Exploring the world's built environments and seeking sustainable solutions.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July 29 2013: Our First Full Day in Copenhagen

Leega Tran and Flora Carn

On our first official class in Copenhagen, Denmark, we had two guest lecturers. Bianca Hermansen, from Behl Architects, had a different perspective on sustainability and urban design compared to lectures we were used to. She pointed out that Denmark’s biking culture has to do with behavioral changes. She said, “People don’t change behavior when told to, people change when the context compels them to.” To change Copenhagen’s mentality of bikes and encourage bike ridership, the city invested in bike lanes through small changes in the street infrastructure. Now, biking is the way to travel, as 61% of Copenhagen bike for its convenience, regardless of social or economic class. Bikers can also use cargo bikes to drive their kids or friends around! We definitely noticed the investments in bike lanes when the class rented bikes. During our bike ride to Stroget , wider street lanes, abundant bike lanes, separate traffic lights for biking, asphalt ramps on curbs, and the priority bikes seem to have over cars made biking easier.
Mikael Koch, from the Green Building Council Denmark gave an informative lecture on how architectural designs, such as the type of material, the orientation of the building, the technology within the buildings, can simply green the building and make it more energy efficient. We also learned that new buildings or renovated buildings have to adhere to green building codes. This is very different than the U.S. because U.S. cities generally safety codes and sustainable buildings is becoming a trend, but not yet a basic necessity.
We also stopped by a plaza for lunch and noticed it was very popular. Similar to other successful streets and plaza we saw in Stockholm and Malmo, the street got enough sunlight, buildings were around four to five stories tall – not enough to block sunlight and many shops and restaurants with interesting storefronts to attract people to the area.

We then walked over a bridge to a highly populated swimming spot directly across from our hostel. Even though the weather was overcast, there were hundreds of people in their swimsuits with beer, wine, frisbees, and friends. The swimming area consists of an area insulated from the actual harbour by wooden walls and a short fence. There is a lifeguard tower, a high wooden dock consisting of steps that had a never-ending line to jump off the top (15 feet high), and a rectangular area where many people were swimming laps. There were families with small children, couples in their 20s and 30s, and people of all other ages all gathered to cool off in the harbour.
According to denmark.dk, this canal water was so polluted by sewage, oil spills, and industry only 15 years ago that swimming in it would have been impossible due to the health risks. The Copenhagen municipality worked to improve the water quality by designing waste treatment plants to remove salts and heavy metals, and modernized the waste system. Another sustainable design that improved the water quality were storm water management systems. The municipality built reservoirs that can store the rainwater if there isn’t enough space in the sewage system. Walking further along the waterfront we saw many more people just lounging with food and drinks and enjoying the sun. 

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