Designing energy-from-waste plants for communities off-piste

Imagine going up an 85-metre climbing wall and then imagine viewing an artificial ski slope when you reach the top. Now imagine skiing down that ski slope which happens to rest on top of the roof of a €500m energy-from-waste (EfW) plant. Your imagination is not running wild - this is about to become reality in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2017. Liz Gyekye reports.

The Amager Bakke (known as ‘Copenhill’ in English) EfW plant, now under construction, has been designed with the local community in mind. The architectural landmark is set to lead the way to a future in which such plants will be welcomed rather than detested by its neighbours and transform people’s negative perceptions about EfW plants.

It is safe to say that EfW plants are not usually known for being tourist attractions but this new facility from waste treatment firm Amager
Resource Center’s (ARC) is set to change all of this. Once finished, novice, intermediate and advanced skiers will be able to zip down the plant’s roof through snow while the power plant works at turning waste to energy.

A total of four different ski slopes will be implemented. Essentially, it aims to supply energy, waste treatment and fun. The ski slope will be accessed via a ‘see through’ elevator which will provide views to the inside of the plant. The roof will be more than just a ski slope – visitors will be able to use green spaces for walking, running, watching the sun set in Copenhagen or view the royal palace.

Project breakdown

It will produce heat to around 160,000 households and electricity for around 62,500 residences. It will aim to process 400,000 tonnes of municipal and commercial and industrial waste per year. It will also aim to reduce sulphur emissions by 99.5%. The plant is located near the airport and is just five kilometres from Copenhagen’s Town Hall Square.

The idea is to transform public perceptions about public utility buildings and to integrate a recreational green area with an industrial plant.
Speaking to LAWR, ARC chief executive Ulla Röttger says that local residents live close by to the building. In fact, 250m close. Ship life has decreased over the years in Copenhagen and so more housing projects have been built across the city.

So, Röttger says it essential that ARC ensures its new EfW plant keeps noise to a minimum and smells.

Denmark incinerates more of its waste than the UK. Latest figures from Eurostat show that Denmark incinerated 52% of its waste and recycled and composted 45% of it in 2012. In contrast, the UK incinerated 17% of its waste and recycled and composted 46% of it.

Normally with high-density populations come high-density resistance – not in this case. In Denmark, there is much less resistance to facilities as nearby residents enjoy low-cost heating throughout the colder months.

Röttger says that the waste treatment company did not have any planning issues. “We have a long tradition of building EfW plants in Denmark,” Röttger says. “We have no space for landfill so we have a total of around 26 plants.”

Neighbouring plant

ARC plans to replace its 42-year old incinerator with its new EfW plant. It will be equipped with two furnace lines, which will replace the old incinerator’s four furnace lines. The plant will increase energy efficiency by 25% compared to the old plant with steam data at 440 degrees/70 bars. Its 42-year old plant is still in operation and is running next to new construction works. When the new plant is built it will be knocked down.

According to Thomas Astrup, a lecturer at the Technical University of Denmark, this Amager Bakke plant makes full and efficient use of the energy contained in the waste and it is “robust because it is possible to process all types of waste as fuel and still obtain a high level of energy recovery”.

The idea for the company’s new EfW plant came about when it ran a competition for architects to “take an industrial building and to create a
recreational park on top of the roof”.

Six architects entered the competition – three from Denmark and three from “abroad”. Yet, Danish architects Bjarke Ingels Group won the competition.


The initial aim was to put a mountain bike trail there. However, Röttger explains that half a million Danes go skiing every year but there are no ski slopes in Denmark. Röttger says that although Denmark has a cold climate in the winter, Denmark is a “flat country”. So, most people go to the Alps or Norway to ski.

She says: “When Danes go skiing in Norway the Norwegians say that they are very dangerous on the ski slopes. So, at least with this new slope they can have a practice and gain experience before they go.” Röttger adds that it is a “very good idea to look at your
surroundings and produce a building that fits into these surroundings”.

There is a go-kart place nearby and a water skiing facility nearby. The architects have “thought about it that way”.

An 85m climbing wall – believed to be the tallest in the world if built – will feature at the plant as well. Röttger says the challenge will be “for us to have the public on the roof” but it “will not be dangerous and we will make it safe”.

Amager Bakke has been wellreceived by the public. Röttger says that it has inspired her company to think outside the box and plan ideas
for “integrated initiatives in the city”.

ARC own several recycling bins around Copenhagen. She says that the company could plan to have activities around them. For example, “jazz on Saturdays”. She adds: “It is about giving something back to the community. We have become more creative in our thoughts in doing something like this.

“The community see waste in a positive light rather than a negative one. Usually people do not think what happens to their waste when they throw it away. But this has helped people to realise how important it is. It will help to transform people’s perceptions that waste is somehow a dirty or low job. It may even help with recruitment.”

There is no doubt that this building could make waste interesting with its bold and visually appealing architecture but more importantly it will make it fun.

This article first appeared in edie’s sister title, LAWR. For more waste industry news and features, click here.

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