Rebuilding in a greener and more sustainable way

Odd Magnus Barstad, Nordic Head of Claims and Line Gjengedal Ruud, Head of Large, Complex & International Claims at If

A craving for pizza started the fire that brought down the combined apartment and office building in the Norwegian city of Sandefjord. If Insurance turned the Sandefjord premises into a pilot project for our new, more sustainable, way to rebuild for the future.

It began with a meal in December 2021: a hungry tenant took a frozen pizza from the box and maneuvered it onto a rack. He placed the empty package on top of the hob. He quickly turned on the switches for the cooker – but maybe too quickly, as the lodger didn’t notice a fatal flaw: he had turned on one of the hobs, instead of the oven. 

He rushed out the door to do some quick shopping, but before he returned, a catastrophe was already taking place in the kitchen: The flames from the burning pizza box had spread to the rest of the apartment, and the fierce and rapidly developing fire caused major damage to the building. 

Pilot project for new term 

Today, the site is busy with people repairing the apartment building and getting it back to its original condition. But something is different. The building is covered by If’s new Sustainable Building term, which makes it even easier to rebuild damaged properties in a sustainable way. 

During the reconstruction, solid wood is used, and the building will be connected to district heating and solar panels will be fitted on the roof.  In addition, a number of simple sustainability measures are implemented, such as installing automatic water taps in the toilets. 

construction site.
Photo: Kilian Munch

– District heating is what we have the greatest expectations for. We have no previous experience with this, but it appears to be a sensible and safe way to heat buildings, says one of the two owners of the building in Sandefjord, Ole Arvesen. 

Advice and support

Through Sustainable Building, If provides concrete advice, guidance and financial support for sustainable measures in the reconstruction after major damage to commercial buildings. This is based on the BREEAM-NOR certification model. The certification is Norway’s most widely used environmental certification system for buildings. 

The Norwegian Building Insurance Super for commercial buildings now has Sustainable Building as part of its coverage. This entails advice and financial contributions to sustainable measures in the reconstruction in the event of extensive damage, for example after a fire. 

people on the building site.
Photo: Kilian Munch

Sustainable building applies when a building has a degree of damage of 50 per cent or more or incurs damage costs in excess of 10 million Norwegian kroner. If, together with qualified external advisors and partners, will provide advice, guidance and support for proposed sustainability measures related to the damage for up to 3 million kroner. 

– As we know that almost 40 per cent of the world’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions are related to the construction and operation of buildings, we also know that every sustainable building-oriented measure will contribute to an actual reduction in total emissions, says Odd Magnus Barstad, who is Nordic Head of Claims at If. 

Economic carrots are important if we are to reach our climate and environmental goals.

General Manager Katharina Th. Bramslev

Positive initiative 

The Norwegian Green Building Council works to make sustainability a natural choice in the building, construction and real estate sectors, and manages the BREEAM certification in Norway. General Manager Katharina Th. Bramslev is very pleased with If's initiative: 

– Economic carrots are important if we are to reach our climate and environmental goals in time, and banking, finance and insurance play a crucial role here," says Bramslev. 

Line Gjengedal Ruud, who is Head of Large, Complex & International Claims at If, adds:  

– With our long experience and knowledge about commercial buildings, we are in a unique position to provide our corporate customers with concrete advice, guidance and assistance in implementing sustainable measures in connection with reconstruction after damage. 

During the reconstruction process, the company receives documentation of the BREEAM scores achieved, as well as a calculation of the reduction of the building’s CO2 footprint. 

(Warehouses, industrial production buildings and farm buildings are not currently covered by the Sustainable Building policy.) 

This is BREEAM 

The BREEAM family of certification schemes is owned by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in the UK. 

BREEAM has local adaptations in many countries and is a widely used environmental certification for new buildings and major renovations. The Norwegian Green Building Council manages BREEAM-NOR, which is the Norwegian version of BREEAM for new buildings and renovations and will soon also manage BREEAM-In-Use, which applies to existing buildings. 

When a building is built according to the BREEAM standard, the project has qualities beyond the minimum requirements of the building regulations and has considered values that society is concerned about. 

A building can be certified on five levels: Pass, Good, Very Good, Excellent and Outstanding. With each level, the sustainability level of the building increases.