[Nordhavnen] Sustainability as environmental and social engine in urban design


One important step on the way to achieve sustainability is to identify environmental problems that need to be solved. In this project the ecological consequences of the way we live today were analysed with the aim of defining environmental problems. By taking a closer look at the origin of the problems related to the environment, it becomes easier to define what actions that can be done through urban planning to solve these problems.

The proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has gradually been built up during the last century. The majority of the emissions come from cities. The CO2 emissions from cities have two major sources; buildings and transportation. It takes energy to run buildings, e.g. heat up or cool them down as well as run electrical systems not only in buildings but also throughout the whole city. Most of this energy comes from fossil fuel burning; hence cities have the very high CO2 emissions.

Another major danger to the environment is the threat human activity is causing to the biosphere. Cities are a major threat to the biosphere in two ways; directly by the way land is occupied and used for habitation, which have huge impacts and consequences for animals and ecosystems. Indirectly by the huge consumption of natural resources that is required to run the big cities.


The primary goal of this project was to examine how sustainability can be achieved through a certain urban form or urban design principles. By focusing on how the various levels of the city planning such as land use patterns, building and landscape types, infrastructure systems and density can contribute to sustainability, this theoretical analysis will constitute the foundation for the further development of a concept for the future sustainable city.

The main inspiration to the concept comes from Stephen Wheeler’s notion on the five urban form values. The five values regard; compact urban form, contiguous urban form, connected urban form, diverse urban form, and ecological urban form. The compact urban form refers to a dense city structure that concentrates urban development within a certain growth limit line. A contiguous urban form means that new urban development has to occur adjacent to existing urbanized areas. The compact urban form enhances the amenity for pedestrians and cyclists and shortens distances with the mixed land use pattern, which makes cycling and walking another attractive alternative to the use of motor-driven means of transport. A good and well-connected public transport system is furthermore of great importance to reduce the use of private cars and in the end emissions. The diverse urban form features a mixed land use, different typologies and various prices and rents. This results in a heterogeneous urban landscape with a wide variety of inhabitants and users with different income groups. The ecological urban form integrates the natural landscape into the cityscape in a way that preserves the existing ecosystems and at the same time provides recreational settings for city residents.


The concept and implementation has been presented according to the five urban form values that together constitute a sustainable city structure. Each urban form has carefully been implemented so that each layer is well-functioning. Furthermore the layers are intertwined and their individual shapes are depended on each other. Transport has e.g. been planned after the urban centres. The layout of the masterplan has been guided by the concept and at the same time findings from the site analysis. Especially the knowledge and understanding of the site is important to create a design that is embedded in place and emphasizes the spirit of the place. As a result the new uses in the future Nordhavn derive from the area’s potentials and its history.

~ by NoMadSpaceLab on November 8, 2009.

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