White paper

Beyond buildings

Constructing sustainability
How to create sustainable solutions, valuable spaces in between bulidings and circular processes in the built environment
Innovative partnerships
Establishing holistic partnerships across industries to enable innovate practices and solutions
Enhancing quality of life
Using buildings, holistic planning and smart technologies to enhance quality of life

Buildings as a key element for sustainable cities

Editor in chief
Creative Denmark
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Dive into the white paper

Executive summary

With the ever-quickening pace of urbanisation, demographic changes and climate change globally, our cities and their buildings are facing immense challenges. In response to this, creative and innovative thinking offer a competitive advantage when solving complex problems, allowing us to question habitual thinking and enabling us to create novel solutions. This way of thinking and problem-solving can lead us towards a more sustainable approach to designing, creating and using the buildings that form the basis for our everyday lives, to the benefit of both our planet and the people that populate our urban centres.

Enhancing quality of life for the population at large

As urbanisation continues to accelerate globally, the demand for cities and buildings that can enable better health and well-being for their inhabitants rises. Holistic, cross-sectoral partnerships and new technologies are needed to create buildings that enable people to thrive, both individually and as communities. Chapters 1, 3, 6 and 7 of this white paper illustrate a framework for holistic project planning that goes beyond a single building and the use of smart technologies to address the question of how to create buildings and spaces in between buildings that can improve health and overall quality of life for the many and not only the few.

Combating climate change through buildings and the spaces in between

Knowing that the global built environment is responsible for up to 40 % of global waste and 39 % of energy-related CO2 pollution, we must rethink how we design and use the built environment. Therefore, we must find creative ways of reducing the CO2 footprint of the built environment and enhancing the lifecycle performance and sustainability of buildings. Through climate adaption projects, smart reuse of resources, and holistic renovation processes, buildings and the spaces in between them hold the potential to drive forward the green transition and the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Chapters 2, 4 and 5 showcase novel solutions where habitual thinking and processes have been challenged to foster more sustainable buildings and practices in the built environment.

Sharing creative solutions for your inspiration

This white paper features lessons learned from the built environment with regard to increasing sustainability and quality of life through buildings and the spaces in between them. State-of-the-art cases from climate adaption, circular economy, renovation, smart building technology and city planning illustrate how buildings can become highly valuable components that benefit both our planet and our societies globally. ‘Beyond Buildings’ is intended to enrich and inspire your next project with creative solutions from the built environment.

Watch the digital launch of the white paper. With opening remarks by Simon Kollerup, Minister for Industry, Business and Financial Affair, keynotes by Senior Vice President Janet Joseph from NYSERDA, and Chairman Kim Rahbek at Business Lolland-Falster, and a panel discussion on sustainable cities in the shadow of covid-19.

Simon Kollerup

Danish Minister for Industry, Business and Financial Affairs


Tomorrow’s green business adventure requires creativity

Denmark has a long tradition of using creativity to solve complex problems and to question conventional ways of thinking. This tradition is a resource that is essential in promoting the green transition, and in seizing the new business opportunities that arise as the world becomes greener.

A green and sustainable future

In recent years, we have seen strong, global support for a green and sustainable future. This needs to be taken seriously. We can no longer afford to neglect to act on the green agenda, and all industries must play their part if we are to achieve the goal of reducing CO2 emissions in Denmark by 70 % by 2030.

This is no easy task, and it will require major adjustments for businesses and other players. But we must also remember that new opportunities and new markets arise when the world around us changes.

Where creativity and innovation become paramount

This is where creativity and innovation become paramount. Creativity and innovation are needed if we are to change old patterns and adapt to new conditions. And this is where Denmark’s tradition for working with cross-cutting competencies and solutions can contribute. In addition to being a pioneering country in the green transition, Denmark has a proud tradition of creative thinking and innovative architecture that are based on a holistic approach, always with human needs as a starting point.

So Denmark has something to offer in the coming years as the world seeks to fulfil its ambition of creating more sustainable cities that neither compromise on the quality of life nor the aesthetics of architecture and urban spaces. However, we must also ensure that creativity, quality of life and aesthetics reach the architecture that exists outside our major cities, both in Denmark and globally.

Creativity as the catalyst for the green transition

We need to become even better at getting creativity into the way we build. This will benefit everyone who comes to use the built environment of the future. And it will benefit businesses, which will become even more well equipped to embark on tomorrow’s green business adventure.

Without the help of businesses, we will not meet our green ambitions. Therefore, we must help businesses around the world to contribute to the green transition by sharing our common knowledge and experiences. This white paper highlights leading enterprises and solutions that use creativity as a crucial catalyst to support the development of sustainable and innovative practices and solutions in and around the built environment.

Thomas Vonier

FAIA RIBA, President of the International Union of Architects.

During the 2017 World Congress of Architects in Seoul, Thomas Vonier FAIA RIBA was elected president of the International Union of Architects (UIA), the global organisation representing the world’s 3.2 million architects. An architect in private practice, with offices in Paris and Washington DC, Thomas is a former president of the 94,000-member American Institute of Architects.


The challenge

Buildings and the built environment are crucial tools in our efforts to create a better future for society and our planet. We need healthy, resilient and accessible buildings that are environmentally friendly and that ensure equity and opportunity for everyone.

Sustainable development goals

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals define the challenges we must meet if we are to achieve a better world for all people. The design professions that shape the built environment – urban planning, architecture, and landscape design – influence and interact with every one of these seventeen goals. Already, we see many architectural solutions that contribute to sustainable communities and improved lives for many people. But, the designed environment also remains a central part of our present challenges – much remains to be done.

Build more responsibly and more sustainable

Buildings are not just buildings; they are homes, workspaces, educational facilities, places for healing, cultural exchange, worship, and many other human needs and purposes.

The infrastructure that connects us to buildings is also vital to our wellbeing, and forms an integrated part of meeting the challenge of providing affordable housing, equal economic opportunity, clean air, adequate sanitation and basic safety, all at the same time. We can, indeed we must, build more responsibly, with emphasis on conserving resources, using more efficient construction methods, promoting sustainable renovation projects, and enhancing quality of life for all people. We know that building design can propel our efforts to protect heritage and to halt damage to the global environment.

The Danish progress within architecture

We urgently need more effective design and planning policies, along with new design solutions. We know that architecture can help to bring better lives to all people. Representing 3.2 million architects around the world, the International Union of Architects’ (UIA) basic purpose is to unify architects worldwide, influence public policies on building and urban design, and advance architecture in service to society.

On all three of these notes, it is a rich source of inspiration to follow policy developments in Denmark, and to see the progress of the Danish preparations for the 2023 UIA World Congress of Architects in Copenhagen (UIA 2023 CPH). This white paper showcases a wide variety of themes and inspiring examples of how buildings can help to make the changes we so urgently need if we hope to accomplish the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The paper signals the wonderful substance and hope we can all anticipate for UIA 2023 CPH.

Next - chapter 01

Building quality of life

A strong tradition for quality of everyday life in city planning and architecture