Rammed earth column
Leth & Gori
Rammed earth column
Reværk Arkitektur
Rammed earth column
Havnens Hænder
Rammed earth column
Kim Lenschow

Ecological Building in Northern Europe: Insights from Danish Architectural Studios

The pursuit of sustainable and ecological building practices has become a central theme in the construction sector, particularly through the efforts of architects, designers, and material researchers. Our recent visit to Denmark aimed to explore current practices in ecological building in Copenhagen and Aarhus. By interviewing various architectural studios, including ReVærk, Kim Lenschow, Juul Frost Arkitekter, and Leth & Gori, we gathered insights into integrating local resources, leveraging technological advancements, and drawing lessons from historical practices in sustainable construction.

The Balance between the Local and Global

A recurring theme in our discussions was the importance of local resources in sustainable building practices. Kim Lenschow highlighted that "the idea of the local material use is relevant if you think about working with heavy materials," noting that materials like earth and stone, where transportation costs and footprints are significant, require more careful consideration in terms of relocation. He also added that using regional materials reduces transportation costs, builds cultural connections, and helps to develop an architectural language with local references. Conversely, lightweight raw materials like hemp, grass, and timber require a different approach. Countries vary in their available resources, from raw materials to land and forest, and it makes sense to reconfigure the principles of sustainable material trading between regions. It is important not to be constrained by national borders but to develop a global trading network based on regional, resourceful, and need-based redistribution of sustainable construction materials. This balancing act between locality and globality should adapt to the current changes in construction practices. Juul Frost Arkitekter supported this view, emphasizing the need for "new standards for earth-based building technologies and material as a building system with well-defined sizes and variations" that could be used globally. This balanced approach ensures that sustainable building practices are scalable and adaptable to different contexts.

Technological Innovations

The integration of industrial technology into ecological building was another significant topic. Juul Frost Arkitekter pointed out that "technology is essential, and we cannot do without it," highlighting the need for advancements that complement traditional building methods, which rely heavily on human labor. Innovations such as robotic fabrication and chemical engineering, exemplified by the work of the Swiss company Oxara, offer potential improvements in the strength and durability of sustainable materials. This sentiment was echoed by other studios, who see technology not as a replacement but as a necessary enhancement to traditional practices, making them compatible with the current construction industry. Developing new standards and formats for materials like rammed earth can facilitate wider adoption and provide viable alternatives to contemporary construction methods.

Historical Lessons and Modern Applications

Drawing lessons from historical practices was also a key theme. Leth & Gori emphasized that "simplifying how we build and use space can be informed by looking back at how things were done 50-100 years ago." This approach advocates for a balance between the historical and the contemporary, promoting sustainability through simplicity and efficiency. Simeon Østerlund Bamford from ReVærk added that “looking back, there was this whole traditional partnership in the building culture that was so closely connected to the site and region, creating various specific expressions of architecture that we see as a quality. We could identify how architecture has local material and cultural ties and identity.” Lenschow added that discussions around giving up our over-stretched comfortable lifestyles and unsustainable industrial production behaviors must be framed not through the lens of loss but through potential gain: “It is not the lack of temperature control but maybe the gain of a different climate zone in your house. It's all about how you frame it and how you inhabit that type of thinking.”


Insights from various architectural studios underscore the importance of leveraging local resources, embracing technological advancements, learning from historical practices, and rethinking the relationship between local and global perspectives. These elements collectively contribute to developing sustainable building practices that are innovative, viable, and culturally integrated. As the architectural community continues to address ecological challenges, these perspectives provide key considerations for future endeavors.

The visit to Copenhagen and Denmark was supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia (Eesti Kultuurkapital).