UN City sets green example

COPENHAGEN – UNOPS new headquarters has been recognized for its commitment to environmental sustainability, becoming the first United Nations complex to receive the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’s (LEED) highest rating.

Currently home to seven United Nations organizations, UN City was awarded the LEED certification at the end of 2013, making it one of three newly constructed, platinum-certified buildings in Denmark and 29 across Europe.

LEED is a programme under the United States Green Building Council that recognizes best practice in sustainable building design, construction, maintenance and operations.

To be eligible for the prestigious platinum LEED accreditation, UN City had to satisfy a number of environmental criteria. These included using sustainable building materials, reducing waste, minimizing impact on surrounding ecosystems and promoting indoor air quality, energy efficiency and smart water use.

For example, during construction wood was harvested from sustainably-managed forests located within 800 kilometres of the building site to reduce emissions from transport.

Chairman of the General Building and Green UN Focus Group, Niels Ramm said:

"The achievement shows the importance that Denmark-based UN organizations place on addressing their own environmental impacts as they promote sustainable development worldwide.

"But the certification is only the beginning and we must continue working hard to uphold the exceptional standards it represents," he continued.

Leading the way

In its every day operations, UN City limits the amount of traditional energy used for heating, cooling, lighting and ventilation.

UN City captures almost enough rainwater annually to flush its toilets an average of 5,300 times a day. This reuse of rainwater, in addition to low-flow taps and low-flush toilets, has contributed to a more than 60 percent reduction of total water use in the building’s toilets, kitchens and showers.

Innovative ways of regulating the building’s indoor temperature include pumping cold seawater for use in UN City’s cooling system and solar shades on the building’s exterior that can be opened and closed to trap or reflect heat from the sun.

On the roof 1,400 solar panels generate electricity for UN City, while wind energy makes up more than 35 percent of the additional power purchased off the grid. In 2012, UN City was awarded the European Commission’s Green Building Award for New Buildings, after reducing its predicted energy consumption by 55 percent.

With the goal of educating UN City personnel and the wider public on the environmental features of the building, a number of signs showing ‘fun facts’ are on display, while a website, newsletter and official video were produced to provide additional information.

When United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon attended UN City’s official opening in July 2013, he called the "beautiful and inspiring" new complex "a shining example" for creating a more efficient, coherent and carbon neutral UN.