In a landmark decision that could set a precedent for cities around the world, Oslo, Norway’s property administrator, Oslobygg, has updated its guidelines to mandate the use of natural refrigerants in all heat pumps and comfort cooling systems installed in the capital’s municipal buildings.

This move comes as a follow-up to the earlier requirement of using refrigerants with a GWP below 10.

Oslobygg is one of Norway’s largest developers and property managers with approximately. 2.7 million square meters (29 million square feet) of property. It is responsible for developing public buildings, including nurseries, schools, care homes, nursing homes, cultural buildings, sports facilities, fire stations and national facilities in the capital.

“Synthetic refrigerants have major environmental challenges and there are risks associated with future delivery,” said Kjersti Grande, Technical Project Advisor at Oslobygg, in a post on  the Norwegian Heat Pump Association website. “There has been enormous development in the market for natural refrigerants. When we realized that the market was mature, we tightened our requirements.”

“With this guide, we hope that there will be a focus on heat pump deliveries so that we raise the quality of the systems and performance over the year,” added Grande.

This change could pave the way for comparable initiatives in other urban areas, redefining the boundaries of what can be achieved in the realm of eco-friendly building and infrastructure practices.

People overcomplicate systems instead of delivering something that is “good and robust,” said Grande, advocating for straightforward, robust systems that stand the test of time.

She acknowledged there is still a lack of expertise in heat pumps and natural refrigerants.

Focus on safety

The new guidelines specify how to acquire and operate heat pumps and cooling machines that meet the new regulations. There’s a special focus on ensuring safety when using natural refrigerants, which requires careful planning from the sketching stage to operation.

For example, in the initial planning stages of projects, conducting risk assessments has become obligatory. Oslobygg mandates that consultants demonstrate verifiable expertise in managing natural refrigerants. Additionally, a conclusive evaluation is required before initiating the operation of any heat pump.

The guidelines are written for Oslobygg’s own employees in property management and project development, as well as for external parties such as planners and other advisers.

The guidelines represent a robust model for sustainable development, demonstrating that the technology for making impactful environmental changes is not just available but is mature enough to be implemented at scale.

Oslobygg’s guidelines for heat pump and chiller are available at this link:

“Synthetic refrigerants have major environmental challenges and there are risks associated with future delivery.”

Kjersti Grande, Technical Project Advisor at Oslobygg

Author Saroj Thapa