As architects we have a responsibility

The construction industry accounts for about 30% of CO2 emissions in Denmark. As a part of the architectural industry, we have a responsibility to reduce this figure. At Vilhelm Lauritzen Architects, we embrace this responsibility. Sustainability is a non-negotiable parameter in our design and development of architecture, urban spaces, and landscapes.

Our mission is to push the construction industry towards a more sustainable direction through the use of circular resource economy and data-driven consulting. It's uplifting to feel that we are not alone. In my role as an architect and leader in sustainability, I experience how the motivation for prioritizing sustainable initiatives is increasing - from users, clients, and colleagues.

Specifically, we work with sustainability on several levels. We use life cycle assessments (LCA) as a design driver, meaning that calculations form the basis for a careful consideration of geometry, materials, and technical solutions. At the same time, we constantly challenge and reassess the way we design and build by improving and optimizing our processes.

In our team, we have DGNB, LEED, and BREEAM consultants, as well as certified sustainability advisors. Additionally, we have expertise in areas such as lighting design, daylight calculations, occupational health and safety coordinators, accessibility auditors, and more.

Our focus in 2023

In 2023, our work with sustainability will be based on a number of positions within functionality, inclusion and documentation. We believe that:

...a decisive factor for reducing construction's climate and environmental footprint is long-term sustainability through flexibility. That buildings can change function over time, so that space and form can last through generations and the building thus has a longer life cycle.

...materials that are described as sustainable must be accompanied by valid documentation of their effect - otherwise we reject the materials or ensure sufficient documentation.

…good architecture is for all people and must be found in all our projects.

A sustainable starting point provides significant benefits

What is the most important thing when developing sustainable architecture?

In order to be a “genuine” sustainable project that will also function many, many years from now, it is crucial to consider and integrate sustainability right from the outset in the conceptualization of a project. The sustainability of a project is influenced by how the basic concept - including elements such as form, height, placement, materials - is designed. It is here, in the initial programming phase, where one truly has the opportunity to reap the most significant benefits.

A good example of how crucial it is to incorporate sustainability from the beginning as a premise for the project is the "4 to 1" project - an exemplary project consisting of 44 public housing units to be built in Glumsø with support from Realdania and Villumfonden. The project's condition is that we are only allowed to emit 2.5 kg of CO2 per square meter of built floor area. When we started sketching, the project consisted of 7 wings, and when we calculated the CO2 consumption using our LCA tool, we couldn't reduce the emissions far enough.

By redesigning the project from wings/elongated structures into a circular shape with a courtyard, we saved 14 gables and windows that would have been necessary for the ends of the structures. This way, we saved both resources and surfaces, while also increasing the depth of the development and adding an extra floor. Through these structural adjustments, we were able to make resource savings throughout the building. Additionally, the circular shape has the advantage of providing a good climate with shelter in the courtyard, in an otherwise windy location. Moreover, aesthetically, the circular construction became a cohesive entity with a strong architectural identity.

What additional value, beyond the environmental and climate-related aspects, is associated with sustainable architecture?

There is a very concrete economic advantage in saving resources. The more we delve into minimizing CO2, the more we see a correlation with lower construction and operational costs. It strengthens the synergy in a project and in collaboration across roles when there is a shared understanding that sustainability pays off.

There is also great synergy in having a very pragmatic approach to sustainability. The simpler and more logical, the better. For instance, if you have a large roof overhang, rainwater is directed away from the house, protecting it from moisture. And if you skip lacquering window frames and lamps, they become cheaper, saving lacquer and making them more recyclable.

We are currently in a paradigm shift. Just a few years ago, there was much more resistance to sustainable proposals in the industry.


Can everyone build sustainably?

Yes, but not in the same way. Similar to all other architecture, sustainable architecture should also be site-specific – one cannot take a template and apply it every time as "sustainable architecture." However, there are some commonalities. We know that:

  • It is important to think circularly – reuse is good use
  • Biogenic materials have significant advantages
  • Materials should be local and not have traveled halfway around the world just because they might be cheaper.
  • For some projects, it makes sense to minimize surfaces
  • External resources such as sun, wind, water, and thermal heat should be considered as resources.


Are there risks associated with building sustainably?

One can easily design so-called "sustainable architecture" that isn't sustainable at all. If the project isn't thoroughly thought out or if the wrong materials are chosen, there's a risk that the project will need to be redone shortly after completion. This might happen, for example, due to the emergence of moisture, which is a real risk if one lacks knowledge of how moisture moves through a building surface and how to stabilize the indoor climate. In this way, an otherwise sustainable project can become unsustainable because it's not durable, leading to the use of more - rather than fewer - resources.

Data-driven value creation - for the climate, architectural quality and people

When we design and develop architecture, we apply life cycle-based CO2 calculations. With this data-driven approach, we advise clients and collaborators to utilize solutions that generate the greatest value for the climate and people.

Our calculations are based on documented data combined with our specific experience in development dating back to 1922. We have developed an LCA tool that allows us to continuously monitor a project's current CO2 footprint. At the same time, it provides an overview of CO2 consumption distributed across individual building components, enabling us to continuously optimize processes and reduce consumption.

"As architects, we do not traditionally base our choices on data but rather on aesthetics and function. However, with the common goal of creating projects that are as sustainable as possible and that generate the greatest possible value for the climate and people, data is a necessary supplement to our aesthetic abilities." - Rodrigo Velázquez Bernabéu, Architect MAA, DGNB Consultant, BREEAM AP

Skademosen Housing

Cross laminated timber construction housing in Trekroner

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DGNB Platinum Gladsaxe Company House

Denmarks's first DGNB Platinum certified office building

Gladsaxe Company House


New life for existing buildings and spaces

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UN Global Compact 2021

Since 2008, Vilhelm Lauritzen Architects has been a member of the UN Global Compact and actively works with the UN's 10 principles for corporate social responsibility. We publish an annual Communication on Progress (COP) report, in which we report on the company's development and actions in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.

You can read our Global Compact COP report for 2021 here: 

UN Global Compact COP 2021 English

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