Sara kulturhus’s energy solution is sustainable and kind

Suddiga personer rör sig i södra foajén

Most buildings consume a lot of energy - around 40% of all energy consumption, and a similar proportion of greenhouse gas emissions, is accounted for by buildings.

Even more remarkably, estimates indicate that approximately 45% of the energy used in commercial buildings is consumed by heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems and as much as 30% of that is wasted.

Skellefteå’s new cultural center, Sara kulturhus, will not only be one of the world's tallest wooden buildings and a meeting place for the city’s residents, but its energy system will also play a leading role in Skellefteå’s already well-advanced plans to be a sustainable city.

20 floors tall, Sara kulturhus is a magnificent wooden building that combines pioneering architecture and innovative technology to fashion a spectacular and welcoming meeting place for the city's culture and its residents.

So what is this groundbreaking technology that will help Sara kulturhus become as close to carbon neutral as possible?

Sara kulturhus's multidimensional solution was designed by energy giant Skellefteå Kraft and global technology company ABB.

“We wanted to show that it is possible to switch to renewable and more sustainable energy solutions without compromising business benefits,” says Patrik Sundberg, business unit manager at Skellefteå Kraft.

Skellefteå Kraft equipped Sara kulturhus with solar panels, batteries and a heat pump that works with electrical, water and district heating. Even the sprinkler system, which in most buildings is usually powered by diesel, is powered by renewable energy.

Patrik believes that Sara kulturhus’s energy solution is almost infinitely flexible. “We have a variety of energy sources from district heating, through to solar power, all the way to a battery manufactured by Northvolt and it’s all very easily calibrated,” Patrick says.

“And it’s not just about Sara kulturhus,” he continues. “If there is an electric bus that needs recharging at the bus station next to the cultural center, then we can decrease our usage of, for example the district heating system, and instead use power from the Northvolt battery - that way we avoid expensive and draining peak usage.”

To oversee this multifaceted energy solution, Sara kulturhus uses an autonomous artificial intelligence technology to control the heating and cooling systems - which are typically the largest consumer of energy in a building - and to make those systems much more efficient and flexible to deal with interior and exterior demands.

The autonomous AI technology, provided by ABB, studies how a building operates and analyzes the external factors affecting it. It identifies potential improvement opportunities and then acts to optimize the building’s system. It requires little human intervention and reacts to changes in the built environment immediately to maintain the highest tenant comfort and energy efficiency at all times.

ABB’s platform is used to visualize and optimize the energy flow in Sara kulturhus, to identify how much energy the building is using, what the energy is being used for (e.g. heating, ventilation and lighting) but also to identify where energy comes from (for example district heating, battery, or solar panels).

ABB's management application for the optimization of energy flows is instrumental in ensuring that the costs of energy for a building are minimized.

The tool provides constant oversight and calibration of energy production, consumption and storage.

Sara kulturhus’s energy system also communicates with nearby buildings, and the entire energy network in Skellefteå. Excess energy in the property is passed on to other parts of the city, or stored in the cultural center’s on-site batteries.

All waste heat goes back into the system, and no energy is lost. And everything is powered by 100% renewable energy.

According to Patrik Sundberg of Skellefteå Kraft, the ethos behind Sara kulturhus’s energy solution can be compared to the much-loved Swedish children’s cartoon character, Bamse, who is known both for his superhuman strength and gentleness.

“When you are big and strong, you also have to be kind, like Bamse,” Patrik says. “The energy solution that has been provided for Sara kulturhus is designed to not only be efficient and as carbon-neutral as possible - it’s been designed to be kind to the surrounding areas of Skellefteå.”