Driven by a long history of environmental consciousness with public incentives for energy efficiency and quotas for CO2 emissions, as well as a private willingness to make a difference for the environment, there is a large demand for green building products and methods in Denmark. But there is also heavy competition from local firms. New and innovative products and methods for green building and energy efficiency have good prospects in the market.
There are approximately 2.7 million homes in Denmark with an average of 560 square feet per person. In addition, there are almost 64,000 public buildings and 150,000 commercial buildings. Operation of buildings accounts for between 30 and 40 percent of total energy consumption in Denmark. The Danish government recognizes energy efficiency in buildings as one of the most cost-effective ways to combat climate change. At the same time, there is considerable focus on indoor climate and health conditions. Those, together with an overall goal of becoming independent of fossil fuels, are the main drivers behind quality building in Denmark.
Green building has many different components and involves several different industries. In Denmark, green building is considered to embrace all activities and routines that take place around a household, and not just in the building process. So all from sustainable architecture and building materials, to ventilation, water supply and heat production, to renewable energy supply and energy efficiency, as well as sewerage system and waste management. Ultimately it also extends to energy efficient lighting and major appliances.
Sustainable architecture and building materials – there is a particular focus on the so-called “shield” of a building, such as foundation, insulation of outer walls, windows, doors and roof.
Ventilation – Danish law requires exhaust systems in wet rooms. Ventilation and air conditioners with an effect of at least 5 KW must be inspected every fifth year.
Water supply – Danish households consume on average 34 gallons of water per day per person. In order to preserve the valuable ground water, as well as to increase energy efficiency, green building initiatives encourage water efficient toilets, taps and showers, water free urinals and recycling of rainwater for things like car wash and garden watering. It has recently become allowed to recycle rainwater (but only from roof curbs) inside the house for toilet flushing and laundry. Nyrup Plast and Grundfos have developed such approved system.
Heat production – 61 percent of Danish households are supplied with water based district heating. District heating is the primary source in multi-story buildings. The surge in district heating over the past 30 years replaced oil-fired burners, which are now only present in 15 percent of Danish homes. All oil-fired burners are to be inspected annually, and public authorities offer free consultation as to how they are best replaced. Natural gas which was introduced in the 1980s is seen in 15 percent of Danish homes today. Denmark is self sufficient and gets natural gas from the North Sea and it is considered the cleanest of fossil fuels. With the current consumption level, the supply will last at least 20 years into the future. Consumption of wood pellets is modest, but becoming increasingly popular as it is recognized as a CO2 neutral alternative to fossil fuels. Denmark’s annual consumption is currently a little more than 1 million tons, mainly consumed by private homes but is also commonly seen in thermal power stations. Installation of electrical heating in new buildings and buildings that have access to a central water based heating system is prohibited.
Electricity from renewable energy - Most renewable energy sources for electricity in buildings come from solar and biomass. Although Denmark is a world renowned net wind-energy producer, the general attitude regarding windmills has thus far been: “not in my backyard”. The annual solar stream in Denmark is 1000 kWh/m2 on a horizontal surface and 1200 kWh/m2 on a surface with a 45° tilt angle. In Denmark, energy labeling is statutory when selling and letting buildings, and every five years for large buildings.
Waste management – On an annual basis, Danes produce 13 million tons of waste, which is equivalent to approximately 28 pounds per person per day. Waste from households make up one fourth of total waste. The Danish Environment Agency is responsible for developing the national waste strategy and the municipalities execute the strategy. 66 percent of the waste is recycled. Some households sort organic waste and make compost, but it is not required by law. Waste disposers in sinks are not common in Denmark, mainly because the sewerage system currently is not built to handle it. Only few municipalities allow the use of disposers.
Lighting and major appliances - Incandescent light bulbs are no longer allowed to be produced or imported and will be phased out in place of more energy efficient substitutes.
Above mentioned principles have been incorporated in a number of building projects in Denmark, of which many were built in connection with Denmark hosting UN’s climate summit COP15 in December 2009. As a result, Denmark is home to the greenest hotel in the world, Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers (www.cpcopenhagentowers.dk), and Denmark has established various examples of sustainable building projects such as Copenhagen University’s Green Lighthouse (www.greenlighthouse.ku.dk), which is the first public CO2 neutral building. Denmark is in the process of building ten passive houses (www.komforthusene.dk) which make the optimal use of passive heat generation in the building.