AIA Awards


November 20, 2003

Lessons on sustainability, Scandinavian style

  • Seattle group to tour sites in Copenhagen and Malmo
    International Sustainable Solutions


    A broad-based group of Seattle-area landowners, architects, engineers and design professionals will be heading off to Denmark and Sweden in March to look at urban sustainability projects in Copenhagen and Malmo.

    The study tour has been specifically designed for the group with a great deal of assistance from agencies in Denmark and Sweden. Northern Europe is a natural choice to look at when considering urban sustainability because both climate and societal values are similar to those of the Pacific Northwest.

    The populations of Copenhagen and Malmo together are in the same size range as Seattle and Bellevue. Both of the larger cities are connected to their smaller counterparts by a bridge. The city of Seattle, keenly interested in sustainable development, has invited the trip participants to present their findings to interested members of the Mayor's Cabinet and City Council. This presentation will occur shortly after the trip, which will take place March 27-April 2, 2004.

    The site visits were chosen for their relevance in demonstrating one or more of the following areas: sustainable sites and landscapes, energy, materials and resources, and transportation.

    Although initially it was believed that Copenhagen would be the main attraction, with a side trip planned to Malmo, it turns out that in the past few years Malmo has done so much with regard to urban sustainability, that it has just as much to offer as its big sister to the west.

     54-story Turning Torso
    Photo by Pierre Mens, Klas Andersson
    When it’s completed in 2005, the 54-story Turning Torso will be packed with sustainable features, including a recycling system that turns organic waste into biogas to fuel city buses.

    On the first day of the tour, the group will be treated to a welcome reception at Christiansborg Palace, home of the Danish Parliament. Svend Auken, first vice-president of the parliament, and former Danish Minister of Energy and the Environment, will address the group about balancing environmental necessities with economic realities.

    Auken, a longtime sustainability advocate, was responsible for the policies that promoted development of both the wind energy and Combined Heat and Power (CHP) industries in Denmark. When asked about how to balance environmental needs with economic realities, Auken responded that the calculations change immensely when the long view is taken rather than the short.

    This is particularly true, he said, with renewable energy, which often requires a large capital outlay but has low running costs. For example, wind energy requires large capital expenditures for the turbines themselves but then has no fuel costs. Over the life of the turbine, the total cost of generating power is equal to or lower than non-renewable energy production.

    The reception and speech will be followed by a private tour of Christiansborg Palace.

    Other site visits in Copenhagen will include:

    Copenhagen Metro

    The metro opened in October 2002 and added two new sections in 2003 for a total of 17 kilometers of rail. By 2007, the metro will be extended further. The decision to supplement the public transport system with a metro was based on diverting traffic from cars to train to ease overcrowding and environmental problems. Each day around 200,000 passengers ride the metro. During rush hour, a trip on the metro takes a fifth of the time for the same trip by car.

    Patricia Chase
    Patricia Chase became involved with sustainability issues as a result of her extensive travels.
    “Seeing 15 countries on five continents over two years made it clear that a pattern of environmental crisis exists,” she said. “In spite of the overwhelming size of the problems, people all over the world are working on solutions. I decided I wanted to be one of those people.
    “It’s interesting to bring Europeans and Americans together because we’ve tended to focus in different areas, so there is a lot to share with each other.”

    Middelgrunden Wind Turbine Co-Operative

    One of the world's largest offshore wind turbine farms, Middelgrunden consists of a curved line of 20 large offshore wind turbines, each with a generator size of 2 megawatts. The 40-megawatt farm was the first of its kind, in that shares of the co-operative were sold to ordinary consumers. A total of 8,552 electricity consumers are co-owners of the farm, which supplies 4 percent of Copenhagen's electricity consumption. The project came about through the cooperation of the Middelgrunden Wind Turbine Cooperative, Copenhagen Energy and local and national governments.

    Avedore 2 Power Plant

    The recently opened, futuristic combined heat and power plant sets new standards for environmentally friendly energy production. The plant incorporates steam, hay and gas systems, each holding world records for efficiency.


    Turning Torso
    Image by Samark Arkitektur & Design AB
    Seattle design and development professionals, touring Denmark and Sweden in March, will get a first hand look at the Turning Torso building by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava.

    Orestad is a new district under development that stretches over 5 kilometers from the outskirts of Copenhagen City to Copenhagen Airport. The new metro, with its fully automatic and driverless trains, connects Copenhagen and Orestad. Average traveling speed by train is 40 kilometers an hour -- three times faster than a city bus.

    Besides being a mixed office, retail and university area, Orestad will be home to the new Danish Broadcasting Corp. complex. When finished in 2006, the complex will use renewable energy generated by a photovoltaic installation measuring 1,200 square meters. Natural and hybrid ventilation will be used.

    A groundwater reservoir under Orestad will be used for cooling. Cold winter air will be stored in a porous groundwater reservoir about 20 meters deep. The groundwater will be cooled even further. Because the ground insulates so well, the water keeps cold for months. The cold water will be used for cooling the building in the summer. It is predicted that using groundwater and external air for cooling will save 75 percent over regular compression cooling for the building.

    Site visits in Malmo will include:

    Western Harbor

    This is a new district of affordable and higher-income housing, offices, shops and services built on formerly contaminated shipyard land. The district is served entirely by renewable energy from sun, wind, water, refuse and sewage. A nearby in-city wind turbine provides enough electricity for 2,000 households.

    Buildings are built to maximize environmental friendliness and resource efficiency. Walls and roofs are covered with plants, and green roofs of moss-stonecrop sedum carpets are on most rooftops.

    Rain and seawater are used in public places — in the saltwater canal that runs through the area, in fresh waterways, and in fountains and sculpture. The extensive hydrological features have been incorporated to manage rain runoff and to support a broad range of birds and other animals.

    About 1,200 square meters of solar panels have replaced an older building's facade, with the heat generated going directly into the district heating system.

    Turning Torso
    Image by Samark Arkitektur & Design AB
    Turning Torso will offer energy-efficient units and detoxified construction.

    The municipal transportation fleet for this area consists of electric, gas and hybrid vehicles. The area has been planned to minimize car dependency — cyclists have priority over cars.

    Advanced IT applications are used to monitor water and energy consumption in dwellings. In addition to recycling household waste such as paper and glass, a large amount of the organic waste produced is transformed to biogas in biogas digesters.

    Turning Torso

    This sustainable mixed office and residential 54-floor skyscraper, designed by Santiago Calatrava, will be completed in 2005.

    Building features include: energy-efficient design; individual monitoring of heat, and hot and cold water use; 100 percent renewable energy; detoxified construction; and a recycling system that will enable organic waste to be transported in separate pipes and “digested” to become biogas.

    All packaging, newspapers, electronic and hazardous waste will be separated and recycled. The remaining waste that cannot be recycled will be converted to energy in Malmo's new waste incinerator and heat plant. Biogas will be used to power the city's buses.

    Green roofs

    At 9,500 square meters, Augustenborg has Scandinavia's largest green roof system. The center demonstrates how different slopes, plants and drainage layers are used in green roofs.

    Green roofs (also called eco-roofs) reduce the load on sewage systems by allowing a large proportion of rainwater to be assimilated by green plants or to evaporate. Green roofs also protect underlying roof material, provide greater insulation and preserve biological diversity.

    In the United States, very expensive waterproofing material tends to be advocated for roofs rather than the less expensive conventional material. This greatly increases the cost of green roofs here.

    According to Louise Lundberg of the Green Roof Institute, the typical waterproofing layer used in conventional roofs provides adequate waterproofing.

    The institute believes that green roofs can last up to 60 years since they offer the underlying roofing material additional protection against the degrading elements of sun, and temperature extremes.

    A lecture on industrial symbiosis

    Augustenborg Botanical Roof Garden
    Photo courtesy of International Sustainable Solutions
    The trip will include a stop at Augustenborg Botanical Roof Garden, Scandinavia’s largest green roof system.

    Kalundborg, Denmark, is a sleepy industrial town of 20,000, which receives a steady stream of foreigners, from German factory managers and Chinese city planners to Japanese journalists and U.S. academics, all on a pilgrimage to see Kalundborg's industrial symbiosis in action.

    For nearly two decades, Kalundborg's key industrial firms have been working together to turn waste products from one firm into raw resources for another. In the process, the companies have saved money while reducing pollution, and have inspired researchers worldwide to rethink how industries use and exchange resources.

    Six companies — Energy E2 Asnaes Power Station (electricity generation), BPB Gyproc (plasterboard), Novo Nordisk (pharmaceuticals), Novozymes (enzyme producer), Statoil (oil refinery) and Bioteknisk Jordrens Soilrem (fertilizer) — exploit each other's residual or by-products on a commercial basis. Essential to industrial symbiosis is that all participating companies are located near each other.

    Aside from the site visits and lectures, participants on the trip will be exposed to sustainability principles during support activities. Public transportation, such as the use of trains and light rail will be used whenever feasible, and the Scandic chain of hotels has been selected because of its sustainability leadership in its industry. Participants will stay in eco-rooms, whose materials have been chosen with consideration for the environment. Nordic wood, wool and cotton replace synthetics, and plastics and metal are avoided. As a result, 97 percent of each room can be recycled.

    Those interested in joining the growing list of local developers, architects, engineers and planners on the trip can get more information by e-mailing

    Patricia Chase is a principal with International Sustainable Solutions in Denmark, a division of grnNRG Consulting Inc.

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