Green Building in Scandinavia

Scandinavia has a reputation for being socially and politically progressive. There is national health care, solid economic growth, little poverty and high incomes, and aggressive taxation.

The Nordic countries invest in science and technology, so they are ahead of others in the tech industries. They are forward thinking when it comes to green building, too!


Sweden, by far, is the most environmentally conscious country in Scandinavia and all of Europe. After the ‘oil embargo’ of 1973, the government vowed to eliminate Sweden’s dependence on foreign oil. They focused on researching and implementing geothermal heating and cooling, and Sweden is now the leader in renewable energy.

Other goals are to eliminate the use and manufacture of plastics, and reduce sprawl to protect biodiversity. Many cities also have programs to convert solid waste to energy.

There are about 70 Swedish communities called eco-cities, which voluntarily make sustainable practices official.

  • Ume has reduced it’s fossil fuel use by 90% with a power plant that is fueled by the town’s own waste. Permeable pavement absorbs run-off, and rainwater is collected, filtered and used in commercial applications.
  • The government of vertorne (yes, spelled with a small ‘v’) uses no fossil fuels in its operations. The town has an organic food company run by farmers, and about 200 eco businesses have located there.
  • Malmö is an excellent example of sustainable urban development. There are housing developments in converted industrial buildings, complete with parks, schools and green spaces. Buildings are powered by solar energy. The city will be completely run on renewable energy by 2030.


Denmark has created a 2020 deadline to increase energy efficiency and replace nuclear and fossil fuels with solar, biofuels, wave energy, wind and geothermal.

The Energy Flex House, which is a high-tech lab to analyze technology and

materials. It monitors energy use to see what element will work best in a real-life situation and what will be most marketable.

The Green Lighthouse at the University of Copenhagen is a carbon-neutral building. The energy reduction came from the architectural design more than high technology. Features are natural lighting and ventilation, skylights, LED lights, solar PV, solar orientation and geothermal heating. The building uses 80% less energy than a similar building.


The sod roof is traditional in Norway. For hundreds of years, grasses and flowers have been planted on roofs as insulation and to help stabilize buildings. This is still a common practice!

Aurora Borealis in Norway

The northern lights in Norway. This is an environment worth protecting.

Today, with buildings being responsible for 40% of carbon emissions, the Barents House in Kirkenes will hopefully set an example of green building for all of Scandinavia. This is to be the world’s tallest wooden building. It will used natural and recycled materials and have a system to convert solid waste to biogas. Other systems will allow the building to adapt to changes in the climate.

Norway is also home to a low-security eco prison, where inmates develop a sense of responsibility by maintaining the building and grounds. Solar power has reduced the energy use by 70%. They grow most of their own food, selling surplus to other prisons, and they recycle just about everything.


The Green Building Council of Finland has certified many LEED buildings, mostly shopping centers and offices. Projects gain points for:

  • access to public transportation
  • environmentally friendly electricity
  • water usage
  • recycling
  • indoor air quality
  • natural light
  • walking and biking
  • landscaping
  • building on brownfields
  • environmental performance

Green Building in Scandinavia tackles unique challenges

Green building throughout Scandinavia plays an important role in real estate, construction and clean technology. The temperature extremes are challenging, and all the Nordic countries are trying to eliminate their use of foreign oil. The region is exploring all the options available – solar, geothermal, wind, waste-to-fuel and hydropower – along with smart, energy efficient design. The rest of the world should look to Scandinavia for building inspiration.

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