What we aim to achieve
We have five goals for the project
The Plus is so much more than a hypermodern furniture factory. We have five goals for the project; you might call it our manifesto:
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 55 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 the EU's and Norway’s enhanced target 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 will be 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.
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.
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.
The primary purpose of Vestre is not simply to produce furniture. We create sociable meeting places, where people can come together across social, cultural and financial divides. In this way, we help to make the world a slightly better place; in this way, we create meaningful jobs. The Plus will have a workforce of around 30 people when it opens in 2021/2022. As production expands, 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’, which is why The Plus has been 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 contracts), 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 windowslooking 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. The project was carried out with no lost-time injuries.
Fully unionised workforce is the goal
In 2020, 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.
On 8 March 2022, we named the two coating robots in the factory after Norway's two first female engineers, Margot Holtan and Randi Holwech, who both graduated from the Norwegian Institute of Technology.
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 places for those who have dropped out of ordinary upper secondary education. In Norway, many people find themselves excluded from the labour market. Vestre will therefore make it easier for those with reduced working capacity or gaps in their CV to return to work.
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 help make the area attractive for 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. And now we are building The Plus in Magnor, which will be the world’s most environmentally friendly and transparent furniture factory. This time, it is BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group – that is responsible for the architecture. In other words, there is an architectural theme running through Vestre’s entire industrial history.
Vestre’s first factory was designed by architect David Sandved in 1959.
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.
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 will be able to visit cafés and Magnor Glassworks, and find local overnight accommodation. Our goal is nothing less than for Vestre Forest Camp to be 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, the main presentation journal for Norwegian architects, landscape architects and interior architects.
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. Together with the local council, we are in the process of exhibiting some of Børli’s best known poems. They will be available to visitors through plaques, exhibits and experiences along the paths in the public park.
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 (i.e. excluding the offshore oil and gas sector). Up to now, this has been offset by revenues from the country's oil and gas industry. 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 increase 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 for 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 Center
At the heart of The Plus lies the visitor centre, which can cater for school groups, students, companies, organisations and private individuals. Most of the factory will be accessible to visitors, and from the roof and through the windows looking out onto the woods, it will be possible to follow along with production. Our objective is to build the world’s most open and transparent factory, thereby creating greater interest in industry, technology and sustainable production. Visitors will also have access to the Vestre Energy Center and the Vestre Clean Water Center, where they can learn about energy production, energy recovery, water treatment and the lifecycles of the materials we use.
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 such as 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 to establish themselves in Magnor?
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 the Scandinavian countries 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 verdict from the Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture in 2019.