Forum Institutional

This housing prototype shows the way to affordable decarbonization

A future-of-housing prototype in Denmark shows sustainable buildings that are healthy, affordable and scalable can aid decarbonization.

A future-of-housing prototype in Denmark shows sustainable buildings that are healthy, affordable and scalable can aid decarbonization. Image: VELUX

Fleming Voetmann
Vice-President, External Relations and Sustainability, VELUX
Lone Feifer
Director Sustainable Buildings, VELUX
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Forum Institutional?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Listen to the article

  • Globally, the building industry is responsible for more than a third of all greenhouse gas emissions; in the European Union, it accounts for 40% of energy consumption.
  • Reducing the carbon footprint of construction materials is critical but they must also be recyclable, healthy, affordable and aesthetically pleasing.
  • A future-of-housing prototype in Denmark shows sustainable buildings that are healthy, affordable and scalable can aid decarbonization.

There is no pathway to a low-carbon and sustainable future that does not run through cities. According to data from the International Renewable Energy Agency, cities account for about 75% of global primary energy use. They are responsible for 70% of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. Cities are, therefore, key actors in national and global efforts to transition to a net-zero future.

Have you read?

Buildings are central to people’s lives

Globally, the building industry is responsible for over a third of the world’s entire carbon dioxide emissions and, in the European Union, around 40% of energy consumption. At the same time, the average person spends around 90% of their time indoors, making the impact of the quality of that indoor space enormous in terms of people’s health, wellbeing and, consequently, their overall performance.

For example, students in member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) spend 800-900 hours a year in school, most of which is spent in buildings. A review of multiple studies captured by RAND Europe for VELUX's Healthy Homes Barometer 2019 found that improved air quality could boost student performance by up to 15%, positively affecting working speed, attention level and concentration.

At the same time, the average person spends around 90% of their time indoors, making the impact of the quality of that indoor space enormous in terms of people’s health, wellbeing, and, consequently, their overall performance.

Sustainability by design

The pathway for improvement has already been laid out. The International Energy Organization’s roadmap for “net zero emissions by 2050” sets a clear vision for sustainable buildings across their entire life cycle. That includes manufacturing construction products, operations and recycling of buildings at their end of life.

The intermediate target is to make all new buildings operationally net-zero by 2030 and reduce the embodied carbon in materials by a minimum of 40% by 2030. Now, we just need to execute the plan.

That’s why we opened the door to Living Places Copenhagen in April this year. This future-of-housing prototype proves that we can build with a carbon footprint three times lower than the average Danish new build house while having a first-class indoor climate at an affordable and scalable level. Seven houses were constructed in a colony-like configuration in the Danish capital, designated the 2023 World Capital of Architecture by UNESCO.

As businesses, particularly as a company in the building sector, we carry a big responsibility to reduce our emissions and help facilitate cities and other stakeholders to meet their targets.

Fleming Voetmann, VP External Relations and Sustainability, VELUX | Lone Feifer, Director Buildings of the Future, VELUX

A sustainable building prototype

We have undertaken full-scale building and renovation experiments for many years. By monitoring these buildings and studying their interaction with their occupants, we have created a blueprint for future buildings that offers solutions to some of the most important societal and environmental issues. We applied all these past learnings and teamed up with our partners EFFEKT and Artelia for this latest venture, built to coincide with Copenhagen being the International Capital of Architecture 2023.

Each building component has been optimized for the best constellation of price, indoor climate and carbon footprint, with a particular focus given to the envelope of the building where significant carbon dioxide savings can be achieved. The building itself is carbon-negative through most of its lifecycle due to the selection of biogenic materials that store carbon throughout the building’s lifetime and are also circular. It is designed to be taken apart easily to recycle the used building materials completely.

To get there, the project team prioritized sustainability from the start of the design process, carefully choosing the materials and methods of construction, with costs also in mind. All the materials used in the project are off-the-shelf and the project came in at an average price point for a Danish new build. Strong, open collaboration existed between the owner, architect, engineer and constructor throughout the process. We also need more collaboration in our industry and broader ecosystem, engaging as many interested parties as possible. That’s why our learnings and all relevant information about this project are available to everyone.

The image shows how how the house in the prototype ventilates.
The image shows how how the house in the prototype ventilates. Image: VELUX

A holistic approach

Living Places Copenhagen clearly shows that we can have sustainable buildings and healthy, affordable homes at a scalable level today. But it requires a rethink of how and when we build and renovate. Part of that will be ensuring we unleash all benefits to enable a sustainable future – from a climate, energy, nature, economic and social perspective.

In short, we must take a more holistic approach to planning and managing our communities, with our building stock at their heart and set our regulatory framework for the built environment accordingly.

As businesses, particularly as a company in the building sector, we carry a big responsibility to reduce our emissions and help facilitate cities and other stakeholders to meet their targets.

It requires action and cooperation. We can achieve so much together by partnering up, sharing knowledge and working across different disciplines by concretely reshaping our building stock and being ambitious so the right standards are met.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Forum InstitutionalNature and Biodiversity
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

What is the UN's Summit of the Future in 2024 and why is it important?

Kate Whiting

July 23, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Sign in
  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum