Local eco-building initiatives in Denmark

Eco-housing movement

From early 1970’ties a movement of alternative living grew in Denmark as well as many other countries. Lively experimentation and new ideas of lifestyle, food, building techniques, clothing etc. grew up. Many of the ideas from this cultural movement diffused to everyday life and later coming initiatives of local Agenda 21 projects as well as national and regional campaigns of energy and water savings, green areas in cities, environmental management in institutions etc.

The 1970s environmental crisis and growing environmental awareness led to an alternative, experimental culture. New alternative settlements grew up which had networks across the world. Here both new forms of living together and new ecological construction techniques were developed and tested at the grassroots level. The alternative Christiania community, the collective community movement, organic farmers and technical entrepreneurs experimented with organic farming, ecological housing and sustainable energy. The 1980s had many of these ideals and understandings of environmental and energy problems spread to broader segments of the population, which was amplified by the municipal local experiments with urban ecology, renewable energy, waste and resident democracy (Læssøe 2000, Holm/Stauning 2007).

In the 1990s, new types of collective community settlements and urban environments for ordinary citizens emerged, based on more simple holistic ideas of self supply, social care, democracy and cheaper construction. The significant examples, where ecological materials and self constructors were at stake, are the Dyssekilde settlement in Torup, Hjortshøj Cooperative, Munksøgård in Roskilde and DR-Friland at Djursland. Other projects involved experiments on a private basis, sometimes with public support, for example building solar cells on the roof, using new materials of insulation, using natural paints and avoid PVC, etc., within the framework of existing buildings. These experiments were driven by socio-technical entrepreneurs, dedicated scientists, artisans, self-builders and small contractors in construction (see Marsh et al. 2000, Schmitz-Günther 2000).

A large number of support programs, campaigns, and experiments were initiated in the 1990´s within an ecological modernization program regime, of the social democratic government supported by the Danish Socialist party. Accordingly we here saw a political landscape change that favored the interplay of new actors and networks in experimenting on housing technologies and settlements.

Since a new liberal government took over in 2001, the governance initiatives for locally and national opening for eco-housing movements experimentations were wiped out. Still, the self grown eco-villages and socio-green settlements have continued to be established, and low energy housing, renewable energy systems, ecological meterials have become more stable technology systems among them.


In the stipulated development of climate and energy programs, municipalities and regional authorities are likely to be ascribed new roles and obligations to drive and support climate and eco-adaptation. To some extent, approximately 1/10 out of the Danish municipalities already have taken on such roles. We have experienced a wide array of municipality strategies and programs on climate adjustments, on climate and eco-adaptation of housing and construction, ranging from local Agenda 21 programs of public involvement, to greenhouse gas accounting and indicator monitoring, abatement in public-private partnerships and local climate/CO2 reduction programs.

As the building sector has become a major component in climate and energy policies and programs, the work with construction and housing has moved from a dull technical affair in the periphery to become a central policy field of Danish municipalities. It implies a political challenge to municipalities, both in terms of redefining policies on housing and construction, but also to establish the organisational set up and programs enabling cross-sectional integration and external partnerships. The situation at this stage (2009) can best be described as formative stage of experimentation and learning, imitating best practices and designing local adjusted programs.


This web-site is edited by Roskilde University in cooperation with Technical University of Denmark, Danish Building Research Institute, Technological Institute, PP-consult, Syd-tek and Bjørn Axelsen ApS. Coordinator: Inger Stauning, RUC, is (a) ruc .dk