A tale of two UN cities

Mon, 14/10/13

The UN needs to lead by example in combating climate change and being responsible environmentally. This article, published in the September/ October edition of Futurarc, a top Asian architectural magazine, looks at two new UN buildings in two completely different climates and the ways in which UN organisations, namely UNEP/UNHABITAT and the UN organisations in Copenhagen, have gone about making their headquarter buildings green and to practice what they preach.



The star-shaped United Nationsbuilding in Copenhagen is located in a new district of Copenhagen, on an island and at the water’s edge known as UN City. The building was funded by the Danish government and hosts a number of UN organisations. Throughout the building process, UNOPS chaired a focus group on General Building and Green UN made up of representatives from the UN organisations in Copenhagen.

The focus group met with the developers to help develop the sound environmental profile of the building and developed an informational programme about the building’s green features and human health benefits. The building is close to public transportation and over 600 bicycle racks encourage employees to use green means of transport to get to work. Cold water from the sea is pumped through the building as a cooling measure; aluminium shutters on windows block out the sun and can be controlled individually making for a comfortable internal environment.

The architectural showpiece of the building is the beautiful staircase that links the floors. Other green features including, solar electricity generation, water efficient appliances and a green construction footprint to name a few. While the building is recognised by the EC as “green”, the ultimate goal of being LEED Platinum certified is on track.


The New Office Facility, home to UNEP and UNHABITAT headquarters in Nairobi, is built in the 140-acre UN Gigiri green compound. Designed to house 1,200 UN employees, special consideration was given to the operational and building footprints of the project. Particular attention was given to energy and water aspects of the environment: a PV solar array produces 750,000 kWhs of electricity per year making the offices of the building energy neutral and rain water harvesting captures some 7 million litres of water annually, allowing for the watering of the large green compound.

Demand side measures such as efficient water taps and automated sprinkler systems ensure efficient resource use as do the light wells, sensor operated T5 lights and the passive cooling design (none of the offices are air conditioned). A state of the art sewage treatment plant makes sure that the building effluent is clean an no pollution of the surrounding wetlands and green space occurs.

To read more, please see the Futurarc Article

Categories: Buildings