Fore fronting innovative and sustainable buildings and city development
City/Region : Drammen municipality , Norway

The application is based on Drammen municipality’s effort/initiative to produce sustainable municipal buildings, and zero emission neighbourhoods, mainly through the Futurebuilt programme. The Futurebuilt programme is a local Norwegian initiative to support climate-friendly urban development through innovative pilot projects, and to inspire and change practices in both the private and public sector. The pilot projects are set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport, energy and material consumption by a minimum of 50 percent. Drammen was the first municipality to join Futurebuilt, and as such, is crucial to the start-up of this programme. 

Agendas addressed
DecarbonisationUrban mobilityClimate change
Public spaceHousingSocial inclusion and integration
Pathways followed
  • Ensure equal access to municipal services
  • Encourage local private and civic engagement
  • Implement sustainable procurement principles
  • Pursue a shift towards a circular economy
  • Wisely select and apply smart technologies
  • Accelerate sustainability and innovation through public procurement

With about 68.900 inhabitants, Drammen is the 9th largest city in Norway. The city is located in the south-east of Norway, 45km from Oslo.

Throughout most of the late twentieth century, Drammen city struggled with problems related to heavy throughway traffic and a polluted river. Through hard work and high ambitions, Drammen reinvented itself, and for this urban transformation Drammen won the European Urban and Regional Planning Awards in 2008.

The key actions behind the urban renewal were based on sustainable principles of urban planning: cleansing of the river, transit-oriented planning, investments in parks and public buildings and spaces. The Futurebuilt programme’s high requirements in terms of both energy efficiency and architectural quality thus fitted the municipal urban renewal programme, addressing both sustainability issues and the ambitions for new public buildings of high quality.

In Action

Mayor Tore Opdal Hansen, who has been Mayor since 2003, has fronted the venture of the Futurebuilt programme since its inception. When speaking about the start up of the programme, he says: “We have worked a lot with our city’s reputation in recent years here in Drammen, so we felt that this (Futurebuilt) was a god fit both from the environmental point of view and from the values ​​we have emphasized in that process.”

With the political backing, the municipality has had the platform to focus on innovation and quality in the selection and building of the Futurebuilt pilot projects. Also, at the start of the Futurebuilt programme, the municipality’s real estate management department had already begun developing competence on innovative energy-saving systems. The department’s innovative culture and level of competence has been an important factor in the development of climate-efficient public buildings.

The Futurebuilt programme in Drammen is led by the director of urban development, the chief city planning officer and a Futurebuilt project manager employed at the planning department. Selecting potential projects is done in partnership with representatives from the central Futurebuilt organization. To ensure that they drive innovation, experts affiliated with Futurebuilt i.e. within material technology or energy efficacy are employed to create unique sets of performance criteria for each of the pilot projects.

Futurebuilt is also an arena to share knowledge with the other municipalities and affiliated partners, and thus pushes both public actors and private practicioners to explore innovative solutions related to conceiving and building sustainable buildings and areas in Norway.
The current status for Drammen is six completed pilot buildings and three projects that are in the planning phase.


There are several Futurebuilt projects located in Drammen, all of these pilots was set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by min 50 percent at the time of realisation:

  • Frydenhaug municipal school (2015). Passive house, energy class A, near-zero energy. Solar thermal system and drilled wells with seasonal restocking. Elementary school for students with disabilities, and with a strong focus on universal design.
  • Papirbredden 2 (2012) and 3 (2015), the first Norwegian “passive house” office building. Partly owned by the municipality
  • Marienlyst municipal school (2010) was the first Norwegian “passive house” school.
    Connected to an energy grid shared with sports facilities close by.
  • Fjell municipal kindergarten (2010), innovative use of massive wood. Ground source heat pump.
  • NSB office building, private (2010)
  • Tollbugata 2, private office building, under planning. Rehabilitation project. High degree of re-use of materials and planned for circular use of added new materials.
  • Re-use of existing hospital area, under planning. Collaboration between the municipality, Futurebuilt and the state owned hospital. Four consultant teams have delivered feasibility studies on how the hospital campus can be transformed to an urban area and a pilot for a low-emission society. Key strategies from the studies are: green mobility and car free zones, re-use of existing buildings/circular building materials, solutions for sharing of resources, an integrated system of open storm water drainage in parks and public spaces, a mix of housing typologies and models to ensure varied demography, participatory strategies to involve the citizens throughout the transformation process.
  • Fjell municipal school, under construction. A research project with ambitions to set new standards for energy concepts based on drilled wells with seasonal restocking/heat pump/solar energy.

Drammen was the first municipality to join Futurebuilt as a municipal partner in 2009/2010. Drammen’s willingness to invest in sustainable pilot projects was important to the startup and expansion of Futurebuilt, which now includes three other municipalities, including the capital of Norway, Oslo.

The completion of three pilot projects in Drammen around year 2010 in the early stages of the programme was crucial to show the positive effects of buildings with improved energy performance. Marienlyst school 2010 was Norway’s first passive house school, and became a resource for research, and widely visited by consultants who wanted to do similar builds; based on the experiences from the Marienlyst project, Futurebuilt contributed to the first national standard for passive houses in 2011.

Combined for the four partner municipalities, there are now about 50 pilot projects of which 35 is completed. For each of the projects, the reduction of emissions are documented for the categories energy, materials, and transport and calculated by the unit kg CO2 ekv./m2 year. The numbers show that in general the goal of a minimum of 50% reduction has been achieved for the projects in Drammen. Through the pilot projects, the municipality’s property management department have also developed adept competence on technical solutions in sustainable buildings. Several of the energy concepts have been developed in collaboration with research institutions, and especially in the field of geothermal energy, Drammen is considered to be on the forefront.

The high ambitions for the pilot projects architectural quality has provided an opportunity to put extra effort into the planning phase of the buildings in order to find good solutions for the buildings users. Moreover, showcasing sustainable contemporary architecture supports innovation in the architecture profession, as well as underscoring the importance of emphasizing urban and architectural quality in the continuous development of Drammen.

Challenges and lessons learned

As a public procurer, Drammen sees the pilot projects as a way to contribute to innovation through high environmental requirements. The case of Marienlyst School, shows how the pilot became an important arena to gain knowledge about passive house standards in Norway. The structure of the Futurebuilt program has been beneficial to Drammens venture on sustainable buildings and urban development, as Futurebuilt gives access to expertise as well as it functions as an arena for creativity, cooperation and learning for the partner municipalities.



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