Update from Norway

Rolf Jacobson (MArch, 2007; MS, 2008) received a Fulbright grant to investigate a variety of cold-climate, high-performance envelopes (building enclosure systems), to determine options that are the most cost effective and environmentally friendly over their lifecycle. Since Norway and Minnesota share a similar climate, the envelopes must meet similar challenges in terms of handling long periods of cold, wet conditions. Many new systems are in development, yet the site-specific research is less frequently coordinated across borders to optimize developments for these similar bioclimatic zones.

While in Norway, Jacobson has climbed Snohetta. He notes that "in Norway, people have a legal right to camp anywhere - even on private property - as long they are well behaved and don't camp too close to their house. There's just a sense here of communal trust and reliance on each other that is refreshing to experience. It's common to see little children walking themselves to school through the busy streets of downtown Trondheim." Jacobson has also visited other countries in the region, attended a Scandinavian conference on Passive Houses, hosted in Aalborg, Denmark and also traveled to Copenhagen.

Although Norway hasn't officially entered the winter season yet, he's surprised with how warm it will stay there (relatively speaking). Apparently, snow rarely sticks around for long in Trondheim's harbor area, and he has visited working farms in Norway that are well above the Arctic Circle. Jacobson says "It's amazing to me how much it feels like northern Minnesota (with a bit of topography thrown in), even though I'm living almost as far north as Fairbanks, Alaska. But the one thing that I do already miss is the sunshine. Even now, when the sun is still supposedly out for more than 9 hours per day, I rarely see it because it's cloudy and raining like every other day. My one piece of advice to anyone planning on visiting Norway is to bring a serious raincoat."

That's oddly similar to his research: developing a serious residential raincoat that works both in sunny snowy Minnesota, and cloudy warm Norway.