Copenhill: sustainability as an attitude to life

Copenhagen wants to be carbon neutral by 2025. An ambitious aim which the Danish capital, with its leading role in sustainable urban development, is resolutely pursuing. With a waste-to-energy plant which supplies energy and is also a local recreational area with an artificial ski slope within the urban environment, Copenhagen’s journey towards climate neutrality continues.

06/13/2019 Copy: Michael Lehmann
Photos & Video: The Distillery Reading Time: 3 min

The Copenhagen waste-to-energy plant, Amager Bakke
The Copenhagen waste-to-energy plant, Amager Bakke, supplies both heat and electricity as well as being a local recreational area with a ski slope.

Skiing on a waste-to-energy plant

Implementing sustainability as a comprehensive attitude to life – that is a key objective of the Danish capital as well as the personal mission of renowned Danish architect, Bjarke Ingels. It was he who literally breathed life into the Amager Bakke municipal waste-to-energy plant in the Copenhagen district of Christianshavn with his philosophy of ‘hedonistic sustainability’. From the refuse of Copenhagen’s citizens, the hybrid plant produces district heating for 60,000 households a year. In addition, more than 30,000 houses are supplied with electricity. And: under the project name ‘Copenhill’, Amager Bakke delights the inhabitants of the Danish capital as a local recreational area with hiking trails and a 500-meter-long artificial ski slope high above the Öresund Strait.

Forging identity on Copenhill

Copenhageners can now ski on the roof of the waste-to-energy plant and so save themselves a trip or two to the mountains in Sweden or Norway or to the Alps, thus improving their personal carbon footprint.In the film, alongside Swedish freeskier Jesper Tjäder, star architect Bjarke Ingels answers the question of how ecology, economics and social responsibility can come together in a playful way in a world of increasing urbanisation.

Copenhill’s efficiency: 400,000 tonnes of processed waste per year mean:


households are provided with district heating


households are provided with electricity


100,000 tonnes of ash are reused in road construction

Müllverbrennungsanlage Amager Bakke Kopenhagen

Hedonistic sustainability: enjoy it in the future

“One of the amazing things about architecture is that it is the art and science of creating the framework for the life we want to live.”

Bjarke Ingels, Architect

The design of urban living space can indeed go hand in hand with a hedonistic approach which assumes that ecological awareness does not equate to going without. A sustainable city plan, therefore, is not regarded as a necessary evil, but as a real chance for a better quality of life. The Copenhill hybrid project is only one example of how a multi-functional infrastructure opens up new possibilities in cities and makes sustainability come alive. What will urban life look like in high density areas? What dreams and aspirations, as well as obligations, will people have in the future? Ingel’s approach departs from the common urban development measures. Hedonistic sustainability should be fun and respond to the issue of a responsible and attractive way of life in big cities with a playful wink.

Resource waste

Up to 300 lorry loads of refuse are delivered daily to Amager Bakke. Spread throughout the year, that’s around 400,000 tonnes of residual waste from approximately 600,000 private households and nearly 70,000 businesses. The plant’s two incinerators then generate 2.7 MWh of heat and 0.8 MWh of electricity from one tonne of waste. At peak times, together they burn up to 70 tonnes of waste per hour. That corresponds to a weight of about six single-decker buses.

To demonstrate visually to Copenhageners how much that is, another project is in the making: for every tonne of CO₂ being released into the atmosphere by the plant, a gigantic ring of smoke is planned to be blown out of its chimney. It serves as an ironic reminder to the locals about their consumption and about the need to act sustainably.

Copenhagen’s plan for a better climate

The city council in Copenhagen is taking its plan for climate neutrality by 2025 seriously. The costs of heating and electricity are to be reduced by 20 per cent in non-residential buildings and by 10 per cent in private homes. To achieve this, they are relying even more heavily on the already established energy generation from wind power, geothermal energy and solar energy. To fulfil the requirements, the administration itself is leading by example. The city’s vehicles will, in future, only be powered by electricity, hydrogen or biofuels. Copenhageners back these decisions: there are already more bicycles than cars in Copenhagen. About half of residents use this means of transport on their daily commute to work. By 2025, as much as 75 per cent of all journeys should be by bike or public transport.

Multiply sustainable action by a good feeling in order, ultimately, to achieve a better quality of life: it’s a formula that seems to work in Copenhagen. Perhaps that’s why Denmark also regularly ranks in the top three of the world’s happiest countries in the annual World Happiness Report. In any case, going for a stroll or going skiing on a resource-saving mountain of waste not only makes the local residents happy, but also the environment.

Harbour of Copenhagen
Harbour of Copenhagen

Urban Life 10/24/2018

Sustainable city

Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital is not only considered one of the most livable cities, but also aims to become the world’s first carbon-neutral metropolis by 2025.

Read more


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