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UN opens Green Headquarters in Copenhagen

Solar panels, rainwater tanks and a seawater cooling system are all features of the award-winning, green building office complex.

Green headquarters in Copenhagen 
Photos: Adam Mørk / 3XN

The new UN City complex in Copenhagen, which forms the central location for 8 United Nations organizations based in Copenhagen, demonstrates the UN’s commitment to promote environmental sustainability trough green building.

When United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon attended UN City’s official opening in July 2013, he called the “beautiful and inspiring” new complex “a shining example” for creating a more efficient, coherent and carbon neutral UN.

The building received the European Commission’s Green Building Award in 2012, and recently became the first United Nations complex to receive the platinum-certificate with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

To be eligible for the prestigious platinum LEED standard, UN City had to satisfy a number of environmental criteria. These included using sustainable building materials, reducing waste, minimizing impact on surrounding ecosystems and promoting indoor air quality, energy efficiency and smart water use.

Leading the way
For example, during construction wood was harvested from sustainably-managed forests located within 800 kilometres of the building site to reduce emissions from transport.

In its every day operations, UN City limits the amount of traditional energy used for heating, cooling, lighting and ventilation.

UN City captures almost enough rainwater annually to flush its toilets an average of 5,300 times a day for a whole year. This reuse of rainwater, in addition to low-flow taps and low-flush toilets, has contributed to a more than 60 percent reduction of total water use in the building’s toilets, kitchens and showers.

UN City - solar panels 

Innovative ways of regulating the building’s indoor temperature include pumping cold seawater for use in UN City’s cooling system and solar shades on the building’s exterior that can be opened and closed to trap or reflect heat from the sun.

On the roof 1,400 solar panels generate electricity for UN City, while wind energy makes up more than 35 percent of the additional power purchased off the grid. In total, the building and the 1,200 employees working inside it use less than half as much energy as a similar-sized office building.

Chairman of the General Building and Green UN Focus Group, Niels Ramm said:

“The achievement shows the importance that Denmark-based UN organizations place on addressing their own environmental impacts as they promote sustainable development worldwide.

But the certification is only the beginning and we must continue working hard to uphold the exceptional standards it represents.