Furniture World News Desk on
Photograph by Einar Aslaksen.
On June 3, the furniture manufacturer Vestre finally opened the doors to The Plus – the company’s new factory in Magnor in Norway, designed by the renowned Danish architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG).
In just 18 months, Vestre has completed the world’s most environmentally friendly furniture factory, The Plus. The investment of almost NOK 300 million makes The Plus the single largest investment in the Norwegian furniture industry in decades. The 7000 m2 factory will be a global showcase for sustainable and highly efficient production and an experience destination for people around the world.
“The Plus is a factory for the people! It is a project we have put an enormous amount of soul and energy into. This is an important day for us, but also for the Norwegian mainland industry and the Scandinavian export cooperation”, says Stefan Tjust, CEO of Vestre.
“Together with Vestre, we have imagined a factory that puts the entire process of furniture-making on open display – at center stage. Rather than fearing industrial espionage, the factory wants to show and share their knowledge to help accelerate the global transition towards sustainable manufacturing. Constructed from locally-sourced timber and running on local hydropower, the beauty of The Plus is in the clarity of its organization.
Conceived as the intersection of a road and a production line, it forms a big plus shape that connects all aspects of manufacturing. The radical transparency invites visitors and hikers to enjoy the whole process of creation while providing Vestre’s team with the thrill of working in the middle of the forest. To us, The Plus is a crystal-clear example of Hedonistic Sustainability – showing us how our sustainable future will not only be better for the environment, but also more beautiful to work in and more fun to visit.” says Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner and Creative Director, BIG.
BIG has, among other things, designed Google’s headquarters and the Kistefos Museum, The Twist. For The Plus, BIG developed its form as a natural transfer from logistics to architecture. The four production areas – the Color Factory, the Wood Factory, Assembly, and Warehouse – are placed in the four wings around the Courtyard. At the heart of The Plus lies the visitor centre, which can cater to school groups, students, companies, organizations, and private individuals.
“Playfulness, democracy, and sustainability are at the heart of the Vestre brand and everything they do; our wooden, colorful factory in the middle of the Norwegian woods – surrounded by a 300,000m2 public forest park where the local community can come to experience the gigantic Vestre furniture pieces sprinkled throughout – lives and breathes this philosophy. Working with the ambitious and dedicated Vestre team has been the pleasure of a lifetime.” says David Zahle, Partner, BIG.
A new standard for industrial sustainability
Sustainability, environmental considerations, and transparency have been central to exactly all aspects of the factory, both in terms of the building itself and everything around it. From ensuring good working conditions to facilitating electrified heavy transport and managing the forest areas around The Plus.
The Plus is well placed to become the world’s first project of its type to achieve the very highest environmental BREEAM rating and fulfil the criteria for classification as Outstanding. An Outstanding building is defined as an international innovator. In theory, less than 1 per cent of all new non- domestic buildings will achieve this extremely high level, although in practice it is even more difficult. There are currently no industrial projects in the Nordic region that are close to qualifying as Outstanding. Through this project, Vestre aims to show that industrial projects can also be global innovators in the environmental field.
The building’s energy consumption is 60 percent lower than for similar conventional factories, while emitting 55 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions than a comparable factory. On the green rooftop, there are about 900 solar panels that will generate approximately 250,000 kWh of renewable energy per year. Furthermore, the factory will reuse 90-95 percent of the water used in the production. The Plus will achieve the Paris Proof target for energy efficiency and on-site energy production.
The factory roof is covered with natural forest vegetation, which coexists with the solar panels that supply energy to the building. The roof will be open to everyone, all year round. Here, visitors can get close to the factory and follow the manufacturing processes, as well as experience the beautiful natural surroundings. Generous windows in all wings provide views of all parts of the factory at all times of the day. Visitors can walk up the outer ramps and get an overview of the building’s interior and the surrounding pine forest, where there is a large network of hiking trails.
”The Plus will be a great attraction, for both locals and visitors, where people can visit and experience a modern factory built in the most sustainable way possible”, says Tjust.
Full transparency everywhere
Unlike most conventional industrial buildings, there are no fences, borders, or confidential premises on The Plus. Instead, the factory is a tribute to the Right to roam, in Norwegian ”Allemannsretten”. One of Vestre’s goals has been to also build the world’s most open and transparent factory, thereby creating greater interest in industry, technology, and sustainable production. Visitors can, among other things, have access to the Vestre Energy Center and Vestre Clean Water Center, where they can learn about energy production, energy recovery, water purification, and the life cycles of the materials used in the production. For Vestre, sharing and openness are fundamental to driving the world’s development forward.
“The task of creating a sustainable, accessible, colorful production facility with a public park felt like designing a whole new typology. Manufacturing facilities are still thought of as fenced-off buildings polluting the environment. I am excited that The Plus is a prototype for the green transition, proving that manufacturing can be sustainable, social, local, and profitable at the same time – and raising the all-important question: What would happen to the planet if all industrial buildings followed this concept?” says Viktoria Millentrup, Project Lead, BIG.
Activity-filled grand opening
For the official factory opening, Vestre has invited over 800 special guests to a Forest Festival with a line-up including the Norwegian artist Dagny with 450 million streams, and The Mamas from Sweden, among others. The guests also get plenty of time to discover all the details that make up the world’s most environmentally friendly furniture factory. Bjarke Ingels, along with colleagues from BIG will present the factory, the design process, and the architectural vision.
Vestre’s CEO is looking forward to opening the doors:
“It feels fantastic that we have succeeded in this extensive project within 18 months. We managed to do this because of good cooperation with our main contractor and all our local suppliers involved in this project”, says Tjust.
Vestre’s ambition is that The Plus will contribute to Magnor and the whole region attracting more industrial companies to establish.
“We are convinced that more companies will come to Magnor to become part of a strong manufacturing cluster”, says Tjust.
Magnor has always been a hub for industrial development across the border, with its location close to Sweden. Vestre wants to inspire and highlight how the Scandinavian countries should work together to succeed in the global market.
”Someone has to take the lead if we are to accelerate the green shift”, says Tjust, referring to the company’s track record, since Vestre has a long tradition of turning words into actions.
”We hope that The Plus gets more companies to discover all the opportunities here in Magnor and the region on both the Norwegian and the Swedish side. There is plenty of room for more people here, so it would have been fantastic if more companies moved their production here, says Tjust.
Vestre is convinced that it is possible to create green industrial growth. The Plus will be a global inspiration and show how the Scandinavian countries and Vestre are working to create sustainable business, climate-friendly solutions, circular value chains, and committed cooperation.
Established in 1947, Vestre has created caring meeting places for millions of people for 75 years. Sustainability, locally produced materials, and the least possible environmental impact are pivotal to the company’s furniture production. Vestre is a Norwegian family-owned company. The products are manufactured in Norway and Sweden and are available in almost 200 different colours with a lifetime anti-rust warranty and Vestre provides a 15-year adhesion warranty on powder-coated surfaces.
The factory in Torsby in Värmland, Sweden was designed by the Norwegian architects at Snøhetta, which is behind many high-profile international projects, including the library in Alexandria, the 9/11 Memorial Center in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Oslo Opera House. In 2019, Snøhetta together with Hydro and Vestre, developed The Best Weapon, a peace bench, for the Nobel Peace Center. Vestre has been voted “The Brand Builder of the Year” by the Federation of Norwegian Industries and cited as the “Best for outdoor furniture” by Monocle. In 2019, the company was voted “Entrepreneur of the Year” at the Norwegian EY gala. In January 2021, Vestre was presented its 17th DOGA award by Design and Architecture Norway. The company was given the award for its partnership with Norwegian designers Andreas Engesvik och Jonas Stokke in creating the Munch series for the new Munch Museum in Oslo.
At Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair 2020, Vestre was awarded “Best Stand” for its sustainable stand, developed together with Note Design Studio.