Sustainable Cities™

Green building leading the way in Copenhagen

This summer, as hundreds of city dweller’s flocked to sun themselves on Svanemøllen beach in the northern district of Copenhagen, they would have undoubtly cycled past a new and impressive addition to the city’s landscape. Located in Copenhagen’s free port, just south of the impressive North Harbour ‘Nordhavn’ developments, the new ‘UN City’ complex was officially opened this July under a rapture of awards and international praise.

UN City building night
UN City Building Photo: Adam Mørk

This praise is well deserved with Danish architects 3XN designing an ecofriendly, LEED platinum accredited, Danish Energy class 1 building. Shaped as an 8 point star, referring to the UN's message of reaching out to all corners of the world, this building will house 8 UN agencies previously based on separate locations; these include,UN development programme (UNDP),the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Environmental programme (UNEP). Not only does this building promote green technologies but it is designed to craft a new way of working. The flexible office space encourages cross departmental interaction and collaboration, fostering positive dialogues, higher working efficiency and productivity and enhanced employee welfare.

 UN City stairs UN City 1

UN City Building Photo: Adam Mørk

A model for further city development

Globally, buildings account for 40% of energy use and almost a third of all greenhouse gas emissions. The building sector is undoubtedly an energy intensive sector with buildings using vast amounts of energy and resources in both construction and operation phases. The UN city building can act as a model for building developments not only in Copenhagen, which is attempting to reduce emissions from buildings in line with its 'CO2 neutral by 2025' goal, but throughout the world where proven energy efficient and renewable energy technologies are often overlooked for financial and planning reasons.

The UN city building boasts a number of cutting edge features. The façade is created from perforated aluminum shutters that regulate solar shading without interfering with views out across the harbor waters. These shutters can be regulated by employees who can dictate the amount of sunlight entering their office, enabling a shaded and cool working environment. 

The roof is covered with a reflective and recyclable organic material which acts to reflect sunlight, reducing the buildings solar warming. In addition the roof holds, 1,400 solar panels, which can generate 297,000kWh/year of electricity, helping to reduce the buildings demand from the grid. The building will use no more than 50kWh per square meter per annum.

Un City Sky UN City Building Photo: Adam Mørk

Seawater is used as a cooling system, eliminating the need for electricity to run air conditioners. The building uses a rainwater collection system that can capture 3 million liters of rainwater annually, thereby reducing water from the mains by up to 60%. Water is also saved through new designs in tap aerators, helping to reduce water flow and usage.

In keeping with Copenhagen's strong bicycling culture, the UN City building has available 680 bicycle parking spaces, helping to encourage its employees to get to work on two wheels.

All these measures mean the building will reduce its predicted energy consumption by 55%. This has led to the building being awarded the European Commission's Green building award for new buildings in 2012.

Soon to be home to 1.200 employees, the UN City building is a welcome ecofriendly addition to Copenhagen's North shore. With the green development area of Nordhavn under phased construction until 2050, this area is well on the way to becoming a leading example of how buildings can contribute to a more efficient and sustainable city environment. 


Further Reading:

DAC CASE:  Marmormolen

DAC CASE:  Nordhavnen


Monday, September 09, 2013 / By Christopher William Reeves

Last updated Monday, February 03, 2014