CopenHill

BIG’s CopenHill integrates recreational space with energy infrastructure

CopenHill

BIG’s CopenHill integrates recreational space with energy infrastructure

CopenHill is a waste-to-energy power plant by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) that doubles up as an urban landmark. It serves as a recreational space for Copenhageners and a habitat for flora and fauna in the region.

For Denmark’s capital, it is also a step toward becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral city by 2025.

This 41,000 m² project, completed in 2019, replaces a 50-year-old energy plant. Located on the island of Amager in Copenhagen, the new structure is conceived as an ‘urban mountain’, rising 85 m from ground to apex.


CopenHill, also known as Amager Bakke, is situated on the industrial waterfront of Amager, Denmark’s most densely-populated island in Copenhagen.
© Laurian Ghinitoiu / BIG

The project reflects BIG’s idea of “hedonistic sustainability” which frames a sustainable building as one that is accessible and enjoyable, in addition to being environmentally sound.

Bjarke Ingels, the firm’s co-founder, argues that form is a way of engineering performance and elevating user experience. In CopenHill, the pyramidal shape befits the functional configuration of the equipment it holds within, while its facade and roof land their surface to a climbing wall, hiking trails and its signature ski slope.


The roof also supports recreating activities such as hiking and skiing.
© Rasmus Hjortshøj / BIG

A detailed section of CopenHill’s interior showcases the energy equipment it holds internally and the landscape of its sloping green roof.
© BIG
A biodiverse roofscape for urban recreation

The early concept diagram showed the placement of elements for optimal efficiency of thermal processes. The resulting stacked arrangement of equipment required a large sloping roof.

Part of this roof is lined with a synthetic turf known as Neveplast, which has a friction factor equal to snow. It is flanked by 490 m of hiking and running trail lined with trees.


The ski slope is as long as an Olympic half pipe and the entire green roof occupies an area of 10,000 m².
© Rasmus Hjortshøj / BIG

The ski slope atop the facility is a haven for local vegetation to flourish, accommodating hundreds of plant species.
© Rasmus Hjortshøj / BIG

The facility hosts a ski slope on its roof which is open all year round.
© Rasmus Hjortshøj / BIG

The roof is covered with 10,000 m² of greenery, on the edge of the ski slope. This is home to a thriving landscape of local flora, which attracts birds and insects. Designed in collaboration with SLA Architects, this surface of the roof absorbs heat, filters the air and minimises water run-off.


On the building’s roof, visitors can hike along a 490-m landscaped trail, which incorporates various indigenous plants.
© Laurian Ghinitoiu / BIG
Transcending paradigms in clean energy production

The building contains ten floors of administrative space and a 600 m² education centre for academic tours, workshops and sustainability conferences.

When in operation, it turns more than 440,000 tonnes of waste into clean power which provides electricity and district heating to 150,000 homes.


The waste-to-energy plant was the largest environmental initiative in Denmark at the time it was commissioned.
© Hufton+Crow / BIG

The 24-hour waste incineration process is supplemented by a system of air intakes and ventilation shafts. These components are crucial in modulating the building’s form and microclimate.


The facility contains state-of-the-art equipment for waste management and energy generation.
© Søren Aagaard / BIG

Equipment in the facility was arranged according to height to give the buildings’s its long sloping roof.
© Søren Aagaard / BIG

The facade is clad in aluminium boxes resembling bricks. Glazed openings in the gaps in between permit daylight to enter the structure, reducing energy needs for illumination.


The aluminium boxes making up the building’s facade create a textured feel and serve to bring daylight into the interior.
© Rasmus Hjortshøj / BIG

Each aluminium box is 1.2-m high and 3.3-m wide, separated by gaps that act as glazed openings.
© Rasmus Hjortshøj / BIG

CopenHill is remarkable on several fronts. It points the way to a clean energy future. It is transformative in the way that this future is presented at the city scale, breaking down boundaries between industrial architecture and urban social space. Amongst the many accolades it has received since its opening, it was named the World Building of the Year 2021 at the fourteenth annual World Architecture Festival.

Find out more about this exceptional building in Ecogradia’s podcast interview with Bjarke Ingels.

A Frontline project is holistic, net-zero/net-positive and integrative. It protects or regenerates a
combination of social, ecological, and economic systems, aiming for a ‘greater-than-sum-of-parts’
outcome.

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Fact Sheet

Disclaimer: Location provided as reference only. Exact site may differ.

Under the Köppen climate classification, these are ‘C’ climate types. Temperate climates have mild
winters and summers where the average in the warmest month is higher than 10° C and the coldest
does not drop below 0° C. This climate is common along coastal regions.

There are no performance metrics for this project.

Architect
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)
SLA

Team
Bjarke Ingels
David Zahle
Jakob Lange
Brian Yang

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Good design often reveals what we do not know we need. But such a feat depends not only on what we tweak and improve, says Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, but how we re-imagine the process. The question is: where to start?
Bjarke Ingels is a global brand. Whatever one feels about starchitects in general, he is a force to be reckoned with. What does he think is the future of buildings and cities? What role will design play in solving the climate crisis?

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