200 years ago there were less than one billion humans living on earth. Today there are over 7 billion of us. A population increase leads to a demand for growth of housing space. In the current state of the world, the architecture of buildings from the early 21st century accounts for 20-30% of greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, we can no longer afford to construct buildings without taking into consideration the effects on the environment.
Denmark is one of the world leaders when it comes to being environmentally friendly, ranking 3rd in the Environmental Performance Index 2018. This is reflected in modern Danish architecture, where the combination of design and sustainability make for a winning formula.
A conscious approach to energy
Green architecture is born out of the aim to minimise the negative environmental impact that buildings can have. This is achieved by having a conscious approach to energy and ecological conservation in the design of the built environment. The foundation of ecological design is to ensure that our actions today will not inhibit the opportunities of future generations.
Sustainability has been an important factor in Danish architecture since the 1990s. Copenhagen itself has quite a few buildings following the green model. From the award-winning 8 house where you can cycle up to your penthouse, to the CO₂ neutral nursery Solhuset, sustainability remains a key element.
Green architecture is not only seen in residential or privately-owned buildings. The United Nations’ City complex, which forms the central location for eight United Nations organisations based in Copenhagen, is a model for sustainability. The building is powered by 1 400 solar panels, whilst rainwater is captured and used for the water-based facilities in the building. UN City shows that sustainability is not just a good environmental option, it also provides smart solutions.
Green architecture is not restricted to Copenhagen. In Aarhus, Dokk1 uses cold seawater instead of air for the ventilation system. Heading south, a school in Sønderborg has been constructed almost entirely from used bricks, enabling a 30 ton saving in CO₂ emissions. And in the north of Jutland, in Aalborg, a sustainable kindergarten, environmentally certified under the DGNB scheme, has been built. The initiatives for sustainable building spread as far as Greenland, where there is a plan in place to connect the airport and seaport close to Nuuk in such a way that would lead to consumption savings.
Nordic architectural traditions are based on democracy, welfare, aesthetics, light, sustainability and social responsibility. Thus, many Nordic based architects incorporate sustainability into their designs. Speaking strictly of Denmark, there are various architects and companies which can be given as examples of building in the spirit of sustainability.
Gottlieb Paludan Architects endorses the Brundtland Commission’s definition of sustainability from 1987 and the UN Global Compact initiative, which they had been part of since 2009. White Arkitekter is a collective of 900 architects who aim to design a better-built environment with people in focus, as well as to innovate sustainable ways of living. Schmidt Hammer Lassen is another example of a company which has included sustainability among their values since 1986.
The Danish political class has for some time recognised the fact that buildings and architecture constitute an arena different from most others when it comes to energy consumption. Denmark has a culture of merging different plans and regulations, such as the Building Regulation, the Heat Supply Act, and the Planning Act. This broad, encapsulating approach to problem-solving can lead to holistic and system oriented policy-making.
Green architecture does not exist simply for an aethestic purpose. It creates long-lasting, self-sufficient buildings, which will contribute to a decline in consumption of vital resources and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. While green architecture is blooming in Denmark, we may yet see sustainable solutions become the norm.
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