HOW to shape the cities of the future? 

09.07.2018 / Kristina Fjeldstad Olsen

With today's climate challenges, it is important to create a sustainable society in which new towns and cities adapt to nature and not vice versa. We need to find new solutions that simplify and improve today's challenges, with the technology of the future as a starting point.

Sollihøgda Plussby (“Plus City”) is a forward-looking smart town to be built at Bærum, just outside Oslo, Norway. It will be based on new technologies and sustainable energy solutions. Here there are no roads, buildings or houses to be found yet, just forest and land. Our task is to build a brand-new city from scratch. How can we, using nature's own systems, respond to the challenges we face today?

A mind-set inspired by nature

There are several aspects of Sollihøgda Plussby which we COWI Try students will look into. My innovation team will look at solutions that can help the municipality of Bærum achieve its zero-emission target and at how the Plus City can have a positive impact. Solutions that can balance the CO2 accounts of the city. Among other things, we have considered how energy needs can be satisfied by local renewable energy production, non-fossil fuel transport, and carbon neutral construction sites and materials.

From the "cradle to grave" mind-set, we are moving towards a new approach called "cradle to cradle" - a process that transforms waste products into new products with improved quality. This is called upcycling and is part of the concept of the circular economy. A mind-set inspired by nature, where waste does not exist and everything is resources. With that in mind, we study alternative ways to build and facilitate rapid assembly, dismantling and recycling of structures.

A plus city presupposes that you can generate, store and distribute energy in a smart way. The buildings must be designed for minimal energy requirement and use renewable energy sources and microgrid technology to maximise control. Utilization of what nature has to offer is also central to the project. Everything from forest to mountain can be used as building materials, thus avoiding transport of materials over large distances - which will contribute positively to the CO2 accounts. Water, wind, biogas and geothermal energy should also be integrated into the energy cycle with the aim of minimizing energy losses.

The challenge of storing energy

As I see it, one of the biggest challenges is to store energy until it is most needed. A problem that typically arises in this regard is overheating in summer and heat demand in winter. Take for example the need for cooling homes and commercial buildings in the summer. How can we store and use snow to cool the hot summer air? Snow storage is a solution already used at Oslo Airport. This is one of the solutions we want to look into as it can contribute to meeting the zero-emission target.

Smart cities should provide better living and health benefits and have residents' needs at the centre. I study building and environmental engineering at NTNU, and beside the innovation project I work in COWI's acoustics section in Oslo. Noise and its health impact have therefore been central in my work on the Plus City. Noise may adversely affect well-being, presentation ability, sleep and social behaviour, and can lead to stress-related illnesses. It is therefore very important to pay attention to sources of noise when planning cities. It is exciting how my interest can also be useful in this year's project.

I hope that curiosity and drive create the basis for good results. COWI Try and the innovation project are a great opportunity to learn and to build competence beyond your own field of study. With a well-picked interdisciplinary group, we can achieve incredibly much. On August 17, we will present our ideas to a large and expectant audience. We are very excited to see what they think.

Read more about the COWI Try programme

Kristina Fjeldstad Olsen

Kristina Fjeldstad Olsen

23 years


MSc in building and environmental engineering, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)