1. Vestre will build the
world’s most environmentally friendly furniture factory.
Anthropogenic climate change and loss of nature are the biggest challenges of our age. The goal of the Paris Agreement is to prevent the global mean temperature from rising by more than 1.5oC. Achieving the goal will require greenhouse gas emissions to be halved in less than ten years. At the same time, we must halt the loss of biodiversity and protect precious natural environments.
Vestre believes it is possible to create green growth, by which we mean economic growth achieved while managing the world’s natural resources in a sustainable way. At Vestre, we are techno-optimists and believe that the industrial sector has every opportunity to lead the way in the green shift. We aim to prove it by building the world’s most environmentally friendly furniture factory in Norway.
The Plus will generate 50 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than a conventional factory. As a result, we will more than meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030. We will also meet Norway’s enhanced target of a 50 per cent reduction in emissions in the same period. These substantial cuts in emission levels are possible because we have chosen a building shell that meets Passivehause standards and a load-bearing structure that is constructed from solid wood, as well as low-carbon concrete and recycled reinforcing steel. In addition, a combination of fossil-free and emission-free machines will be used at the construction site.
The Plus reduces greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent compared with similar conventional factories.
The Plus reduces the supplied energy requirement by at least 90 percent compared with similar conventional factories.
The Plus is probably the world’s first project of its type to achieve the very highest environmental BREEAM rating by meeting the requirements for classification as Outstanding. An BREEAM Outstanding building is defined as an international innovator. In theory, less than 1 percent of all new non-domestic buildings achieve this extremely high classification, 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 is aiming to show that industrial projects can also be global innovators in the environmental field.
Energy efficiency rated A+
The Plus qualifies for the highest energy efficiency rating A. The building scores maximum points for energy efficiency and Passivehause standard, under BREEAM Ene 1 and Ene 23. The factory has an exceptional insulation rating, windows with minimal energy loss and an advanced energy supply system combining solar power, heat exchangers and a series of geothermal wells. The energy rating is based on the estimated amount of energy supplied to the building. The scale runs from A to G, with A as the best.
The Plus will have a supplied energy requirement of 13 kWh/m2 and therefore meets FutureBuilt’s near-zero energy definition of 30 kWh/m2 by a substantial margin. In practice, the building will not need any heating until the outdoor temperature falls below 5oC.
Vestre Energy Centre
The Plus will generate around 250,000 kWh of renewable energy per year, from more than 1,200 solar panels installed on the roof and in the area around the factory. In addition, The Plus will use surplus heat from production to heat the building. The surplus heat system is connected to an ice-water plant for cooling, heat and cold storage tanks, heat pumps and geothermal wells that provide storage support. Together, this means the building’s energy requirement is 90 percent lower than that of a similar conventional factory.
100% electric transport
Vestre was one of the first companies to order the world's first fully electric truck, the Tesla Semi. Through 100 percent emission-free transport between the factories in Torsby in Sweden and Magnor in Norway, we will reduce our diesel consumption by over 55,000 litres a year, the equivalent to 71,000 kg of carbon dioxide.
Vestre Vision Zero
Vestre’s products come with a lifetime warranty against rust and a 15-year guarantee on their surface coating and woodwork. But we are not stopping there. Vestre’s vision is to not make a single product that cannot live forever. This is possible through correct use and maintenance and a scheme whereby worn out furniture can, after many years of use, be returned to the factory for restoration and reuse. The Plus has a dedicated circular production line, which has been set up to handle such tasks in an efficient and energy-saving way. As a result, the factory will continually produce circular products – some for the first time, while others will be at the factory for the second or third time. This kind of circular furniture production enables us to dramatically reduce our energy consumption. The Plus is probably the world’s first circular furniture factory.
Vestre Clean Water Center
Almost 700 million people in the world today lack clean water. According to the UN, unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation lead to around 842,000 deaths every year. This problem will probably only get worse as the global population grows and climate change causes major changes to the natural environment. In The Plus, we will recycle over 90 per cent of the water used in production, while halving the use of chemical substances and selecting only the most environmentally friendly alternatives on the market.
Originally, a massive industrial development was planned for the site at Magnor, that would have resulted in the felling of over 30 hectares (approx. 75 acres) of planted pine forest (plantation forests). Instead, along came The Plus, a building whose key objective is to make its footprint as small as possible. The building has been sited at the edge of the forest and the remaining area, around 95 percent of the site, is being preserved on nature's own premises. Vestre is working with the local council to draw up a plan to preserve the area’s natural environment and gradually develop a greater diversity of flora and fauna. Measures will be put in place to ensure that everyone can come and enjoy the wonderful natural forest that is now being preserved. To further improve the biodiversity, we will cover much of the factory’s roof with natural vegetation which corresponds as closely as possible to that currently growing at the site. All necessary interventions will be carefully planned to limit their impact in terms of space and time, and to minimise any disruption to the area's wildlife. Biodiversity will be further enhanced by allowing the forest surrounding the woodland to grow wild, without the introduction of non-native species or - as today - forest management and clearing activities which remove animals’ homes, hiding places and sources of food. Many nesting boxes will also be put up to ensure that cavity-nesting birds have somewhere to lay their eggs.
Sharing is caring
Unlike many traditional industrial buildings, The Plus is a project which proudly opens up and showcases the architecture and the manufacturing processes that are taking place there. Guided tours will be available from Vestre’s visitor centre. Generous windows in all wings provide views of every part of the factory at all times of the day or night. Visitors can walk up the external ramps and gain an overview of the building’s interior and the surrounding forest. Buildings that are certified as BREEAM Outstanding have a duty to share their knowledge through the Norwegian Green Building Council and the Building Research Establishment (BRE). In this way, the value of what has been created can ripple out to new projects across sectoral and national boundaries.
«The company’s CEO, Jan Christian Vestre, is a constant inspiration, with his passion for a circular future fuelling every business decision he makes.»Forbes Magazine, 25 April 2020
In recent years, Vestre has tripled its sales revenues and has high ambitions for further growth. We expect our marketing efforts in Europe and the USA to lead to a substantial increase in demand. This means we must increase our production capacity, and we must do it in the most environmentally friendly and cost-effective way possible. Manufacturing in high-cost countries means we must work smarter and more efficiently than our competitors. In addition, we must reduce lead times and, in the longer term, offer emission-free transport worldwide.
Tesla’s goal is to speed up the electrification of society through the mass production of electric vehicles. In the Nevada desert, Tesla Gigafactory 1 produces over 1,100 powertrains and battery packs a day. The factory runs on solar power and will be the world’s largest building when fully completed. From Sparks in Nevada, the batteries are sent through the Donner Pass to the Tesla Factory in Fremont, California, some 400 km away. This is where the rest of the car is manufactured, and the powertrains and batteries installed. Tesla has taken control of the entire supply chain by building its own highly efficient factories, thereby improving the management of its production.
In the fourth industrial revolution, the internet and artificial intelligence meld together with manufacturing and products. This means that factories will become so flexible that each individual product can be tailored to a customer’s specific needs, without it costing more than traditional mass production. Digitalisation will also lead to fewer routine tasks being performed by people.
The Plus will make use of several Industry 4.0 solutions. Examples include self-learning industrial robots, which can give the products their final colour coating with the help of object recognition and artificial intelligence. Colour changes that used to take 15 minutes can now be accomplished in 30 seconds. Then there are intelligent scanners that optimise the wood processing function and reduce waste to an absolute minimum. A third example is the use of driverless electric trucks that autonomously manage the flow of goods through production. In addition, it will be possible to operate the entire factory from a tablet device, and we can make use of vast quantities of production data for process improvement and development work. By making use of this technology in conjunction with employee-driven innovation – the so-called Nordic model – The Plus will manufacture faster, greener and at lower cost, for the benefit of customers worldwide.
Design and industrial collaboration in Scandinavia
Norway, Sweden and Denmark have a combined population of 21 million. In a world that will soon be home to 8 billion people, it goes without saying that we cannot be the best at everything. This is why Vestre is so passionate about Scandinavian design and industrial collaboration, and why we believe that the Scandinavian countries should join forces more often to compete in global markets. For Vestre, basing design development and production in both Norway, Sweden and Denmark is therefore a strategic goal that rests on historical, industrial, artistic and cultural advantages.
Vestre Steel Factory
Torsby is located in the municipality of Värmland, which has a population of almost 12,000. The municipality is situated approx. 90 km from Magnor, 100 km from the regional capital of Karlstad and 170 km from Oslo. Torsby has a rich industrial heritage, one of Sweden’s best vocational training schemes, and a plentiful supply of highly qualified labour. The town is strategically situated on the E45 highway, which runs all the way from Alta in Northern Norway to Gela on the southern coast of Sicily in Italy.
In 2013, Vestre opened a factory in Torsby, Sweden. It was designed by Snøhetta, the internationally acclaimed Norwegian firm of architects. The factory has around 3,500 m2 of floor space and employs some 30 people. On sunny days, it is self-sufficient in renewable energy from solar panels on its roof. In recent years, the Torsby factory has improved its productivity by well over 50 percent, which has significantly boosted Vestre’s competitiveness. We have achieved this through employee-driven innovation and substantial investments in automation and new technology.
When we open the Vestre Colour & Wood Factory at Magnor, the Vestre Steel Factory in Torsby will focus on the production of steel and aluminium components, which in turn will be sent to Magnor for coating and assembly. At the same time, we will be repatriating more metal processing work to the Torsby factory, which will require substantial new investments and create new employment opportunities at the Swedish facility. In this way, Vestre will create more green industrial jobs in both Norway and Sweden.
3. Vestre will create
attractive jobs, with opportunities for everyone.
Vestre does not primarily create furniture, we create social meeting places where people can come together in outdoor spaces – transcending social, cultural and economic differences. In this way, we help to make the world a slightly better place; in this way, we also create meaningful jobs. The Plus will have a workforce of around 30 people when it opens in 2021/2022. As Vestre’s operations expand, the factory will have room for up to 70 employees.
The Oslo Model – at Magnor!
We want to be at the forefront of the effort to shut out ‘cowboy contractors’. That is why we have decided that The Plus will be built in accordance with the Oslo Model. This model, which is supported by both employer and employee organisations, requires at least 10 per cent of the construction workforce to be apprentices, while 50 per cent are qualified craftspeople. Workers must be permanently employed (not on temporary contract), must receive the minimum collectively agreed pay and working conditions and be paid between assignments. Workers must also have an HSE card from day one. Suppliers must present expanded tax certificates and provide full transparency with regard to internal conditions.
Healthy working environment – with no injuries
Health, safety and the environment (HSE) are important in any workplace. The working environment at The Plus will be excellent. In other words, we will provide modern machinery and equipment; well-lit premises with a stable temperature all year round; large windows looking out onto the forest; accessible outdoor areas; healthy, locally sourced lunches; training facilities; and free bicycles and fast charging for electric vehicles for all employees.
Fully unionised workforce is the goal
In 2010, Vestre became the first furniture manufacturer to join Norway's Ethical Trading Initiative, which promotes human and labour rights, as well as social and environmental issues. We believe in the Nordic model, with its emphasis on tripartite cooperation between the government, employers and trade unions, and high levels of union membership. This creates trust between employee and employer, which leads to greater innovation and higher productivity. Our goal is for all employees to be members of a trade union. To encourage this, Vestre is willing to pay its employees’ union membership fees.
More women in the industrial sector
Workplace diversity is a good thing, irrespective of business sector. Despite this, the industrial sector remains male-dominated. Vestre wants to help change this, and we will work with regional vocational training institutions and other companies to make it more attractive for young women to choose a career in industry.
Competence development for all
As part of their employment package, Vestre will offer all its staff the chance to develop their work-related competence. We will join forces with regional vocational training institutions to create attractive apprenticeships and vocational training opportunities for those who have dropped out of ordinary upper secondary education. In Norway, many people have become excluded from the labour market. Vestre therefore wants to make it easier for people with reduced working capacity or gaps in their CVs to return to work.
4. Vestre will help bring
visitors from all over the world
Magnor has a fantastic history, which we at Vestre want more people to experience. The Plus is not just an environmentally friendly and highly efficient factory, it is also an architectural masterpiece and a project that will make the area attractive to visitors from all over the world.
Vestre’s first proper factory was built in Haugesund in 1959 and was designed by architect David Sandved. The factory was described by the newspaper Haugesund Dagblad as “one of the most beautiful industrial buildings imaginable”. In 2013, Vestre opened a factory in Torsby, Sweden, which was designed by Snøhetta. There, laser-cut steel offcuts were used to clad the façade. Now we are building The Plus at Magnor, which will be the world’s most environmentally friendly and transparent furniture factory. This time, it is BIG that is responsible for the architecture. In other words, there is an architectural thread that runs through Vestre’s entire industrial history.
Welcome to the roof
The Plus's roof will be open to everyone, all year round. Here, visitors can get up close to the factory and its manufacturing processes, as well as experience beautiful natural surroundings. Visitors will access the roof via ramps and stairs that are linked to existing and new forest footpaths. These paths will be built to the universal access standard, so that everyone can use them.
Vestre Forest Camp
The area around The Plus will be developed into a pleasant and attractive park for both local residents and visitors alike. We plan to erect art installations, educational and historical exhibitions, playgrounds, picnic areas, a viewing tower and a bridge over the Vrangselv river to link the park to Magnor town centre. Here guests can visit cafés and Magnor Glassworks, as well as find local overnight accommodation. Our goal is to have Vestre Forest Camp frequently mentioned on TripAdvisor as a recommended place to visit in Norway.
«Vestre is what you might call a unique company in a Norwegian context, not only because of its international commercial success, but also because it makes audacious design seem almost commonplace.»Byggekunst 100 år, the centenary edition of Architecture Norway.
Hans Børli lyrical forest
Hans Børli is one of Norway's most famous poets, and we think he deserves a lyrical forest in his own home area. In conjunction with the local council, we therefore want to make some of Børli’s most famous poems available to visitors through plaques, displays and activities along the public park’s many pathways.
5. Vestre will inspire
others to take part in
the ‘green shift’
Over the past 20 years, Norway has lost more market share, measured by export volume, than any other member of the OECD. This has contributed to a steadily increasing trade deficit for mainland Norway. Up to now, revenues from the country's oil and gas industries have plugged this gap. But in a world that is rapidly switching to renewable energy, Norway cannot continue to expect income from this sector to remain as high. Over the next ten years, therefore, Norway must double its investments in and exports from the mainland and build up green and profitable mainland business operations that can supply products and services to the whole world.
Everything is possible
“Everything is possible for Our Lord and a mechanic!” That was Johs. Vestre's motto when he established his first engineering workshop in a former German barracks in Haugesund in 1947. We will now prove that it is possible to achieve profitable and environmentally friendly manufacturing in a high-cost country like Norway. The Plus will be the largest single investment in the furniture industry that Norway has seen in decades. And if Vestre can, so can others. We believe this project will inspire others to initiate similar projects. The Plus will have a huge symbolic impact and extensive ripple effects.
Vestre Experience Centre
At the heart of The Plus lies the visitor centre, which will cater for school groups, students, companies, organisations and private individuals. Most of the factory will be accessible to visitors. From the roof and through the windows opening onto the forest, it will be possible to watch the production process. Our goal is to be the most open and transparent factory, thereby boosting public interest in industry, technology, and sustainable production. Visitors will also have access to the Vestre Energy Centre and the Vestre Clean Water Centre, where they can learn about energy production, energy recovery, water treatment and the materials’ lifecycle.
The Plus will enter into a number of local partnerships. For example, by working with forest owners and sawmills, we will convert locally sourced timber into designer furniture, thereby creating complete supply chains within the Norwegian/Swedish border region's bioeconomy. We will collaborate with neighbouring companies like Norsk Hydro and Magnor Glassworks in areas like design, production and competence development. We also believe that more companies will establish a presence in Magnor and become part of an even stronger brand and manufacturing cluster. When Tesla set up Gigafactory 1 in the middle of the Nevada desert, it did not take long before major tech giants like Apple and Google also established a presence there. Who will be next after The Plus?
UN sustainable development goals
The Plus actively supports the sustainable development goals that have been defined by the region. Our goal is to be a showcase for how Innlandet County, Norway and Vestre are working to create sustainable business activities, climate-friendly solutions, green supply chains and mutually beneficial partnerships.
«We applaud the partnership between Vestre and Norsk Hydro. It is precisely such constellations that we need in the restructuring of Norwegian business.»Jury statement, Design and Architecture Norway (Doga) in 2019.