent security requirements. The project is targeting a Silver Certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®).

Energy efficiency

Ground-source heat pumps enable the building to meet 90 % of peak heating load and 100 % of peak cooling load with energy stored in bedrock by the heat pump, a renewable resource – greatly exceeding the 40 % required by Norwegian code. Since Norway also derives more than 95 % of its electricity from hydropower and prohibits the use of fossil fuels for heating, this means the Embassy’s energy needs are supplied almost entirely by renewable energy sources.

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The sustainable design of the new Embassy takes inspiration from the site’s landscape.

Sustainability

The U.S. Department of State worked closely with the architecture firm EYP and the Oslo Planning and Building Agency to realize a design that represents the cultural intersection of the U.S. commitment to sustainability and Norway’s longstanding leadership in energy efficiency and environmental responsibility.

The architects and engineers consulted with local Norwegian engineers to optimize building energy performance. Interactive, real-time energy models were analyzed to ensure the design leveraged every opportunity to maximize energy efficiency. This partnership for innovation extended into the construction phase: the project drew on Norwegian expertise in deep-water drilling when it came time to sink 54 double-looped wells – with nearly 65 km of piping – through 300+ meters of hard bedrock.

Norwegian inspiration

The sustainable design of the new Embassy takes inspiration from the site’s landscape, its prominent rock outcroppings, and from the indigenous plantlife, including maple, birch, aspen, and meadow grasses. The project respects the riparian environment, with the path of a seasonal stream altered to wrap to the south of the main Embassy building. In addition to preserving and restoring a singular aspect of the site landscape, the reinvigorated stream bed will both meet and visually illustrate sustainable design practices of stormwater management. A dense stand of mature trees along the southwestern edge provides a visual buffer between the edge of the Embassy grounds and the neighboring Huseby Woods.

Norwegian Vernacular, Reimagined

The main Embassy building presents an open, welcoming public face, its design referencing the sheltering horizontal roofs typical of a traditional Norwegian longhouse design. The underground siting of the support annex takes advantage of the rising terrain along the site’s southwestern edge to create an expansive roof whose thickness is capable of sustaining trees. The roof helps manage stormwater runoff. Nestling 2,323 square meters of space beneath the landscape helps maintain the site’s park-like feel.

Designing with Light

Windows up to 6,7 meters tall in the main Embassy building will maximize the brief hours of winter daylight and take advantage of the long days of midsummer. High-efficiency glazing is part of an innovative high-performance exterior wall system that also includes solar shading to reduce summer heat gain and minimize glare from the light reflected off snow in winter, while meeting the sometimes competing requirements of mechanical codes, physical security, and blast engineering.

Material symbolizing strong connection between U.S. and Norway

The design of the new U.S. Embassy in Oslo communicates the values of American democracy in the context of Norwegian culture, a story embodied in the design as well as the material palette. All above-ground buildings will have an overhanging copper cornice or copper roof. The metal visually unites the compound and references the longstanding connection of the United States to Norway, where the copper sheathing for the Statue of Liberty was mined. The three Entry Pavilions and the Marine Residence will each be clad with slate fieldstone, the material that forms the base of the main Embassy building. The Marine Residence, sloped to mimic the topography, will appear to grow naturally out of the earth, as do many traditional Norwegian structures.

Source: EYP Architecture & Engineering

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