Two projects by Denmark based Henning Larsen Architects make a definitive mark on the country’s very environmentally conscientious design scene.
The year was 1976. Most of the world had not yet woken up to concepts like sustainable architecture, green living and energy saving buildings. Denmark on the other hand had put together the initial rules for energy-efficient buildings. Over the last few years the importance of responsible design has only magnified and Denmark has further fine tuned its policies on environment friendly buildings.
The goal set for 2020 raises the bar even higher – energy consumption of buildings has to be reduced by 75% as compared to 2008 and this mandate encouraged Danish architects to develop solutions that are increasingly energy positive.
Henning Larsen Architects is one such landmark firm. Though an architecture company with global presence, the company’s head office in Copenhagen gives it deep-set Danish roots. Designs that are founded on social responsibility and which achieve reduced life-cycle costs are a trademark of Henning Larsen Architects.
An Office With A Soul
The company Energinet transmits gas and electricity and thus is perhaps in the best position to understand the importance of renewable energy. For their new office in Ballerup, Denmark the company approached Henning Larsen Architects, with a clear brief “an office building where workspaces would promote interaction, knowledge sharing and spontaneous meetings. It would have to be environmentally sustainable as well.”
The project team at Henning Larsen Architects envisioned a building with a high degree of flexibility. The Energinet building is a two storey structure. The lower level which houses meeting facilities has an open layout. All the exterior walls at this level are made of glass and reflect the lush landscape of the surroundings.
The top level is dedicated to the permanent workstations. But, the most striking feature here is the atrium that brings the building together. It is also the favourite feature of the design team. The atrium in the building measures 5.5 meters from floor to ceiling. It functions as an open and active meeting place with connections to all the offices. Over and above the design of the atrium has resulted in plenty of daylight filtering which reduces the need for artificial lighting in the day and further saves energy.
In response to Energinet’s requirements, Henning Larsen Architects set about to achieve the lowest possible energy use in this building and for this all possible elements were taken into consideration. “Design with knowledge is our overall objective at Henning Larsen Architects. This structure meets these objectives in several ways. It reduces energy-consumption and is also socially sustainable with optimal working conditions for the employees,” they say.
An important aspect was to tackle overheating during summer, and yet, maximise the availability of daylight. Though the office building is compact, daylight has unrestricted access to the very heart of its interiors – this has been made via increased heights in the atrium. Sunlight protection on the facades shields the spaces from the direct impact of the sun and the indirect flow from the atrium ensures well-lit spaces.
The green roof serves two purposes. One, it facilitates slow percolation and evaporation, thus reducing the pressure on the public sewage system; two, the rainwater harvested through the roof is redirected towards various uses in the office.
In addition, the incorporation of solar panels, ground water cooling and heat pumps ensure a substantial reduction in the annual energy consumption and low maintenance costs.
The team at Henning Larsen Architects also accounted for the client’s future needs in their design plan, “An office needs change constantly. The openness of the first floor lends the office a high degree of flexibility. Lightweight walls and simple reusable elements make it easy to potentially change the interior of the building in the future and in a relatively hassle-free way.”
At Henning Larsen Architects, social viability of a building is also given its due importance, “There is a very strong tradition of putting people first when designing all kinds of building typologies in Denmark. The human scale is a Danish architectural term and is integrated into most of Danish design, city development, and architecture.” believes the firm.
In The Name Of Change
The only constant in life is, change.
A home that starts with a couple getting together evolves into a space for a family. Families constantly expand and contract. The Adaptable House in the Danish town of Nyborg seeks to provide a space solution that incorporates this inherent evolution. The Adaptable House is a part of a large development project financed by Denmark based property company Realdania Byg.
The vision of this project was to create six single family homes with minimum carbon emission – in their very creation as well as in their lifetime. Of these six, the Adaptable House was the conception of Henning Larsen Architects.
The team at Henning Larsen Architects developed the concept of the Adaptable House to tackle the issue of inflexibility in architecture which really does not take into account our changing needs as we move from childhood to old age.
The designers belive “if you can avoid rebuilding or extending your house when children are born or move out you will not harm the environment with building materials and waste.” Likewise the design philosophy of this single family structure revolved around the fact that it had to accommodate requirements of space or a simple aesthetic change with minimal interventions.
The plan of the Adaptable House is such that in making most of these alterations the need for new materials is negligible and in many cases a changed spatial and functional layout can replace complicated modifications or wide-ranging extensions.
This is made possible largely because many of the components of the house can be demounted and extended without destructing existing components, thus saving on both time and resources. Also, the usability of the dismantled components in the new spaces reduces wastage of resources. For the Henning Larsen Architects team the Adaptable House works as a project in its entirety.
Besides the obvious ecological savings through restricting wastage of resources, the Adaptable House also manages to reduce carbon dioxide consumption in comparison to a normal house. This reduction in emission is achieved not only in the building phase but also continues in terms of annual savings for heating and maintenance.
While sustainability was the most important design criteria, the team did not want to sacrifice on the aesthetic or comfort aspects either, “Yes, we wanted to create a house made out of flexible components but at the same time also a house that is actually inhabitable and not just a great idea or a concept,” say the designers
For Henning Larsen Architects, this project stands tall in the Danish skyline, “In Denmark we constantly establish higher standards for the sustainability of new buildings and renovation work and demand innovation and improvement in every aspect of sustainable construction. The Adaptable House completely meets these standards.”
Text By Himali Kothari
Photographs Courtesy Jesper Ray, Realdania Byg (Adaptable House) and Kontraframe (Energinet)