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Jan Lee headshot

Copenhagen Architectural Wonder Puts Waste-to-Energy on a Pedestal

By Jan Lee

Architecture speaks volumes about a city, and most city marketing departments know that. The Royal Ontario Museum with its alluring, oddly shaped buildings doesn't just beckon history lovers, it compels you to step inside and explore. The same is true for Brasilia's spectacular stained-glass cathedral, and Chicago's futuristic looking Cloud Gate sculpture. They demand participation from the visitor.

But they can also help impart a city's social values. In the city of Copenhagen, where sustainability is a driving concern these days, the Amager Resource Center's CopenHill is helping to educate residents and tourists about compatibility between energy generation and recreation.

CopenHill is the new image of the city's waste-to-energy program. Located on the outskirts of Copenhagen, it's set to replace the city's old waste processing plant with technology that can provide electricity for 62,500 homes and heat up to 160,000 homes throughout the district through cogeneration. It's being reconstructed from reused materials like recycled metal and bottom ash, saving hundreds of tons of gravel in the process.

But to be honest, it isn't its waste-to-energy capacity that is attracting all the attention these days. Nor the fact that for every 400,000 tons of waste processed the plant is able to recover about 100 million liters (just under 27 million gallons) of water from flue gas condensation. Those are just impressive stats.

What's expected to bring in the crowds, say the designers, will be its rooftop snow slope, the world's tallest rock climbing wall and summer recreational facilities that blend seamlessly in with the facility's surrounding trails and parks.

"It is safe to say that waste-to-energy plants are not usually known for being tourist attractions," admits Babcock & Wilcox Vølund, a Danish company known for its cutting-edge design of renewable energy plants. The plant, called Amager Bakke in Danish, is due to open in 2018 just in time for summer, when Copenhagen frequently receives its highest volume of visitors.

The ongoing beautification and redevelopment of its industrialized shoreline has created walking and biking paths that connect with cultural attractions, scenic stops and restaurants.

CopenHill's redevelopment is an extension of that thinking. During the summer climbers can take advantage of its 288-foot-high climbing wall. During the winter visitors will be able to get a bird's eye view of its wind turbines and the surrounding area as they barrel down the slope.

"Once open, ski enthusiasts will be able to zip down the roof of a building that will be designed with the local community in mind when it comes to supplying energy, waste treatment, and fun," the designers point out.

And for Copenhageners, having a ski run is a big deal. The highest point in Copenhagen is 23 feet above sea level, and the Danes love skiing.

Although the ski area is only expected to be about 10,764 square feet in area, the roof will be outfitted with its own modest "forest" of trees and plenty of reasons for visitors to stop by. CopenHill expects to see about 57,000 visitors in its first year said the designers, creating yet another opportunity to educate the public about the unexpected benefits of green energy.

Flickr image: News Orsund

Jan Lee headshot

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

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