UN City

The United Nations doesn’t need much introduction. The organization is maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights since 1945.

In Copenhagen many different branches of the UN such as UNHCR, Unicef and WHO where spread over the city. After the Millennium Summit it was decided that all ten in Copenhagen based UN agencies where moved into one compound. This will not only obtain savings on economic scale but also facilitate the co-operation between the different agencies. The plans where formed in 2002, in 2005 the location Marmormolen was decided and in 2013 UN City was put into operation. The location houses around 1.300 employees from 100 different nationalities.
A bit further, in the container port, a second building (Campus 2) was constructed. This is UNICEF’s new state of the art high bay warehouse and is currently the largest humanitarian warehouse in the world.

Sustainable building

What got my interest in this building is that it received many awards for their sustainable efforts. Amongst the awards are the European Commission’s Green Building Award for New Buildings and the platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification which is one of the most popular green building certification programs used worldwide. UN City is one the most sustainable buildings of it’s kind in Scandinavia. Because of their involvement with LEED they have looked at sustainability since the drawings were being made and they looked at 5 environmental categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources & Indoor Environmental Quality plus an additional category: Innovation in Design. From this categories I will highlight some of the most interesting ones.


From solar panels to sea water cooling and external metal blinds to regulate light and heat. UN City shows wat can be achieved.
– UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon



UN City captures around 3 million liters of rain water each year. This is enough to flush the toilets 5300 times a day. Low-flow taps and toilets reduce the water usage. Combined, the use of innovative taps, toilets and rainwater reduce the consumption of water in the building’s kitchens, toilets and showers by 61%.

Use of natural resources

Sophisticated solar shade’s on the building’s facade can be openend and closed to either trap or reflect heat from the sun. UN City is entirely ventilated with filtered, outside air. Cold sea water is used to cool the building down.
To produce electricity 1.400 solar panels are installed on the roof. The panels produce 297,000 kWh/year, this significantly reduces the electricity needed from the grid.
The roof of the UN City has been coated with a white, recyclable membrane, made from plant-based materials. The environmentally-friendly coating reflects much more sunlight than the usual dark layer.

UN City Solar Panels

Cycling & accessibility  

To reduce pollution from transportation, UN City encourages cycling to work. There are 680 bicycle racks across the site, including 225 which are covered, and a further 115 in the basement. Fifteen showers and changing rooms are also available to freshen up after your ride. To ensure access for everyone, parking spaces for people with disabilities can be found in front of the lobby.


UN City recycles its waste wherever possible. Organic waste from the canteen is pumped through a vacuum system to a container in the basement. This food-based waste is then removed by a company that recycles it for use as fertilizer or to create biogas. Other materials, such as paper, cardboard, glass, plastic and metal, are separated in different bins to be collected and recycled by the City of Copenhagen.

The tour through the building was most interesting. I haven’t been in a building of this size and being it the United Nations was special. It was interesting to learn that a a location of this size can reduce their carbon footprint enormously.

Source: interview with Flemming Johannesen and UN City website



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