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Together with Vestre, the Norwegian manufacturer of urban furniture, BIG unveils The Plus as the world’s most sustainable furniture factory tucked in the heart of the Norwegian forest. Envisioned as a village for a community dedicated to the cleanest, carbon neutral fabrication of urban and social furniture, The Plus aims to be a global destination for sustainable architecture and high-efficiency production. As Norway’s single largest investment in furniture in decades, the 6,500m2 open production facility will double as a public 300-acre park for hiking and camping while serving as a landmark aligned with the region’s mission to establish a green manufacturing industry. The Plus will be the first industrial building in the Nordic region to achieve BREAM Outstanding, the highest environmental certification. All materials are carefully chosen by their environmental impact, with the façade constructed from local timber, low-carbon concrete and recycled reinforcement steel. Designed to be a ‘Paris Agreement-proof’ building, every aspect of the design is based on principles of renewable and clean energy to match Vestre’s eco-friendly production, such as ensuring a minimum of 50% lower greenhouse gas emissions than comparable factories.
The Plus is located in the village of Magnor, in the geographical midpoint between Vestre’s headquarter in Oslo and the company’s existing steel factory in Torsby, Sweden. The building is conceived as a radial array of four main production halls – the warehouse, the color factory, the wood factory and the assembly – that connect at the center. The layout enables an efficient, flexible and transparent workflow between the manufacturing units, thus generating the ‘plus’ shape at its intersection. At the center of The Plus is the logistics office and exhibition center with direct connections to all four production halls, allowing Vestre’s employees to process logistical traffic with maximum efficiency. The central hub wraps around a public, circular courtyard where the latest outdoor furniture collections are prominently exhibited with the changing seasons. The outdoor plaza doubles as a panopticon for visitors and staff to experience the factory’s production processes in full transparency.
The Plus will employ several Industry 4.0 solutions, such as smart robots, self-driving trucks, and a tablet to manage the entire factory. Every machine is assigned one of Vestre’s 200 colors, which spill onto the floors and lead back into the central roundabout. This colorful mapping of the machinery lends strong visual cues that help guide and explain the workflow of the Vestre production facility, allowing visitors to easily follow the production process as if touring a museum. Inside the factories, each wing has one alternating ceiling corner lifted to create inclined roofs that allow views inside to the production halls and outside to the forest canopies. Along the color and wood factory, the sloping roofs are extended to form a pathway for visitors and staff to hike up and down the building while following the production processes inside. The four production units will be built with a 21m free-spanning, cross-laminated timber, creating flexible column free-spaces. A 3m-wide service corridor provides the technical infrastructure and the structural stability for each wing.
From all four sides of the buildings, visitors and staff are invited to hike around the facility and conclude on the green roof terrace, transforming the furniture factory museum into a campus in the woods. An ADA-accessible ramp allows wheelchairs and strollers to meander the serpentine path and enjoy the immersive experience of being among the pine trees. The Plus reinforces Vestre’s vision of combining social and democratic spaces with a future enriched by technology yet grounded in history and nature. On the rooftop, 1,200 photovoltaic panels are placed and angled according to optimal solar efficiency. Excess heat from the panels are connected to an ice-water system for cooling, heat and cold storage tanks, heat pumps and energy wells as a storage support system. Overall, the system contributes to at least 90% lower energy demand than that of a similar conventional factory.