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40 632 In Balance

Full course name in Norwegian Bokmål: 
In Balance
Course code: 
40 632
Level of study: 
Teaching semester: 
2020 Spring
Assessment semester: 
2020 Spring
Language of instruction: 
Maximum number of students: 
Person in charge
Tine Hegli
Required prerequisite knowledge

Admission to AHO and successfully pass of courses on bachelor level (180 credits)

Course content

In Balance: Climate-Responsive and Carbon-Neutral Architecture at Svalbard

The spring semester of 2020 will conclude the series of In Balance: Climate-Responsive and Carbon-Neutral Architecture at Svalbard studios.

In Longyearbyen the main focus has recently shifted from the overshadowing topic of climate change and the negative consequences of our way of life, to behavioral change and the positive outcome of actions taken. To diminish our footprint in this vulnerable landscape, the local government has raised the ambition and set out for Longyearbyen to become one of the first circular societies in the world! In the architectural context this means to reconfigure the source of energy, distribution and use of energy, the means of transportation and culture of private ownership, the use of land and existing square meters, the building materials for refurbishment and new construction as well as the waste management system.

The project orientated studio will through an interdisciplinary team of teachers provide the students with insight to this complexity, and enable an iterative design process from context analysis to construction principals and details for the spatial solutions.


Studio course description

Programmatically the design task is to establish a resource laboratory for the circular society – more spesifically a material re-cycling facility. The materials resources will be coming from existing buildings in Longyearbyen and Svea that are for different reasons decided demolished. The first part of the design task will be to establish an archive where knowledge on both physical and cultural value is being analyzed and systemized. The second part will then be to create spatial experiences and architectural expressions based on the available resources.

The site contidions, local climate and extreme seasonal variations will play an additionally important role in the design development, and the studio pedagogy will include strategies (rule of thumb/digital tools) that can enable an architectural response to weather data. 

The studio will take part in the cross institute project Balanced, Circular and Shared - Strategies for stewardship in the Norwegian Arctic, an initiative to collaborate the efforts to turn Svalbard into a sustainably managed territory and where the full range of AHO´s expertise is brought together. In relation to this, Janike Kampevold Larsen from Institute of Urbanism and Landscape, will be part of the teacher team.

Local collaborators are LPO Arkitekter, Longyearbyen Lokalstyre and Stor Norske Spitsbergen Kullkompani.



The Arctic region represents a unique area among Earth´s ecosystems and is the area where the ongoing climate changes are most prominent. With the ice melting follows new opportunities as well as severe challenges, and the region has these days got massive global attention.

The origin for settlements at Svalbard - the Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean - dates back to the 16th and 17th century when the international whaling industry was at its peak. In the beginning of the 20th century, coal was found and mining companies established more permanent communities at several locations. In 1920 the Svalbard Treaty was established (followed by the Svalbard Agreement in 1925), giving Norway sovereignty to the territory, still leaving it a free economic and demilitarized zone. There are in 2019 five operative settlements at Svalbard: Barentsburg (Russian settlement, coal industry and tourism), Pyramiden (Russian settlement, post coal industry, today tourism), Svea (coal industry, being phased out these days), Ny Ålesund (research station), Isfjord Radio (old radio transmission station, today tourism) and the administrative center Longyearbyen (coal industry, local authorities (LL), The Governor of Svalbard/Sysselmannen, UNIS, tourism). Longyearbyen has approximately 2300 inhabitants.

The Norwegian coal industry at Svalbard is recently decided phased out, while well-established academic research institutions (UNIS) as well as a tourism continue to grow. Longyearbyen is experiencing a process of transition on many levels with the aim to strengthen the basis for Norwegian sovereignty. One of the major shifts is the one from 100% fossil energy dependent to a society based on renewable energy sources. This means an increased focus on energy efficiency as well as utilization of the building mass and existing infrastructure to produce and distribute electricity. Seasonal energy storage is then the next big step to make the green shift happen in this particular location (technology available, but a matter of investment). The other big shift, interrelated and running in parallell, is to implement strategies for a “circular” management resources to minimize expenses and emissions related to the import og materials and export of waste  The studio framework will let us work with all of the above mentioned (politically delicate) topics in a future based scenario where technical and economical solutions are at hand!


To fully understand how architecture can improve both the physical and social living conditions, we need to understand the impact of local climate like wind, snow and sun, as well as the benefits of daylight and view, and implement this knowledge as design parameters. A conscious relation to climatic parameters will strongly influence the programming, the spatial startegies and material palette, help minimize heat loss, guide development of energy concepts and optimize for energy harvesting. The studio will implement lectures and provide tools to allow the students to reach a basic understanding of how climate analysis can materialize in a design response.


To reach 100% carbon neutrality, a building is dependent only on renewable energy sources throughout all stages in it´s lifecycle in addidion to demonstrating a circular model for material recycling (zero emission, zero waste). With the living standard in mordern society today this is not acheivable, still the UN goal for limiting by 2050. To stabilize the temperature we are also dependent on technology for carbon capture and storage (CCS) for all burning of waste and biomass after 2050. Insight in this callenging situation is mandatory to make adequate decisions as planners, architects and designers for the years to come, and the studio will provide lectures and build up a foundation for this knowledge to develop.

Learning outcome


  • On the natural and cultural landscapes in the Arctic region seen in a historical perspective,
  • On the impact of human activity on the ecosystem at large, focusing on Svalbard as a case.
  • On form-finding-processes that seeks to actively respond to and utilize the local climate.
  • On design development based on strategies for a circular economy.
  • On which tools are available to assist the design process based on the above parameters.
  • On best-practice examples of architecture striving for a minimal environmental footprint.


  • To be able to critically engage in the discussions on defining architectural concepts within the constraints of "the green shift" and the "circular society".
  • To be able to utilize local climate parameters to design well adapted spaces for both outdoors and indoors activities, also reflecting the topics of energy efficiency and production.
  • To 3D print models as part of architectural exploration and documentation.
  • To use 2D projection drawings as a tool for planning.
  • To use refined techniques for communicative visual and written presentations.
  • Team work based problem solving.

General Competence:

  • To plan and design a medium-sized building for public use.
  • To understand the interrelation of architectural strategies and the impact on energy use, material use and related emissions.
  • To realize the design through form, materials and details.
  • To develop an individual position to where the students can actively question and debate the ongoing societal changes and see how they relate to the field of planning, architecture and design.
Working and learning activities


The studio encourages both qualitative and quantitative evaluations and investigations during the form-finding-process. 3D printing and digital tools are paired with sketches, text and analog models.

The learning approach is project-based. The students develop architectural projects proceeding from the scale of site analysis (1:1000/1:500), through plans and sections (1:200) to construction details (1:50/1:1). The first half of the semester the effort is split into four separate Tasks: Conditions, Context, Climate and Construction. The understanding of the topics are supported by lectures and courses from a wide range of expertice. The second half will focus on design development of the specific project, letting the above introduced parameters become active in the iterative process of decision making. Due to the complexity implemented, the studio is well suited for team work.


Course organization and teaching methods

The design studio work will conclude in a realistic architectural proposal, documented with 2D drawings, 3D models – both digital and analog.

The course will include:

  • Introductory tasks that generate a common knowledge base for the studio.
  • Design task/main project. 
  • Tutoring in the studio.
  • Lectures and workshops by AHO staff and invited architects and specialists
  • Study trip to see relevant architecture in the Oslo region.
  • Field trip to Svalbard (week 10)
  • Plenary reviews

The studio will be bringing in resourses from the following fields of expertice:

  • Research environments at AHO that are involved in the Artic region.
  • Expertice and consultancy within the building industry on designing with principals for a circular economy (re-use/re-cycle/up-cycle/design for disassembly/minimum waste etc)
  • Expertice and consultancy within the building industry with knowledge on the use of climatic simulations (CFD - Computational Fluid Design/Solar radiations/Daylight)
  • Local politicians, architects and stakeholders to ensure relevance in the choice of program, site, material supply and building technique.

1. Thermal Delight in Architecture
Author: Lisa Heschong

2. Anne Britt Børve: publikasjon om snødrift og lokalklima (i forbindelse med doktorgrad)

3. Sun Rhythm Form

MIT Press. (1981, Paperback ed. 1985) ISBN 9780262110785
Author: Ralph Knowles

4. Ritual House: Drawing on nature’s rhythms for architecture and urban design. Island Press. (2006) ISBN 9781597260503
Author Ralph Knowles


5. How buildings learn
Author: Stewart Brand

6. Operating manual for Spaceship Earth
Author: Buckminster Fuller


7. Sun, Wind, and Light: Architectural Design Strategies 3rd Edition
Author: Mark de Kay, G Z Brown


8. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way we make things
Author: Michael Braungart, William Mc Donought


9. Sustainability in Scandinavia – Architectural Design and Planning
Author: Ali Malkawi, Marius Nygaard, Anne Beim, Erik Stenberg


10. Zero Emission Buildings
Author: Anne Grete Hestnes, Nancy Lea Eik-Nes






Form of assessmentGroupingGrading scaleComment
Project assignmentIndividualPass / fail
Form of assessment:Project assignment
Grading scale:Pass / fail