dcsimg Modern life - Ramboll Group

Modern life

All over the world, communities are looking at how to accommodate the increasing global population and urbanisation in a sustainable way. To develop the best solutions, we always have to ensure that they create value for the people that live, experience and travel across and between urban areas.



Ramboll works to create value for the people who live, experience and travel in urban areas. Image: Morten Larsen.

The world is facing a dual challenge, as the supply of natural resources and the effects of our changing climate put strains on our global community. However, creative solutions within energy supply and efficiency may prove to be the answer.

According to Katherine Richardson, Professor and Vice Dean at the Faculty of Science, Copenhagen University, the message is clear: Climate change is a reality, and it's happening right now. If we look back at the past 60 years, indicators of human impact on the earth have developed in line with economic growth and our use of natural resources. For the first time in history, the demand for natural resources is now beginning to exceed supply in some cases, and the environment can no longer be seen as a luxury we can choose to include or disregard in our economic models. Economic growth can only be based on more efficient use of resources and/or finding alternatives for resources where supply can’t meet demand. A number of things have to happen at the same time to solve this dual challenge, such as improved energy efficiency, increased production, distribution and storing of renewable energy, long-term planning, new transport technologies as well as political agreements and legal frameworks. 

No building is an island

To establish which engineering solutions may contribute to solving the climate and energy challenge, the Ramboll Sustainable Network gathered more than 100 experts from all over the company for a 2-day conference at Ramboll Head Office. The aim was to create a common approach to sustainability and facilitate knowledge sharing. The theme was: 'No building is an island'.

"Today, a very common approach to sustainability is to ensure that individual buildings are CO2 neutral. It's a fact that all buildings need energy in order to function, so energy supply is the most important thing to look at when aiming for CO2 neutrality. But it's ineffective to look at each building plot individually. It's more efficient to share investments among several building owners to improve the efficiency of energy supply," says Lars Ostenfeld Riemann, Group Market Director of Buildings.

"Often it's easier to communicate the concept of using roof-mounted solar panels for hot water production, as these are clearly visible on buildings, but developing truly sustainable solutions is much more complex than producing your own energy. For instance, using efficient heat sources through district heating is often a more sustainable alternative if these are available, but it's hard to showcase pipelines below the surface of the earth," Rikke Orry, Senior Project Manager of Sustainable Buildings in Ramboll in Denmark explains.


Large scale solar heating facilities lower costs and are significantly more efficient that individual solutions. Click for a detailed view. Image: Morten Larsen

She elaborates:
"We're aware that a building always interacts with its surroundings, and take into account the wider context. To build in a sustainable way entails supporting or improving the existing conditions in relation to architecture, infrastructure and all sorts of environmental and social considerations. In this way, solutions that function in the most optimal way for both the customer and the community are developed - also from a socio-economic point of view."

A good example of this approach in an urban context is the development project planned at the old Carlsberg brewery grounds, which have now been turned into a new city district in Copenhagen.

"The initial plan was to achieve a CO2 neutral district on its own right by using extra insulation, solar panels, wind turbines, heat pumps and so on, but this would be very inefficient and costly to do. Instead, the results of Ramboll's analysis proposed a much more simple, and cost-effective approach: to become part of the city energy infrastructure for electricity and district heating," explains Anders Dyrelund, Ramboll Market Manager, Energy.

Rethinking transportation

Another example of sustainable urban development is the Nordhavn project, located in northern Copenhagen. In collaboration with COBE architects and SLETH and Polyform, Ramboll experts developed a concept that drastically rethinks how different ways of living can be combined with sustainable energy, environment, traffic and cityscape solutions.

At Nordhavn it will be easier to walk, cycle and use the metro than to use your car. And one very good answer to the energy and climate challenge is exactly this approach, Rikke Orry explains:

"The great advantage of a dense city is that the need for transportation gets smaller. In addition, this makes it easier to develop large-scale, efficient and sustainable energy supply systems for district heating and cooling."

But we are not all able to move into the city, so how do we achieve sustainable energy supplies outside the city boundaries?


A new city district planned for Copenhagen, at the old Carlsberg brewery site. Click for a detailed view. Graphic: Enastis

"In the country side and in areas where district heating is too expensive, ground source heat pumps are a very good alternative to oil boilers. In smaller towns, the answer could be district heating supplied from large-scale solar water heating and biomass facilities. Biomass is widely available from the surroundings and there is room for solar panels. By building these large-scale facilities, costs are lowered, as the heat produced is much more efficient and environmental friendly compared to individual solutions," says Anders Dyrelund.

And Danish sustainability experience is high in demand. Already in 1985, Chinese representatives came to study the district heating system in the Copenhagen Region to establish a similar system in Beijing. Ever since, many other foreign delegations have followed, and consultants and manufacturers have transferred these solutions to many countries.

A Russian Silicon Valley

Currently, Ramboll is providing sustainability expertise for the Skolkovo Innovation Centre project. Covering an area of 400 ha just outside Moscow, the Centre aims to become the Russian equivalent to Silicon Valley, hosting international and Russian innovation companies as well as scientific institutions. Skolkovo will be a vibrant and sustainable city setting new standards for urban development and building design in Russia and internationally. Lars Ostenfeld Riemann explains:

"The Skolkovo project indicates a completely new approach to urban development in Russia, because the project is subject to new regulations and entails new approaches to environmental and building requirements. This is partly to attract investors through taxation benefits, but also to enable the implementation of green technologies in the district. As sustainability consultants, we've developed a set of requirements called 'Green Code'. This is a set of pretty restrictive and exemplary guidelines for design in Skolkovo," adds Lars Ostenfeld Riemann.

In addition, Ramboll is providing sustainability services for three buildings and a public park in the area.

Skolkovo will set new standards for urban development and building design, in Russia and the rest of the world. Click for a detailed view. Graphic: Arkitema

Global solutions and local experience

So how can we promote the drive for sustainable solutions on a global scale?

"We have to be better at expressing and demonstrating the solutions that already exist. The past has proven that international political solutions are very hard to achieve. But we don’t have to sit and wait passively for binding political agreements - business leaders have very good reasons to take action, and many of them have already done it. Not solely based on a moral obligation, but also because it's economically viable to do so. There is no reason to wait. There are already technical solutions at hand, and through our projects, we have to show how it is or will become viable to apply them," Rikke Orry concludes.



Andreas Qvist Secher
Andreas Qvist Secher
Sustainability Engineer, Ramboll DK
T+45 51612270
Anders Dyrelund
Anders Dyrelund
District Heating and Energy Planning Specialist
T+45 5161 8766