In Denmark, Brewery’s Departure Offers a Chance to Go Green

In Denmark, Brewery’s Departure Offers a Chance to Go Green

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In effect, the project is designed to blend the environmental with the economic.

“One may smile at green rooftops, but they send a signal that this building isn’t just a block of concrete,” Mr. Jakobsen said.

Jens Nyhus, chief executive of Carlsberg Byen P/S, the limited partnership behind development of the former site of the Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen.

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Carsten Snejbjerg for The New York Times

When Carlsberg said in 2006 that it was moving out, developers sought to reimagine an industrial plant with a smell of hops that lay near a working-class neighborhood notorious for prostitution and drug dealing. They wanted to build 6.45 million square feet of space, in one of Denmark’s largest-ever private building projects. When it is finished, it will be the first time that an entire Danish neighborhood will meet strict local standards on energy efficiency.

It makes for a major difference from its previous existence.

Carlsberg occupied the site from 1847 until its departure in 2008. At its peak, the brewery produced 105 million gallons of beer annually and employed 8,000 people.

The brewer aimed to save $18.5 million a year by consolidating its locations and moving to cheaper land west of Copenhagen. It took a 25 percent stake in the redevelopment project, with three Danish pension funds investing the rest.

In all, they are looking to build nine high-rise residential blocks, along with low-rise buildings and townhouses, with space for 3,100 apartments (600 of which are low-cost housing or accommodations for students). Along with University College Copenhagen, the neighborhood will be home to cultural institutions, a primary school and four combined nurseries and kindergartens. There will also be several bars, restaurants and cafes.

The area will be littered with small squares and narrow alleys, bearing greater resemblance to the Danish capital’s medieval center than its more recent experiments with wide boulevards and large open spaces.

The project is part of plans to turn Copenhagen into the world’s greenest capital city, which local officials say will be the first ever to be carbon-neutral.

A view of Carlsberg Byen from Bohr’s Tower, a new apartment building.

Credit
Carsten Snejbjerg for The New York Times

City dwellers are already required to sort their waste into 10 categories, to ensure that the maximum possible number of items can be recycled. Whatever cannot be processed is burned in incineration plants to provide neighborhood heating.

The authorities are also making changes, to adapt building codes to make structures more energy-efficient, improve public transportation and install renewable energy sources like wind turbines and solar panels. (The city’s last coal power plant is expected to close in 2020.)

Residents are being encouraged to opt for bicycles, and about two-thirds of the municipality’s own vehicles already run on electricity or hydrogen.

It is having an impact. Though Copenhagen’s population grew by 16 percent in the decade to 2015, its carbon dioxide emissions fell by 38 percent, the city estimates. More still needs to be done, though, and city officials estimate the overall bill to become carbon-neutral, including public investments and private costs, will add up to $29 billion.

As part of that ambition, Carlsberg Byen is pushing sustainability in its structures as well.

An amphitheater will double as a water reservoir during the torrential rains that hit Copenhagen during the summer. Rooftops are covered with solar panels or gardens that collect rainwater for reuse, while ground water is used to cool buildings through air-conditioners.

The city’s ubiquitous bicycle paths are being integrated into the neighborhood’s streets, while a nearby train station was moved 750 feet closer to Carlsberg Byen to encourage its use. (Developers paid for a third of the cost, while the government picked up the rest of the tab.)

One former brewery building that housed cooling tanks is distinguished by discs covered in gold leaf. Plans call for it to be converted to a luxury hotel.

Credit
Carsten Snejbjerg for The New York Times

“We would like to see as few cars on the streets as possible,” said Jens Nyhus, the chief executive of Carlsberg Byen P/S, the limited partnership created by the investors.

When buildings are torn down, more than 96 percent of the materials are recycled and used to help assemble new structures, both in Carlsberg Byen and elsewhere. A ton of carbon dioxide is saved for every 2,000 bricks that are reused — and the effort helps keep the spirit of the old industrial area alive.

Other buildings, which are listed for preservation, are being repurposed. One, a red brick building that Carlsberg used to house cooling tanks, will be converted into a luxury hotel. The building itself has no windows, but has 64 discs covered in gold leaf on its outer walls. Narrow windows are being carved from the bricks on both sides of the gold discs to preserve the look, and allow daylight into the hotel rooms.

Much of the development’s challenge lies in promoting life and culture.

Carlsberg Byen has some advantages — it is readily accessible, near the center of Copenhagen, and has already been at the heart of the city’s cultural scene. In the years since the brewer left, structures have been used as temporary concert halls and art galleries.

Groups of artists have been able to pay low rents to use the company’s former bottling plant while it awaits redevelopment. The site has hosted a variety of exhibits and installations, including some by students attending Denmark’s most prestigious art school, the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, as well as workshops for children.

Still, Mr. Nyhus and his team are aware of the failure of previous Copenhagen developments. One, Orestad, lies on the outskirts of the capital and was built on greenfields near its airport. It is now known for its big, windswept boulevards, typically empty of people.

“One can build anywhere,” he said. “But there is an extreme challenge in getting life between the buildings.”

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