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Copenhagen’s eco-village meets all 17 Sustainable Development Goals

An eco-village under construction in Copenhagen is redefining what sustainability means within architecture. Instead of focusing on purely renewable energy or green building materials, it consciously addresses all 17 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

South of the city centre in Copenhagen, a residential area called Ørestad is being constructed and it may just become the most sustainable neighbourhood on the planet.

While it wouldn’t be the first village constructed with the planet in mind – we’ve written about many such places on the Thred design section – this is definitely trumps the rest for ambition.

The blueprints were put together with one superseding mandate: the project must consider all 17 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in some capacity, as opposed to merely focusing on renewable energy and green building materials.

Credit: Sweco Architects

That’s not to say the place hasn’t factored those points in, however. Low-carbon options for buildings materials, like wood and cement have been used, solar panels atop all buildings provide power, and courtyards collect rainwater that can be reused in irrigation.

‘We wanted to put forward something that was comprehensive, challenging, and, importantly, that hadn’t ever been done before,’ says Martin Schultz Nielsen, investment director at NREP, the company behind what’s been named UN17.

The development plans to house 1,100 people within five large apartment buildings and will focus on the central tenet of goal #3, ‘good health and well-being.’

The paths that travel between the buildings and over rooftops are designed to get residents to walk as much as possible, rather than take the shortest route.

Credit: Sweco Architects

In community gardens, there’s space to grow vegetables and the dining hall will offer healthy cooking classes. The site also features a health clinic and gym. Indoor spaces are ventilated for better air quality, filled with natural light, and designed to minimise noise for quality sleep.

Promoting an outdoor lifestyle, a 550-acre nature reserve is nearby and all urban structures are designed to co-exist with flora and fauna, meaning that local air quality will be healthier for those breathing it every day.

‘We know that biodiversity has a huge impact on the health and well-being of the asset’s users, so even if there is a lot of nature close by the building, we wanted to invite it in,’ Nielsen says.

Of the 17 goals, some were easier to address than others and many conflicted. Prioritising air quality, for instance, meant using more materials that increased CO2 emissions.

Credit: Sweco Architects

‘Building balance,’ is achieved through encouraging human behaviours that will counter these factors in the long-term – such as promoting people to bike, which isn’t hard considering Copenhagen is one of the most cycle-friendly cities in the world.

Requiring a little more creativity to achieve, goals like #14 (protecting the ocean) involved sourcing materials that have recycled plastic fishing nets and avoiding using chemicals synonymous with ocean pollution.

The goal of ‘no poverty’ is handled two-fold: rent for property is to be cheaper than surrounding conurbations, and there will be sharing centres where neighbours can donate or borrow items and use a shared workshop to renovate damaged items.

It may sound like an idyllic fantasy, but the project is well underway. The initial phase of construction wrapped up this fall and residents will reportedly get to move in as early as next summer.

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