Nordhavn – the city district of broad horizons

Friday, May 25, 2018

Murmansk. Bilbao. Aberdeen, Southampton. Dunkirk. Nordhavn's street names invoke the taste of salt water that encrusted the prows of the great merchant vessels of old. At the end of the 1800s, they arrived from all over the world to dock in the northern part of Copenhagen harbor, where Frihavn ('free port') was established, beyond the mainland and the customs border of the Danish Kingdom.

The global perspective meant that Frihavn was home to exotic companies such as the East Asiatic Company, Ankerske Marmorforretning, Skandinavisk Kaffe- & Kakaokompagni, Nordisk Fjer and Riffelsyndikatet.

Frihavn was the first harbor facility to be constructed in concrete and the first harbor in the world to replace mechanical with electric power.

The transformation

Nordhavn has always been a place of broad horizons and one that has been ahead of its time. Ten years ago, an international design competition was launched, seeking ideas for the development of Nordhavn as a solution to the Danish capital's biggest problem – its popularity. Every day Copenhagen welcomes 19 new residents. The population is expected to grow by 18 per cent by the year 2025. The aim in transforming the old free port into an attractive city district is to enable people to stay where they would most like to live.

The competition meant that, once again, Nordhavn saw an influx from the entire world, albeit of ideas, rather than trading ships. And there were 180 entries!

Since then the district has seen huge activity and been developed by CPH City & Port Development, owned by City of Copenhagen and the Danish State.

For decades after its heyday as a free port, Nordhavn was known for its heavy raw materials companies. There were icons including Aalborg Portland's cement silos and DLG's grain silo with its famous graffiti: ”Hva drikker mølr”.

Zip code 2150

Today the brownish canteens with their "house lager" have been replaced with edgy cafés whose coffee menus include 'cortado', and square meter prices have topped DKK 50,000. Nordhavn now has its own zip code: 2150, and is under considerable transformation as one of Europe's biggest urban development projects. Over the next 50 years, the district is expected to attract 40,000 new residents and to provide the same number of jobs.

Nordhavn has a tradition of breaking free of constrictions. During the occupation of Denmark during the Second World War, the Danish resistance movement BOPA used almost half a ton of explosive in an attack that undermined the foundations of Riffelsyndikatet. It was the most extensive act of sabotage in Danish history.

And it is here in the free port that, for another good cause – the climate – EnergyLab Nordhavn has come ashore, giving direction to Copenhagen's ambition of becoming the world's first carbon-neutral capital city in 2025. The Danish capital's district heating system is already the oldest, largest and most successful in the world, supplying 99 percent of Copenhagen with mostly green district heating. EnergyLab Nordhavn sets out to be a source of national inspiration by going even further.

The aim of the project is to develop and demonstrate the energy solutions of the future and to show how electricity, heating, energy-efficient buildings and electric transport can be integrated in a flexible, intelligent and optimized energy system based on sustainable energy.

Danfoss seize the opportunity in Nordhavn

Danfoss owns three of the 15 demonstration types that make up EnergyLab Nordhavn. Here, the mission is to demonstrate and analyze the technical and economic advantages of intelligent control of the components and systems that provide heating and cooling inside the buildings.

"If we seize the opportunity that we have in Nordhavn, our products and solutions will set the direction for the future. We will be able to determine the output of our units at a specific point in time, based on the information fed in by for example the energy system. This is what we have to resolve – and it is here in Nordhavn that we can resolve it," says Danfoss' project manager in Nordhavn, Jan Eric Thorsen.

At Havnehuset in Nordhavn's Århusgade district, also known as Den Røde By (the red city) and once home to Nordisk Film, Danfoss is testing a system that does not exist anywhere else: flexible, ultra-low temperature district heating. Using a large centralized heating "booster" substation that produces hot water for the 22 apartments in Havnehuset, a foundation is being laid for ultra-low temperature supply or return water. This is especially relevant in that energy sources can be tied in that are only able to deliver low temperatures or deliver a low temperature but with greater effectiveness.

"Hot water will be the same temperature as usual, but return water at a lower temperature should not be wasted, and this is highly relevant," says Thorsen, explaining that a demand-led energy system will be replaced by a supply-led one, which means that it avoids drawing on the district heating and electricity systems during peak periods.

The buildings in Nordhavn are so solidly built, with such a "thermal weight", that they hold heat – as it were – long after the heat supply has been turned off.

At the harbor-side Terra Nova building, Danfoss has supplied 85 apartments with another kind of intelligence: a control system that in principle means that residents "place their thermal capacity at the disposal of others". They accept that other people's use of the system can affect their heating – in return, they get heating at its cheapest price without experiencing any change in the level of comfort.

A new supermarket will soon be opening at Nordhavn. Here, the aim is to apply Danfoss technology to reuse the surplus heat generated by the chillers, sending it out to Copenhagen's district heating network. Danfoss has already proven that as much as 95 per cent of supermarkets surplus heat can be reused.

Award winner

At the beginning of 2018, EnergyLab Nordhavn won the Danish 'Energi- og Miljøprisen', an energy and environment award, which was presented with the following words: "EnergyLab Nordhavn has broken out of the traditional way of thought in the energy sector. It sees supply, consumption, buildings and city as a cohesive whole. This allows the space for intelligent use of energy and is directly in the spirit of what we see as a solution of the future.

"Even if sustainable energy has become cheaper, it is still important that energy is used in an intelligent and efficient way. Efforts to increase energy efficiency and supply technologies should be seen as correlated and not as contradictory. EnergyLab Nordhavn shows how this can be done, sensibly.

Engineering the world of Tomorrow

Danfoss engineers advanced technologies that enable us to build a better, smarter and more efficient tomorrow. In the world’s growing cities, we ensure the supply of fresh food and optimal comfort in our homes and offices, while meeting the need for energy efficient infrastructure, connected systems and integrated renewable energy.

Our solutions are used in areas such as refrigeration, air conditioning, heating, motor control and mobile machinery.

Our innovative engineering dates back to 1933 and today Danfoss holds market-leading positions, employing 27,000 and serving customers in more than 100 countries. We are privately held by the founding family.