Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

Ansvarlig institution:
The Trade Council, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

Director of Invest in Denmark (Editor in chief), Poul Kjar (Executive editor), Annemarie Zinck (Editor), Nigel Mander (English Editor)

Andre bidragydere:
Rosendahls - Schultz Grafisk (Digital edition and Print), Gry Zierau, Umano (Design and layout), Clipper Group (Cover photo (main photo)), Scanpix (Cover photo (small photos)), Lars Chrois (Illustrations), Line Louise Bahner (Distribution), DG Media (Adve



ISSN nr:



Publiceringsstandard nr.:



Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

Noter og andre oplysninger:
Material contained in FOCUS Denmark does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Danish Trade Council or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.

Reproduction is authorised, provided the source is acknowledged, except where otherwise stated. Citations may be made without prior permission, provided the source is acknowledged.

Focus Denmark is printed on Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper from Arctic Paper, Denmark. The wood that is used for making the paper comes from sustainable forestry, which meets all environmental, social and economic standards. The forest is independently inspected and assessed according to the principles and criteria approved by the Forest Stewardship Council.












Editor in Chief

Ole Frijs-Madsen

Ole Frijs-Madsen
Director of Invest in Denmark, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Photo: Peter Clausen

Denmark’s textile and fashion industry has its origins in sheep-breeding and wool spinning on the windswept heaths of mid-Jutland. From the 1870s, wool spinning developed into a vibrant textile industry around the principal town in the area, Herning, which remains the spindle of the Danish textile and fashion industry for both companies and centres of training. Today production largely takes place abroad, while in Denmark the focus has shifted to design and development. Scandinavia’s largest design and business school TEKO is located in Herning, and trains tomorrow’s clothing technologists in close collaboration with industry.

Danish expertise in bridge building also derives from the country’s topography. Denmark consists of many islands that need to be conjoined. Today all the main parts of Denmark are connected by bridges, and in 2000 the country was further linked by a bridge to neighbouring Sweden. The next addition will be a bridge between Denmark and Germany, which is expected to be complete in 2018. And around the world Danish engineers are involved in major bridge projects, such as the world’s longest suspension bridge with a span of 3,300 metres over the Messina Strait in Italy.

Likewise, Danish architecture has found its way onto the world map. Environmental sustainability is a key principle for many Danish architect firms, both in city planning and building design. Long before climate change hit the headlines, Denmark had carved
out a leading position in energy-efficient buildings. The international boom in Danish architecture can be read directly in the export figures from the architect firms. For two years in succession, their international revenues have risen by about 40 per cent annually. Last year – evidencing the effects of the financial crisis – the increase was a more modest 2 per cent.

All this you can read more about in this issue, where we also take a close look at The Danish Airport Group and its development project The Airport of the Future, whose key areas are low environmental impact, sustainable use of resources, optimal exploitation of space and maximum flexibility. We also feature a portrait of the Danish company LEGO, which despite the financial crisis and a shrinking market for toys has presented its best financial results for a long time.

Enjoy the read.


A new feature in the landscape

An icon of sustainability

Copenhagen Towers, a landmark commercial building under construction in the capital’s Ørestad district, will feature not only the largest integrated solar panel system in Denmark but also the largest groundwater cooling plant. The design meets EU Green Building as well as Danish Low Energy Class II requirements.

The 2,500 integrated solar panels will generate enough electricity to supply the equivalent of 35 family homes, providing significant energy savings as well as substantially reducing CO2 emissions. The groundwater cooling plant will power an ultra-modern air conditioning system for the entire complex, delivering energy savings of 88% compared to conventional cooling plants.

Copenhagen Towers will comprise 180,000 m² of office space and an international hotel.

photo: Cph Towers

Worth knowing about


Men and women are different. Not just in the obvious ways, but in more subtle ways, like when they buy consumer electronics. Danish marketing and advertising agency Stoic and CE giant Samsung have been studying how women approach the task of buying a TV, and have discovered the potential in developing a shopping experience uniquely tailored to them.

Samsung chose Denmark for a very good reason – Danish women are known for their heightened skills in assessing design, quality and price. And by applying the science of womenomics, Stoic has provided valuable insight into the female market which will be translated not only into marketing directly purely at women, but also rethinking the retail space to create a new in-store shopping experience for women.

photo: Scanpix

... either as a point of contact for business or to add to your knowledge of what goes on in Denmark.


What is it?

INDEX: is a Danish non-profit organisation founded in 2002 with a mission to inspire design worldwide which improves life by responding to the needs of people in societies, both developed and developing. Every two years, INDEX: presents the world’s largest award – an EUR 500,000 purse financed by the Danish State – to winners in five design categories: Body, Home, Work, Play and Community.

How can it be useful to you?

The website is packed with information and ideas for design to improve life. Visitors can explore the calendar of events that take place all over the world, see the award exhibition, design cases, photo gallery and programmes, and read expert views on all aspects of design for improving life.

What is the web address?

Helping Chile learn English

The globalised world has chosen English as its common business language. And in Chile, where currently only 6% of the population speaks English, the government has chosen Danish company Mingoville to help the entire nation learn English through the medium
of internet-based teaching, reports financial daily newspaper Børsen.

The Chilean government’s decision to use Mingoville’s online English lessons forms part of a campaign “Chile habla inglés” (Chile speaks English) launched by the Chilean president, Michele Bachelet, who has spoken of the great urgency for Chileans to learn English since it is the language used by all international companies, not least for contracts and agreements.

Mingoville’s English tuition system, based on a colourful cartoon family of talking flamingos, will be used as a platform for all Chilean children and youngsters, while parents and even grandparents are being urged to join in, so that they can support the English education of their offspring.

Denmark in the news

Hero of the Environment 2009

Danish vegetable farmer Thomas Harttung, who in a decade has built the world’s largest doorstep delivery scheme for organic produce, has been named one of TIME Magazine’s Heroes of the Environment 2009.

In 1999, Harttung founded the company Aarstiderne – which means “The Seasons” in Danish – and began regular deliveries of organic produce grown on his farm in Jutland to 100 customers around the country. 10 years on, Aarstiderne is delivering to 40,000 Danish customers, and thousands more in Sweden and Germany.

The returnable wooden boxes used to deliver the chemical-free fruit and vegetables have a further function back at the farm. At
the end of their service lives they become fuel for a pyrolysis plant which supplies 60% of the farm’s energy needs, and the biochar serves as a valuable fertilizer with the ability to sequester CO2.

Photo: Thomas Harttung

Danes who made a difference

Arne Jacobsen

Photo: Scanpix

Arne Jacobsen

1902 - 1971

Arne Jacobsen was one of Denmark’s most influential architects and designers.

He created notable buildings both in Denmark and abroad, including the Danish National Bank, St. Catherine’s College, Oxford and Mainz City Hall. He also excelled at furniture design. Many of his chairs are now classics, such as the Ant, the Swan, and the Egg.

But chair 3107 became his best known – because a copy of it featured in the iconic portrait of call girl Christine Keeler, taken at the height of a government scandal that rocked Britain in the 1960s.

Keep colds away – with yogurt

Danish ingredients concern Danisco has developed yogurt cultures that according to recent research reduce the risk of colds and influenza in young children, writes professional journal Ingeniøren (The Engineer).

Danisco is planning to launch cultures containing the new bacterial strains which reportedly produce the protective effect. But before it can go to market in the EU with the promotional claim, approval has to be obtained from the European Food Safety Authority.

This process can take several years, but Danisco doesn’t rule out the possibility of yogurts with the new cultures appearing on supermarket shelves as early as next year.

It just means they can’t be advertised as a means of fending off colds and flu.

The research study that produced the favourable results involved 326 children between the ages of 3 and 5 years, and was conducted in the US and China.

A revolution in concrete

Photo: DTU

The Technical University of Denmark (DTU) has developed patented new construction principles for concrete that could halve material use and energy consumption, slash construction costs and make possible hitherto undreamed-of architectural expressions, reports financial daily newspaper Børsen.

Super-light structures, as the new concept is called, has been developed at DTU’s Department of Civil Engineering. Besides material and energy savings compared to traditional concrete and steel constructions, super-light structures

provide better thermal insulation and have greater resistance to fire, earthquakes and explosions. CO2 emissions associated with transport and construction are also significantly reduced.

DTU’s new technology can be used for buildings, bridges, offshore installations, tunnels and even ships. The October 2009 issue of the highly respected Magazine of Concrete Research featured DTU’s super-light structures.

Did you know...

Danish Flag

... that Denmark’s national flag, the 13th century Dannebrog, is the oldest state flag still in use?

Denmark in surveys

 This autumn’s harvest of international surveys has seen Denmark gain the accolade of the world’s least corrupt country, the biggest proportional spender on education among OECD member states, and one of the world’s top 10 places for doing business.

Denmark consistently achieves high rankings in surveys of transparency and proper practice, and has done so again in Transparency International’s latest Global Corruption Report. The top three least corrupt countries in the latest ranking are Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden.

OECD’s report Education at a Glance 2009 also puts Denmark top of the class. The country invests an unrivalled 8% of GDP in education, compared to the OECD average of 5.3% and EU19 average of 5.4%. Even so, students recently blockaded schools across Denmark and marched on parliament to protest over classroom conditions and alleged cuts in state funding.

The World Bank’s Doing Business 2010 report places Denmark 6th of 183 economies assessed for ease of doing business. Factors helping Denmark in the ranking included its flexible hiring and firing procedures, and speed of establishing a presence. It can take as little as six days to start up a company, and there is no fee.

Bookmark Denmark

If there’s an event in your interest area, why not bookmark it to attend? Denmark is a great place to visit!

 Food Home accessories
and Design
Fashion Camping
 24-27 January 5-8 February FASHION FAIR
11-14 February
12-14 February
Exhibition Centre Herning Exhibition Centre Herning Bella Center,
Aalborg Kongres
& Kultur Center
Scandinavia’s largest fair
for the retail, hotel,
restaurant and food trade.
More than 450 exhibitors.
Features three theme areas:
The Healthy Life, Beer&
Gourmet Market and WineExpo.
Scandinavia’s largest
trade fair for home
accessories, design and
gifts. Up to 20,000
professional buyers
from more than 40 countries
gather ideas for the
coming season.
CIFF is one of
several trade
fairs taking place
as part of Copen-
hagen Fashion
Week, held every
February and August.
CIFF will showcase
fashion for autumn/
winter 2010/2011
Being held for the
7th time, this event
presents all things
related to camping,
a very popular form
of holiday in Denmark.
About 13,000 active
campers are expected
to visit Camping 2010.
For more information
For more information
For more information
For more information

Tourist niche for electric cars

Photo: Scanpix

Electric cars as mass transport in Denmark may be some way off yet, but an early niche market is appearing which could become quite a hit – hiring them out to holidaymakers for island touring.

The map of Denmark is dotted with small islands – around 400 of them – and several have become popular with tourists. Island tourist agencies eager to promote their green image have seized on electric car hire as a novel promotional vehicle.

A tourism spokesman for the Danish island of Ærø told financial newspaper Børsen: “In an island society electric cars are an obvious transport solution, and we want to be among the first. The environmental protection signal that an electric car sends, is one that we want to support.”

A full circuit of Ærø is comfortably within the range of the electric hire cars on offer, which can cover around 80 km on a full charge. The vehicles can be rented by the day or half-day.


LEGO builds its way out of crisis

You probably know the LEGO brick. But did you also know that it is Danish? The LEGO Group has just presented its best financial results for a long time, despite the financial crisis and a schrinking market for toys. The path to success is to listen to children themselves

By Charlotte Dahlsgaard

When a LEGO figure is dismantled, it does not die. It separates into hundreds of bricks, which can be built up again.

The same can be said about the LEGO Group. Since 1932, the world-famous toy manufacturer has been headquartered in Denmark, and year after year has increased sales of its toy bricks worldwide. The joy of putting LEGO bricks together, and doing it in a thousand different ways, has apparently been so great that it has appealed to children of all ages, on all continents. But around 2003 something started to go wrong. The market quickly changed and, left with a strategy that pointed in too many directions, the company started falling apart. Sales dived and over 1,000 staff were laid off.

But the company responded with a new strategy: Back to basics. The LEGO Group decided to concentrate on its core business again.

“We realised that we had spent lots of time on using the LEGO brand in other areas: clothes, watches, bags. There is something right about that. But we used too much energy on it. So we decided to concentrate on the core – the LEGO brick itself, and let others deal with the other things,” says head of communications of the LEGO Group, Charlotte Simonsen.

The LEGO Group got back on its feet again. In the first half of 2009, sales rose 23 per cent compared to the first half of 2008. And that is quite an achievement at a time where one company after another is succumbing to the financial crisis. In a new book “Ledelse i skrumpende markeder” [Management in shrinking markets], Anders Drejer, co-writer and professor of management and innovation at Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus University, sees LEGO’s management strategy as exemplary.

“The company is good at simultaneously striking the balance between efficiency and innovation. And it is loyal to its brand. In the beginning of the 2000’s LEGO forgot the consumer. They became slightly arrogant and focused solely on their brand, and wanted to open LEGO stores with LEGO clothes, and thought that everything happened by itself. They forgot that children had started playing with software. Today they include the market a lot more.”

A mini-figure is born

  • 1978. The first mini-figures are launched including a knight, an astronaut and a policeman. Since then the figure has been produced in the shape of Harry Potter, Santa Claus, Spider Man, Darth Vader and many more.

  • 1989: The mini-figure changes its facial expression. Now it can both be good and bad, and it can even have an eye patch. The pirates become the first LEGO product series that exceeds DKK 1 billion (EUR 134 million) in revenue.

  • 1997: The mini-figure comes alive. In the computer game ’Panic on LEGO Island”, a live mini-figure appears for the first time. 1998: With the new Star Wars figures, the mini-figure appears for the first time in a specific role. This personification of the mini-figure is later expanded with LEGO Harry Potter and LEGO Indiana Jones.

  • 2003-2004: For the first time in the history of the figure, the yellow face colour is replaced by more authentic skin colours. In LEGO Basketball, both dark and light skinned players appear.

Photo: The LEGO group

Bricks in the virtual world

As part of the new strategy, LEGO decided to forge closer ties with consumers, and started taking children’s suggestions for new products, and comments on new toys, even more seriously. Today, the company uses a panel of children chosen from among the greatest LEGO fans in the world, and has sociologists living-in with families with children to see how they live and - most importantly - play.

These studies have led to the LEGO brick acquiring a new life in the virtual world; LEGO has become a significant player on the digital games market. The company has achieved success with figures and universes from popular films such as Batman, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and Star Wars. The LEGO Star Wars universe accounted for most of the increased sales in 2008. But the games must not become too bloody, and risk the LEGO brick losing its innocence.

“We take the view that children will always play ’goodies and baddies’. That is necessary for their development and should be allowed. But it must not become too scary. So most of our bad guys have an off-beat or ironic angle. The villains must have a humorous twist,” says Charlotte Simonsen.

No splatter, thanks

And no, LEGO blood does not exist. When a LEGO figure is hit in a game, it does not turn to dust but becomes LEGO bricks which reassemble themselves. Today, users can also build with LEGO bricks online. On LEGO’s website, you can upload bricks for models that you design yourself. Next year, a new online game similar to World of Warcraft will be launched, intended for the many players in the LEGO universe on the internet.

It was originally master carpenter Ole Kirk Kristiansen who founded the company in his workshop in the west of Denmark. The company has since passed from father to son, and today it is the founder’s grandson Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, and his children, who own the LEGO Group.

The company has never made a big deal out of marketing itself as something Danish. Even so, the company’s head of communications thinks that the Danish roots are very important.

“We are a family-owned company, and have been so for four generations. We have our roots here in rural Jutland. I don’t know if one can say it is particularly Danish, but we would like to be known as a company that behaves properly. A company that treats its staff and other stakeholders with respect and consideration, and also contributes to charity with special focus on children’s development,” says Charlotte Simonsen.

Back to the future

The colourful plastic bricks are today available in more than 130 countries, and a product such as LEGO Star Wars is on the wish list of children the world over. But developments have sometimes been painful, and it has been necessary on occasions to substantially cut the number of staff, as in 2003-2004 when the company laid off over 1,000 people. In addition, the LEGO Group has outsourced part of its production to Eastern Europe and Mexico.

“It has been necessary for LEGO to trim itself for the future. The streamlining has been painful at times, but it has been essential to make it through the crisis. LEGO has implemented the management tool LEAN in an impressively structured way, and has gained from it, because every penny saved on a brick adds up to a large amount of money,” says Professor Anders Drejer.

The LEGO Group is now more than half way through implementing a seven year strategy, which has the aim of rebuilding the company and giving new life to the LEGO brand. There are many suggestions as to what children will play with in the future, and electronics is an indisputably tough competitor to conventional toys. The LEGO Group is in no doubt however that the brick will also be a hit in the future for children of all ages.

“Putting two LEGO bricks together is intuitive and provides the immediate joy of creation. That joy can be supplemented, but never replaced by electronic experiences,” says Charlotte Simonsen.

Five fun facts about LEGO

  • LEGO produces 22 billion bricks annually – that’s 30,000 per minute
  • More than 7 LEGO boxes are sold every second
  • Some products are developed among adult fans. There are almost a quarter of a million adult people engaged in LEGO clubs worldwide
  • About 40,000,000,000 LEGO bricks need to stacked one on top of another to reach the Moon
  • The BBC reporter James May recently built a life-size two storey LEGO house with toilet, bath and bed, made of three million LEGO bricks

LEGO as a catalyst

  • LEGO has generated lots of activity in Billund. The company has attracted a large part of the Danish plastics industry to Billund, and many consultancy and development companies have sprouted up in the town, of which some have been started by former LEGO people.
  • Billund has also become a significant tourist town. In 1968, the first LEGOLAND opened next to the factory. In addition to Billund, there is a LEGOLAND in the UK, USA and Germany. In spring 2009, another amusement resort, Lalandia, opened a centre in Billund. More than 1 million tourists visit the municipality each year, a figure Billund municipality expects will increase in the coming years.
  • LEGO has also had great influence on the cultural life. At the centre of the town lies the Billund Centre which comprises a theatre, exhibition halls, a music school and café. The centre is a gift to the citizens of Billund from the family which owns LEGO.
  • A large export company needs an airport. In 1964, Billund Airport was inaugurated – and in the first two years passengers were attended to in LEGO’s own hangar, which until then had been used for LEGO’s private airport. Today Billund Airport is Denmark’s second largest.
  • How much LEGO matters to the town is clearly visible on entry to the town. The visitor is welcomed by large LEGO bricks.

ystal clear - sustainable mixed use commercial building for KLP, Oslo, designed by C. F. Møller Architects.

Crystal clear - sustainable mixed use commercial building for KLP, Oslo, designed by C. F. Møller Architects.

Photo: C. F. Møller Architects


Danish architecture in demand worldwide

Danish architects are on a global crusade, with prestige projects from Riyadh to Bergen. Their secret? They put people at the centre

By Jeppe Villadsen

Sydney Opera House. A few years ago, that would have been about the sum total of Danish architectural achievements abroad. For decades, Jørn Utzon’s famous shell-like opera house on Sydney’s harbour front was an extravagant exception for Danish architecture, which otherwise kept itself exclusively within Denmark’s borders.

But today the converse applies. Danish architect firms are storming ahead in China, Britain, the Baltic states, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Germany and Mexico. The youthful Danish architectural practice B.I.G. – Bjarke Ingels Group – recently won a competition to design Kazakhstan’s new national library, beating off high profile competition from abroad including Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid. Meanwhile Henning Larsen Architects are busily implementing a master plan for a
1.6 million square metre financial district in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, which will be a prominent new landmark in the city.

The international boom can be read directly in the export figures from Danish architect firms. For two years in succession, their international revenues have risen by about 40 per cent annually.

Last year – evidencing the effects of the financial crisis – the increase was a more modest 2 per cent.

Putting people at the centre

The Danish firm C. F. Møller Architects today generates 45 per cent of its revenues abroad, compared with just 10 per cent five years ago. But despite the firm’s glittering references, including the new Darwin Centre in London, an extension of the city’s renowned Natural History Museum, it is another quality that partner Lone Wiggers points to as a Danish characteristic: to design buildings that put people at the centre.

“Our city halls, hospitals, swimming baths and schools are based on master plans that put people – the user – at the centre. We strive to create something unique each time, by aiming to adapt the building to its actual location and function, and not least to the people who will use the building. Briefly stated, the building must be a joy for people to experience,” says Lone Wiggers, who explains that before a building is designed, scores of user interviews are conducted to find the way forward to the best possible building.

“It is a very democratic way in which to design a building, and for us it’s something in our veins, not just as architects, but at a deeper level: as citizens. This form of social responsibility is a cultural inheritance which we have grown up with as children of the democratic Danish welfare state – and this has in fact become an exportable architectural product,” says Lone Wiggers.

“We have a depth in what we do. It’s not just about designing ’a nice building with an attractive facade’. We make a facade based on a large body of thorough professional analyses regarding sustainability, locally available materials, local building traditions and the planned users of the building.

We will never allow office workers to sit in dark and gloomy places without daylight. We have a completely different way of going about things, and explain to the client that if they want a bit more out of their staff in the late afternoon, they have to give them proper conditions – then they will get better results on the bottom line.”

Lone Wiggers, partner in architect firm C. F. Møller

Lone Wiggers, partner in architect firm C. F. Møller

Nowhere to build in Denmark

It is also in Denmark’s cityscapes, that the director of the Danish Architecture Centre, Kent Martinussen, finds some of the explanation for the global crusade that Danish architects have embarked on in recent years. It goes hand in hand with the fact that Denmark – and especially Copenhagen – has in a few years transformed itself from an architectural desert to a playground for the leading lights in international architecture. Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster and Frank Gehry have all undertaken architectural projects in Denmark in recent years.

The Danish architect firm B.I.G. has beaten off challenges from star names like Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid in a competition to design Kazakhstan’s new national library. The prestige project in the country’s capital Astana has a 360 degree panoramic view and an open courtyard.

The Danish architect firm B.I.G. has beaten off challenges from star names like Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid in a competition to design Kazakhstan’s new national library. The prestige project in the country’s capital Astana has a 360 degree panoramic view and an open courtyard.

Photo: B.I.G

”I think it has great significance that, having hardly seen any foreign architects in Denmark in 250 years, we have in recent years seen a whole host of international star names. It has stimulated Danish architects to reflect that ’If they can build over here, we can build over there’,” says Kent Martinussen.

The result has been that Danish architecture has become the talk of the town, he points out.

“The global architecture market is always on the look-out for something new, and it has clearly been noticed that something is happening in architectural circles in Denmark. Both because foreign architects are building here, and because Denmark is full of competent young architects, who are making things of high quality.”

“Danish architects have a reputation for being rational, and compromise- and dialogue-seeking collaboration partners. And aesthetically seen, it is still an asset to present an architecture which is more socially oriented – slightly more holistic – than many of the high profile firms. It is not Danish architects who are known for exceeding the budget by more than 100 per cent.”

Kent Martinussen, director at the Danish Architecture Centre

Kent Martinussen, director at the Danish Architecture Centre

In autumn 2008, 120 leading American architects visited Denmark. It was the American Institute of Architects (AIA), that had chosen to hold its biannual conference in Denmark in order to see both its classic architectural edifices and its contemporary architectural icons in the new development areas of Copenhagen.

Schmidt hammer lassen is the name behind some of the most head-turning new buildings in Denmark, but in recent years has gained momentum abroad – so much so that the international market has quickly come to represent over half of the firm’s revenues. For example this competition proposal for the Masdar Square development which will be the heart of the master plan for Masdar City, a new sustainable zero carbon city on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi.

Schmidt hammer lassen is the name behind some of the most head-turning new buildings in Denmark, but in recent years has gained momentum abroad – so much so that the international market has quickly come to represent over half of the firm’s revenues. For example this competition proposal for the Masdar Square development which will be the heart of the master plan for Masdar City, a new sustainable zero carbon city on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi.

Photo: Schmidt hammer lassen

In connection with the visit, an AIA statement said:

“AIA has chosen to come to Denmark to study the legacy of its renowned modern architecture and design of the 20th century and to see how that tradition continues in the exciting new work being created by Danish architects and designers today.”

Peter Theibel, international consultant at the Danish Association of Architectural Firms (Danske Ark), comments that the growth in Danish architectural exports is coming from both new and well established firms, although it is still the large practices that have the lion’s share of the international market.

”Many young companies don’t only work locally, as was customary before. They are born global and bid for projects all over the world. And the big companies found it necessary to go beyond the country’s borders in order to expand, because Denmark’s building stock covers much of the available space and there is little room to keep adding new buildings year after year,” says Peter Theibel and adds that several of the biggest Danish architect firms have set the target that 60-80 per cent of their revenues will come from international tasks.

Louis Becker, partner in Henning Larsen Architects

“There is a special Danish keynote in our mindset as architects, and that is in reality what we are exporting. It may well be that Danish design in furniture is Arne Jacobsen or PH lamps, but in architecture Danish design is a method – a way of doing things. And it concerns considering all parties and emanates from the democratic society we live in, where no one is ignored. That you have both pedestrians and cars in a street. You have some who collect waste from a building, while others work inside the building, but both parts must function.”

Louis Becker, partner in Henning Larsen Architects

City award in New York

Danish architects don’t only work with architectural hardware like houses, hospitals and libraries. Denmark also has a strong tradition for developing liveable and people-friendly urban spaces, which are beginning to be sought after around the world.

Peter Theibel, international consultant at the Danish Association of Architectural Firms (Danske Ark)

”We are known for making some good rooms – some light rooms, some high rooms – and for our tradition of social responsibility in the way you build. One of the reasons for this is the Danish architectural courses, which to a much greater extent than in many other countries are based on a creative understanding. It is reflected in the building projects that Danish architects win abroad – they are spectacular buildings and often also prestigious buildings.”

Peter Theibel, international consultant at the Danish Association of Architectural Firms (Danske Ark)

Exports of Danish architecture

Exports totalled DKK 353 million (EUR 47.5 million) in 2008. To this can be added DKK 117 million (EUR 15.7 million) in earnings from subsidiaries abroad. Exports have risen steeply in recent years: 40% in 2006, 38% in 2007 and 2% in 2008. In 2008, exports accounted for 14% of revenues in the architectural sector, which totalled DKK 3.35 billion (EUR 450 million). The revenue share is expected to rise further in the coming years.

Source: Danish Association of Architectural Firms (Danske Ark)

Architect and city planner Jan Gehl recently received an award from New York’s city authorities for his work in improving the environment in New York’s streets and public spaces. Over the last couple of years, his firm Gehl Architects has advised on the improvement of the urban environment in New York.

The Danish city consultants have taken their inspiration from Copenhagen’s streets, squares and cycle paths. The closing of Broadway to traffic has resulted in 750 kilometres of cycle paths, sidewalk extensions and a number of new places in Times Square, Herald Square and Madison Square. The aim is to create 2,900 kilometres of new cycle paths in New York in the coming years.

Gehl Architects will assist with a similar transformation of Sydney up to 2030. They have previously been involved with introducing cycle paths in London, Melbourne and Rotterdam.

Henning Larsen Architects is also behind a discovery centre which will be the cornerstone of a new Syrian educational programme, Massar, giving Syrian children the opportunity to meet and discover the world through play. Massar’s ambition is to create better educational opportunities for youngsters in a country where 40% of the population is under 14. The discovery centre is placed on a 170,000 m² river-bed site in the centre of Damascus. The centre’s floor forms a plateau in the river-bed, from which ramps and staircases rise up and become an innovative sequence of rooms ready to be explored. The idea for the shape of the discovery centre originates from the unique Damascus rose.

Henning Larsen Architects is also behind a discovery centre which will be the cornerstone of a new Syrian educational programme, Massar, giving Syrian children the opportunity to meet and discover the world through play. Massar’s ambition is to create better educational opportunities for youngsters in a country where 40% of the population is under 14. The discovery centre is placed on a 170,000 m² river-bed site in the centre of Damascus. The centre’s floor forms a plateau in the river-bed, from which ramps and staircases rise up and become an innovative sequence of rooms ready to be explored. The idea for the shape of the discovery centre originates from the unique Damascus rose.

Photo: Henning Larsen Architects

A new architecture

Environmental sustainability is a key principle for many Danish architect firms, both in city planning and building design. Long before climate change hit the headlines, Denmark had carved out a leading position in energy-efficient buildings. Competences that – besides the cold Danish climate – stem from the fact that since the oil crisis in the 1970s, Danish regulations for new buildings have been among the world’s most stringent in relation to energy saving. C. F. Møller Architects has been researching in the field of sustainability for 20 years. But it is only recently that investors have begun to show an interest, says Lone Wiggers, a partner in the firm.

”There was very little demand for it until about 18 months ago, when things really started to move. In 2007, around 4 per cent of our projects were what I would
call ’over standard’, that is with innovative, energy-efficient elements above and beyond what the law demands. In 2008 the figure rose to 21 per cent, and I expect that this year it will be above 50 per cent. In a few years, all our buildings will be of this type, provided that the investment and the interest continues, and that we manage to broadcast the message, that in the long term there are simply no economic arguments for not building in a sustainable way, despite it costing a bit more to construct. You could say that as architects we Foreign turnover by country in the Danish architectural profession know what is cheap today and expensive tomorrow,” says Lone Wiggers.

She furthermore sees the requirement for sustainability as a fruitful means of experimenting with and developing architecture.

”We think that it is rewarding to see the new requirements as a challenge and experiment with them: Shall all the windows face this way? Should they be placed high up the building? How do we fully exploit daylight, so that we don’t use electricity, but just get the daylight in without becoming overheated? And how do we get solar cells on the facade to look attractive?“

Ensuring a future for the company also plays a role at C. F. Møller Architects.

”We had to get into sustainable architecture, or we wouldn’t have had a business in a few years. And we have put so much effort into it, that we are ahead of the field, because we think it makes sense to exploit the advantage we have in this area,“ says Lone Wiggers.

Can architecture change the world?

The travelling exhibition “Building Sustainable Communities” is currently touring the world, showing examples of what Danish architects and engineers are best at: building with human needs and sustainability in mind.

The exhibition features 29 international projects from Danish architect and engineering firms, each project contributing to the development of a more sustainable society – from cultural and social as well as environmental perspectives.

Displaying 140 architectural and civil engineering solutions, the exhibition demonstrates the breadth and quality of Danish design and construction abroad.


See movie on

Architect firm 3xN’s Museum of Liverpool is situated on protected dock areas by the River Mersey. In 2004, the docks were added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, and the museum will be placed next to a row of distinctive buildings, ”The Three Graces”, on a promenade which the project will make into one of the city’s main attractions.

Architect firm 3xN’s Museum of Liverpool is situated on protected dock areas by the River Mersey. In 2004, the docks were added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, and the museum will be placed next to a row of distinctive buildings, ”The Three Graces”, on a promenade which the project will make into one of the city’s main attractions.

Photo: 3xN Architects


Small country big bridges

Photo: COWI

Thousands of bridges, among them some of the world’s largest, have been designed by Danish engineers. And a range of new projects, which will yet again extend the limits of the possible, are in pipeline.

By Morten Andersen

5 kilometre long steel cables with a diameter of more than one metre. A concrete deck, carrying a four-lane motorway with emergency lanes and two train tracks, spanning a distance of more than three kilometres without the need for supporting piers.

These are the impressive dimensions of the world’s longest suspension bridge, which crosses the Messina Strait connecting Sicily and Calabria on the Italian mainland. The bridge, which has a free span of 3,300 metres, has been designed by COWI consulting engineers, who had a practice run at home in Denmark with the East Bridge of the Great Belt Link, which with its free span of 1,624 metres, is now ousted into second place.

The company is also the holder of the world record for cable-stayed bridges with China’s Sutong bridge, which has a span of 1,088 metres.

If you are puzzled that engineers from a small country – representing less than a thousandth of the world’s population – are those you seek out when the world’s largest bridges are to be designed, it might help to take a look at a map of Denmark. With its many islands, fjords, straits and sounds, Denmark was born with a need for bridges.

Two types of bridge

In a suspension bridge, the main cables are strung between the pylons. From the main cables, smaller cables which carry the deck of the bridge hang vertically. In a cable-stayed bridge by contrast, the bridge deck is suspended by cables conducted directly from the pylons. Since the intermediate step – the main cable – and its associated anchoring are not required, a cable-stayed bridge is cheaper to build. But it is not possible to achieve as large a span (distance between the pylons) as with a suspension bridge. The East Bridge of the Great Belt Link between the Danish islands of Funen and Zealand is among the world’s longest suspension bridges, while the Øresund Bridge between Zealand and Sweden is the world’s longest cable-stayed bridge that carries both a road and a railway.

Box girders and cable dampers

In the 1930s the country had its first wave of bridge construction with the Little Belt Bridge, the Limfjord Bridge and the Storstrøm Bridge as the most significant examples. World War II put a temporary stop to proceedings, but in the period from 1970 to 1985, activities blossomed again with the Farø Bridge, the Vejle Fjord Bridge and a new bridge over the Little Belt. The 1990s saw two landmark projects: The Great Belt Link, which set a world record for suspension bridges, and The Øresund Link, a cable-stayed bridge with a main span of 490 metres – a world record for a cable-stayed bridge carrying both a motorway and a railway.

The path was thereby paved for the creation of more of the world’s largest man-made structures.

Besides building on their experience from one project to the next, which gradually enabled the Danish engineers to handle slightly larger projects, they benefited from rapid technical developments.

It became possible to produce increasingly longer and thicker steel cables, just as it became possible to mould elements in concrete so that costs were kept down while ensuring consistent quality and high reliability.

With the construction of the new Little Belt Bridge in the 1970s, COWI for the first time introduced aerodynamically designed closed girders for cable-stayed bridges. Inside the closed girders a continuous dehumidification of the air takes place, which prevents corrosion. The concept is standard today.

Another significant development is dampers for bridge cables. In certain wind conditions a cable can start to oscillate, the process becoming exacerbated until
a point can be reached where the entire construction collapses. The larger the bridge, the longer the cables and thus the greater the risk. The first generation of dampers featured cables fixed in a cylinder filled with viscous oil which could absorb some of the mechanical energy. In recent years, development work has started on new types of damper which actively counteract oscillations in the cables. Research scientists at the Technical University of Denmark have supplied the theoretical foundation for dampers of this type, which have been used for the Sutong Bridge, the world’s longest cable-stayed bridge.

Major project on the way

The next world record could very well be on the way. Together with Germany’s Obermeyer, COWI is competing with another consortium, which includes the Danish consulting engineering company Rambøll, to supply the right solution for a fixed link that can connect Denmark and Germany via the Fehmarn Belt. The competing consortium is preparing a proposal for a tunnel, while COWI/Obermeyer will be bidding with both suspension and cable-stayed bridge proposals.

“The project contains major technical challenges, because everything about the Fehmarn project is larger and more complex compared to the fixed links across
the Great Belt and Øresund. A bridge will – regardless of whether it is a suspension bridge or a cable-stayed bridge – become the world’s longest combined road and rail connection. The construction will probably require some of the largest cranes and other types of equipment the world has ever seen,” says Lars Hauge, director of the bridges division at COWI.

In addition to the technical challenges, the Fehmarn construction will also need to accommodate a major environmental requirement, since the project must not disturb the biological balance in the Baltic Sea. Or more precisely, it must neither increase nor decrease the inflow of water from the North Sea and the Kattegat to the Baltic Sea.

“It will be enormous”

Regardless of the solution chosen for the Fehmarn Belt, Danish engineering is set to play a significant role in major bridge construction projects in the future. In Doha, Qatar, COWI is collaborating with the Qatar-Bahrain Causeway Consortium on connecting the island state of Bahrain with the mainland neighbouring country of Qatar. At 40 kilometres, the Friendship Bridge will be the world’s longest and will comprise a four-lane motorway as a natural extension of the King Fahd motorway connecting Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. When the link is completed – according to plans, in 2013 – the travelling time will be shortened from the current five hours, where part of the journey takes place through Saudi Arabia, to just half an hour.

The project will be subject to strict environmental requirements, including provisions to protect a threatened species of large marine mammal, the Dugong.

Not quite as long, but in many ways still a landmark project, will be the coming fixed link between Yemen and Djibouti. The 28 kilometre link will cross the Bab El-Mandeb Strait, which is part of The Red Sea, and so connect the Middle East with Africa. The western part of the strait is more than 20 kilometres wide with water depths of 300 metres.

  1. Great Belt Link
  2. Little Belt (two bridges)
  3. Limfjord Bridge
  4. Storstrøm Bridge
  5. Farø Bridge
  6. Vejle Fjord Bridge
  7. Øresund Link (links Sweden and Denmark)
  8. Fehmarn Belt (future project to link Germany and Denmark)

A nation of bridge builders

COWI consulting engineers is today Denmark’s most notable company in bridge building. Founded in 1930, it has over the years acquired the design department of the former Christiani & Nielsen and Kampsax (previously Kampmann, Kierulf & Saxild).

ISC consulting engineers, which specialises in steel constructions, has also built many bridges, the largest being the Øresund Bridge that connects Denmark and Sweden. In addition, ISC is known for its construction of bridges in inaccessible places, such as the North River Bridge near Thule Air Base in Greenland. ISC has also designed bridges in Tunisia, Mexico, Tanzania, Vietnam and many other countries.

Other Danish companies in the area include Rambøll, which has designed part of the Øresund Bridge, and motorway E18 between Grimstad and Kristiansand in Norway which includes several bridges, the longest being 400 metres. Rambøll has also been involved in a large number of aesthetically innovative bridges for cyclists and/or pedestrians in London, Coventry, York and Cambridge in the UK, and Torino in Italy.

MT Hojgaard, Per Aarsleff and Grontmij / Carl Bro are other Danish companies with a large number of references in design and construction of bridges.

According to COWI’s calculations, the link should have at least three spans, each of about 2,700 metres – in other words each of the three spans will be only slightly shorter than the Messina Link’s world record of 3,300 metres.

“The concrete pylons will be set in foundations at a depth of 300 metres, and will have to reach a height of 400 metres above the water. This will be necessary
in order to carry the ultra long spans of the suspension bridge. So each pylon will be 700 metres in overall height. It will be enormous,” says Henrik Andersen, COWI’s Head of Major Bridges.

The East Bridge of the Great Belt Link has a free span of 1,624 metres. When opened in 1998 is was the longest suspension bridge in the world.

The East Bridge of the Great Belt Link has a free span of 1,624 metres. When opened in 1998 is was the longest suspension bridge in the world.

Photo: Scanpix

Future bridges of reinforced plastic

Manufactured in advance: A 40 metre bridge for pedestrians and cyclists spans the very busy railway in the Danish town of Kolding.

Manufactured in advance: A 40 metre bridge for pedestrians and cyclists spans the very busy railway in the Danish town of Kolding.

Photo: Fiberline

The Danish company Fiberline Composites is pioneering the use of carbon fibre and glass fibre for bridge construction. Since the company´s first bridge was erected in 1997, more than thousand small bridges and six large road bridges have been built in Europe.

By Morten Andersen

Steel and concrete are the materials one especially associates with Danish traditions in bridge building, but at the western end of the island of Funen, there is a rapidly growing company, Fiberline Composites, which is successfully introducing completely new materials to the world of bridge building – composites based on carbon fibre and glass fibre, which have already established applications in yacht hulls and wind turbine blades.

In 1997, Fiberline A/S supplied the deck and profiles for Scandinavia’s first bridge made of composite material. The 40 metre bridge for pedestrians and cyclists spans the very busy railway in the Danish town of Kolding. Fiberline’s solution was chosen because it could be manufactured in advance, so that it was only necessary to interrupt rail traffic briefly during the construction. In fact it happened just three times, all during the night at weekends.

Since then more than a thousand pedestrian and cycle bridges, where the composite material has been used for the bridge deck, have been installed in the Netherlands, and over 30 in other European countries. The material has also been used for larger bridges for heavy traffic.

This began with an EU supported project, where from 1992 to 2002 Fiberline together with European partners developed the first bridge decks that could withstand heavy traffic. Today the company has six references, the most prominent being a bridge installed across the M6 motorway in Manchester, UK.

“What especially made Britain’s Highway Agency choose composite material was that the bridge could be completed in another location and then lifted into place, so that the traffic only needed to be interrupted briefly. The M6 is very busy motorway, and a lengthy interruption would have caused chaos.

At the same time, the Highway Agency’s calculations showed that the bridge was only five per cent more expensive than a conventional solution. The investment was quickly recovered, since a bridge made of composite material is easier to maintain,” says Finn Jernø, head of communications at Fiberline.

Near Barcelona in Spain, a bridge made of composite material has also been chosen to ensure minimal interruption of high-speed trains, just as the German highway authorities have chosen a similar solution in Friedberg at Hessen. In Russia there are several projects planned, because the material is highly resistant to the large quantities of road salt used in winter.

“Obviously, when you introduce a new material, there is a certain conservatism that needs to be overcome, and people in the industry also have to learn to work with the material. But many bridges have been erected using the material, and we certainly expect that the number will grow strongly. And who knows – perhaps we will also see composite material applied in the major bridge projects one day,” says Finn Jernø.

As composites become more routinely used and volumes increase, the cost of bridges built with these materials will gradually reduce, and this will help promote their application in bridge construction. In addition, climate considerations will play a role since energy consumption from production of composite material is significantly lower compared to steel and concrete.

Airport of the future

Danish companies collectively cover practically everything involved in the construction of airports. Now they are developing a shared vision

By Morten Andersen

Low environmental impact. Sustainable use of resources. Optimal exploitation of space. Maximum flexibility.

These are the four key concepts in ’The Airport of the Future’ development project initiated by the Danish Airport Group, which is part of the Danish Export Association. The group comprises more than 40 Danish companies, whose businesses range from engineering consulting to baggage handling systems and other types of equipment for air traffic control, security and maintenance.

“Although the companies each have their niches in airport construction, they share a common denominator in environmental considerations, resource exploitation and Scandinavian design. We are now developing this so we can supply a total concept.

In addition we gain more “muscle” when we collaborate, which enables us to bid for major projects,” says Michael Niels Thorsen, sales director in Integra A/S and chairman of the Danish Airport Group.

Airports are national symbols

COWI consulting engineers is the world’s eighth largest consultant in the airport sector measured by revenue generated abroad, so it has a lot of weight in relation to many of the other companies in the Danish Airport Group.

“Since our work as consultants lies early in the process, we often hear about projects a couple of years before the companies which supply equipment. But one should never be so high and mighty as to think there is no benefit in collaborating with others. Often we are the ones who tip the others in the group, but if we can just get a couple of contacts from them in return, then that’s fine,” says project director Ejner Christensen of COWI.

The Danish companies never present a complete package, he points out:

“Airports are national symbols, especially in the capitals. The airport terminal is the first impression that visitors gain when they arrive in a country for the first time. We typically team up with a local architect so that the airport gets a visible local touch.”

But in the underlying functionality one can build on elements from previous projects. According to Ejner Christensen, Danish companies in the airport sector are good at being flexible in their solutions.

“Creative thinking is necessary when you need local distinctiveness and functionality to form a synthesis. That is a Danish strength.”

In addition, it is a distinctive Danish speciality to think of energy, climate and environment.

“For example, we are consultants on a new terminal in Oslo, Norway, where the winning parameter was that our solution was better thought through in the energy area,” says Ejner Christensen.

Sub-optimal start to climate discussions

Green developments in airports will come more onto the agenda, the COWI director believes, since the entire aviation industry has an image problem with regard to climate impact. One of the reasons is that the industry has not managed to create a common strategy for communication and so has become an easy target.

“In reality, the industry only emits about two per cent of global CO2, but listening to the debate you would think that it was 20 per cent. Many companies have started to change course however. Airports account for only a small proportion of the CO2 emissions from air traffic, while the aircraft themselves account for 90-95 per cent. But it is important that airports do their bit to keep emissions down, so they help correct the poor image the industry has acquired,” states Ejner Christensen.

The Danish Airport Group was founded in 2005 and has been busy from the start. When the group was founded, Danish companies were already able to supply practically all the products and services that are needed in an airport – from the consulting engineering work to helping disabled people round the airport and getting runways quickly repaired.

“Working together is new to us. Some of the companies are also competitors, but we have cleared that hurdle. All members of the group take part in developing a consistent idea of how airports should evolve,” says group chairman Michael Niels Thorsen.

You can find a full list of all the members of the Danish Airport Group on

The baggage will overtake its owner

Today air passengers wait for their baggage, but soon it will be the time it takes for passengers to get from one aircraft to another that will be the limiting factor in airports

By Morten Andersen

“Our objective is to transport baggage as quickly as possible, so that it will be the time it takes for travellers to get from the arriving aircraft to the departing aircraft that will be the limiting factor for how quickly transfers are executed.”

So says sales director Henrik Cort of Crisplant, which develops and supplies complete systems for baggage handling in airports.

Regarding transfers, airports are competing on the shortest possible connection time, i.e. reducing the time needed between connecting flights. Today an airport typically requires a margin of one hour to guarantee that passengers from one aircraft can board another. Baggage is still the limiting factor, but there are rapid developments happening in this area.

If you fly from Copenhagen Airport via Munich International Airport to Singapore Changi Airport – three airports where Crisplant has supplied baggage handling systems – information about the baggage is automatically sent from the scanner in Copenhagen to the corresponding systems at the other airports. This ensures that the baggage is handled quickly and securely at the transfer airport.

At the same time, the speed of baggage conveyor belts has increased. The fastest systems today move baggage at 10 metres per second – equivalent to 36 kph or 22 mph.

“Today it is mainly relevant for larger airports with several terminals where baggage runs in tunnels. But in the future, it will probably become the standard,” says Henrik Cort.

The combination of intelligent transport systems and high speed has led to some airports cutting down the minimum connection time to half an hour.

“It gives them a competitive edge over other airports, and that race will continue,” says the sales director.

In contact with each suitcase

Crisplant, a company in the Beumer Group, is among the world’s leading suppliers of advanced systems for baggage handling in airports. Its list of references includes Munich International Airport, New Doha International Airport (Qatar) and Singapore Changi Airport.

“New solutions in the security area are a trend that will dominate the airport of the future,” asserts Henrik Cort.

“Regarding systems for baggage handling, you will for example see that a suitcase which cannot immediately be approved but needs further investigation, will be electronically labelled in a way which 100% guarantees that it is not put on board the aircraft until it is declared safe.”

There are also systems to ensure that the location of each suitcase is known, so that it can easily be removed from the aircraft’s hold if the passenger does not turn up at the gate.

“It results in significant costs for both airlines and airports each time a suitcase is sent off, even though the passenger did not reach the gate – or the opposite. It actually happens frequently, but it will not happen in the airport of the future,” says Henrik Cort.

The solution has already been developed. An electronic label, known as an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tag, can be built into the labels that the baggage is given at check-in. Unlike ordinary labels, information can be continuously transferred to an RFID tag. So if the passenger does not appear at the gate, a message can be sent to the tag which stops the suitcase from being placed on board the aircraft. And if it is already on board, it is easy to find and remove. It will also be possible to reroute the suitcase if a certain aircraft cannot take off and the passengers need to board another aircraft.

Budding green trend

Finally, there is an environment and energy trend. Crisplant’s transport systems use linear motors. These are electric motors in which the iron core is replaced by rotating permanent magnets. In this type of motor, heat loss is significantly lower. That reduces electricity consumption in itself. At the same time it saves on ventilation because the components do not become so hot – a further saving. In total, there are energy savings of up to 75 per cent with Crisplant’s linear motors, which translate into similar savings in CO2 emissions. And the savings have been achieved almost without additional cost.

“We decided at an early stage that all our systems should be provided with this type of motor. We thereby gained economies of scale, which means that the price for the motor is only marginally higher than the price for conventional electric motors,” says Henrik Cort.

On the question of whether the low energy consumption carries weight with customers, the sales director answers:

“If everything else is equal between you and a competitor, and you have the extra green features, then that can be what wins you the order. We are starting to see however that some airports are attaching great importance to having a green profile. Helsinki is probably the best example.

And we are also seeing a trend towards many airlines seeing the environmental profile as a big issue.”


Predicting the fashion industry’s needs

The ambition of Scandinavia’s largest design and business school in the fashion industry, Denmark’s TEKO, is to constantly know the needs of the industry – and preferably before the industry itself. A close collaboration with the corporate sector aims to ensure that jobs in the fashion industry are not shifted abroad.

By Anne Klejsgård Hansen

The sewing machines are still lined up in rows as they were fifty years ago when the Angli shirt factory was based in the main building of what is now the Danish design and business school TEKO. But whereas it was then the sewing machinists’ rustic footwear which operated the treadles, today it is trendy stilettos, knee-length boots, trainers and even men’s shoes which keep the machines humming.

“A lot has happened over the years, and that will continue. But the focal point has always been to combine beautiful design, fine craftsmanship and good business sense,” says head of TEKO Anne Mette Zachariassen.

TEKO is Scandinavia’s largest design and business school, and a quarter of the school’s 1,000 students come from outside Denmark. It is especially the school’s combination of the mercantile and the creative which attracts young design talent to Jutland from far and wide. Most Danish educational institutions are located in the principal cities like Copenhagen and Århus, but TEKO is situated in Herning, a provincial town of around 50,000 citizens.

“We are well aware that young people do not choose us because they have always dreamed of living in Herning, but it is our experience that the vast majority become very fond of the place. And TEKO itself is a sort of town within a town which, at least during exam periods, becomes the students’ second home,” explains Anne Mette Zachariassen.

An industry in constant change

The number of people employed in the Danish fashion industry has remained fairly stable over the last hundred years, but the type of work has changed radically. The sewing machinists from Angli’s shirt factory would have difficulty finding a job today, since almost all production jobs have been moved abroad because of the high wage costs in Denmark. Instead, many other jobs have emerged in the fashion industry.

“As production jobs have moved out, the focus has shifted to design, development, strategy and operation. And if we are to preserve our raison d’être, it is essential that we constantly stay ahead of developments,” says Anne Mette Zachariassen and elaborates:

“Previously I always said that we had to swim synchronously with the industry, but I have discovered that this is not good enough. We actually have to swim ahead.”

TEKO therefore uses lots of resources on continuous market analysis to spot the latest trends. And it is not enough to predict what the industry will want in six months. Often it is necessary to think many years ahead, for example if TEKO wants to establish new educational courses to meet the industry’s future requirements. Before the course can be offered, comprehensive development work is needed. It then takes three or four years before the first students are ready to enter the market.

“We are for example currently working on a textile engineering course. Our experience is that many companies want people with a basic knowledge of textiles, and naturally we would like to satisfy this wish,” says Anne Mette Zachariassen.

Photo: TEKO

High employment rate

Despite the creative courses having not always been the safest path to a job, TEKO can boast of a high employment rate for its students. In recent years, only around 4 per cent of school leavers have not found a job after six months, and according to Anne Mette Zachariassen that is very much the result of TEKO’s close collaboration with the corporate sector.

“It is my clear impression that the industry feels they get an employee who can enter directly into the company if they choose one who has been trained here. Throughout the educational course students have close contact with the corporate sector for example through internship and exam projects,” says Anne Mette Zachariassen.

In addition, TEKO interviews a large number of fashion firms every second year to examine the challenges faced by the industry, and what companies expect of new employees. This analysis is used to help ensure that TEKO students have the competences that the industry wants.

“It is often the TEKO analysis that determines which path we take,” says Anne Mette Zachariassen.

Timing is essential

TEKO’s comprehensive analysis and close collaboration with the industry have resulted in the school becoming acknowledged for its ability to spot new trends long before the industry expresses its needs. Anne Mette Zachariassen has to think hard to recall any false predictions. But she acknowledges that the school
has sometimes been too far ahead of the market.

“There is no doubt that timing is essential, and that we have sometimes launched new ideas too early. For example, in 2000 we started focusing on sustainable textiles, and that turned out to be a bit too early,” says Anne Mette Zachariassen.

She emphasises however that in the long term, this prediction has turned out to be right.

“Since then, a huge focus has come on this area, and this has given us the lead for almost 10 years now. In that period
we have amassed knowledge that is very valuable today,” she says.

She believes that sustainable textiles and intelligent textiles will have great significance in the coming years, both for TEKO and for the fashion industry in general.

Although Anne Mette Zachariassen doubts whether the sewing machinist jobs, as they were at Angli’s shirt factory in the first half of the twentieth century, will reappear in the Danish fashion industry, she is certain that classic craftsmanship will become one of the strongest trends.

“If craftsmanship doesn’t keep pace, we risk becoming international leaders in innovation without knowing what to use the innovation for. So I think we will see a strong focus on textiles in the future,” she says.

Tailored to the real world

Photo: TEKO

How do you design a fashionable, comfortable, hard-wearing and inexpensive hospital uniform? 24 year old Annette Vang is tackling that problem as part of her degree in pattern design

By Anne Klejsgård Hansen

In summer 2010, 24 year old Annette Vang expects to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in pattern design. But before that can happens, there are a couple of projects that have to be completed.

Together with a group of fellow students, she is currently engrossed in designing a fashionable, comfortable, hard-wearing and inexpensive staff uniform for a large new Danish regional hospital. Although Annette Vang has hitherto primarily occupied herself with fashion clothes, the task is not completely foreign to her. Because whenever TEKO’s students tackle a design problem for an exam, it is always to find a solution that can be used “in the real world”.

A project with commercial potential

Midtvask, one of Denmark’s leading commercial laundries – is the company behind the examination project. They have the task of developing the new hospital uniform, and it is very likely that Annette Vang or one of her fellow students will be responsible for the design.

“It’s funny to think that if I go to the hospital some day, it could be that the staff will be wearing a uniform that I designed,” says Annette Vang.

As part of a previous examination project, she designed several patterns for the collections of renowned Danish design company Baum und Pferdgarten. Her designs were taken into use, and a number of them have already found their way onto the hangers in the clothes shops.

The commercial angle is a critical factor in the overall assessment of the project.

A beautiful design in itself is not enough – it must also carry through into the real world, so things like comfort, durability and economy play just as important a role in the project.

“Obviously, it’s essential that a hospital uniform is comfortable to wear. In addition, the project sets a limit on how much a single uniform can cost, and specifies that it must be hard-wearing and washable at high temperatures,” explains Annette Vang.

The students consequently spend a lot of time looking at the price, durability and comfort of materials, whilst also taking production costs into consideration.

Network helps in finding a job

The company behind the examination project also takes part in the assessment, and Annette is in no doubt that it is a great advantage for the students that they work so closely with the industry.

“It creates a fantastically good network, and that’s a must when we emerge onto the job market. It’s happened several times that I have received offers as a result of my network,” explains Annette Vang.

She confidently expects therefore that her network will come to play a decisive role when she has completed her studies and goes in search of an attractive job in the fashion industry.

And while Annette thinks that a hospital uniform is a splendid challenge, her dream is still to land a job with one of the leading Danish fashion design houses in Copenhagen:

“We shall see,” she grins, before returning to studied consideration of which material is the optimal choice for a hospital uniform.

Companies consolidate activities in the crisis

Kaffe’s autumn 2009 collection offers a mix of patterns, artistic prints, new silhouettes and mystery.

Kaffe’s autumn 2009 collection offers a mix of patterns, artistic prints, new silhouettes and mystery.

Photo: Bruuns Bazaar

Danish fashion companies are preparing for the future by consolidating activities. They are keeping their own brands to appear externally as different companies, but share back-office infrastructure. Thereby they reduce costs without relinquishing their brands

By Anne Klejlsgård Hansen

The financial crisis has made it harder for Danish fashion companies to generate earnings, and a clear picture is emerging of an industry that will have fewer, but larger, players. Costs must be cut but design must continue to blossom, is the industry’s mantra.

“Many of the smaller companies have tended to focus on design at the expense of business, so a number of them have not capitalised on the awareness they have created for their design. But the crisis is forcing them to change,” says Michael Hillmose, export manager in the trade association Danish Fashion and Textile.

The trend is for larger fashion companies to acquire or enter partnerships with smaller companies which already have a known brand, but which have not yet managed to translate it into a cost-effective business.

“The global economic crisis has undoubtedly sparked this trend, but I am certain that when the crisis has passed, it will prove to have been the right course. With larger units, companies can cut costs by sharing administrative procedures, production facilities and sales channels,” says Michael Hillmose, who is convinced that the Danish fashion industry as a whole will be in a stronger position after the crisis than it was before.

In recent years, Danish fashion companies have catwalked their way onto the international fashion scene, where names such as Munthe + Simonsen, Day Birger Mikkelsen, Malene Birger, Baum und Pferdgarten and Bruuns Bazaar have found fame beyond Denmark’s borders.

It has typically been clothes for the upper middle segment, where the focus has been on creating classic, practical clothes with a modern twist.

The fashion industry is currently Denmark’s fourth largest export business.

Great expectations of partnerships

One of the smaller fashion companies to have joined forces with a larger player, is Karen By Simonsen, created by the designer Karen Simonsen who has joined DK Company. She was formerly half of the well-known designer duo Munthe + Simonsen. At the start of the new millennium, the company was riding on a wave of success, but didn’t succeed in translating the great attention and satisfactory revenues into results on the bottom line. At times, the company was under heavy financial pressure.

“I have been in the industry for 15 years, and I know that business is as important as design in making an enterprise work. And by having a strong partner, I get more time and energy for the creative process, which is the core of my company,” says Karen Simonsen.

Karen By Simonsen is only one year old, and Karen Simonsen has great expectations that the partnership with DK Company will strengthen her expansion opportunities.

“By exploiting the channels that DK Company has, both in relation to production and sales, I can reduce my costs and so offer a design product at a price which most will find affordable,” she says.

Karen By Simonsen’s motto is “Luxury for less”, the aim being to exploit the gap in the market which according to Karen Simonsen has emerged because of the financial crisis.

“In many places, high-end products are having a difficult time at the moment, but I believe that people would still like to have luxury – they just don’t want to pay quite as much for it,” she says.

Focus on costs

According to DK Company, which in recent years has acquired a number of hard-pressed smaller fashion companies, it is especially the lack of focus on costs which has made life difficult for these firms.

“Many have focused 80 per cent on design and branding and only 20 per cent on the bottom line. We have seen several examples of smaller companies spending more than EUR 130,000 on developing a catalogue,” says Jens Obel, managing director of Kaffe Clothing, the section of DK Company that has partnered with Karen Simonsen.

“We have great expectations of Karen Simonsen. She is a great designer, and she has a strong brand. So with the right business sparring she can become a major international name,” says Jens Obel.

DK Company has activities in 24 countries, and although the financial crisis is continuing, the company still has sizeable growth ambitions.

Bruuns Bazaar, which designs classic clothes of high quality for the upper middle segment, has also used the crisis to hit the acquisition trail: this summer it acquired Danish fashion firm Baum und Pferdgarten. Bruuns Bazaar’s creative director Bjørn Bruun makes no secret of the fact that more acquisitions could be on the way.

“We have probably run our company slightly more conservatively than many others, and that gives us some opportunities now. So we are keeping an eye on what is happening in the market, and whether there are other companies that can be interesting to us,” says Bjørn Bruun.

He emphasises however that Bruuns Bazaar is very choosy, and that acquisitions require extensive analysis.

“A partnership is like a marriage. It’s not all plain sailing, and it is important to do your research properly before you plunge into it,” he says.

Elegance and simplicity in Bruuns Bazaar’s autumn 2009 collection.

Elegance and simplicity in Bruuns Bazaar’s autumn 2009 collection.

Photo: Kaffe Company.

Alignment of expectations

Michael Hillmose of Danish Fashion and Textile concurs that it is very important to agree on the premises for collaboration. He has seen several examples of different expectations from the two parties destroying a company.

“It is no use if the designer wants to make haute couture, and the export manager wants inexpensive T-shirts. We have seen a few examples of a designer/ entrepreneur being very unhappy about someone going in and interfering with ’their brainchild’,” he says.

He emphasises however that both parties can emerge stronger from a collaboration if they make sure of having clear guidelines from the beginning.

And it is exactly these clear guidelines that have been essential in the collaboration between Karen Simonsen and DK Company, and between Baum und Pferdgarten and Bruuns Bazaar.

“We shouldn’t change each other, but supplement each other so that both parties are strengthened. It is important that each company keeps its own brand and appears as one company externally,” says Jens Obel of DK Company.

Michael Hillmose believes this strategy is correct.

“It is essential that Danish fashion companies have a clear profile if they are to do well abroad. And I think we will see that companies will be forced to pare down to their core product, and that it will actually strengthen them after the crisis,” he says.

He predicts that Danish fashion companies’ work with sustainable and intelligent textiles will strengthen their position internationally.

Intelligent textiles gain ground

Intelligent textiles are gaining ground all over the world, and Focus Denmark puts the spotlight on three Danish designers and companies working in this area

By Anne Klejsgård Hansen

Astrid Krogh, textile designer: Curtains with integrated solar cells

Textile designer Astrid Krogh’s latest product, a curtain with integrated solar cells, is certainly topical in the current climate debate. The curtain uses solar radiation to create heat, thereby reducing a building’s climate impact and its owner’s heating bill.

The curtain is planned to be available in shops in 2010, at a price roughly on a par with ordinary curtains.

Astrid Krogh has developed the curtain in collaboration with the National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy at the Technical University of Denmark (Risø DTU), which has contributed its comprehensive knowledge of plastic solar cells that enable exploitation of the sun’s energy in an inexpensive and efficient way.

The curtains were presented for the first time at an exhibition in the Danish Design Centre in autumn 2009.


 ANKY, underwear firm: Children´s clothes with integrated UV protection

The Danish underwear company ANKY, which has been covering requirements in this area since 1916, has seriously moved into intelligent textiles with its latest product. ANKY has introduced a new clothing range with integrated UV protection for children.

Because although most of us think that we protect ourselves against the sun’s harmful rays by wearing T-shirts and shorts, this is far from the case. An ordinary cotton T-shirt lets through 90 percent of the sun’s UV radiation, and that can especially harmful to children who spend many hours in the sun.

The clothes are produced from a newly developed elastic polyester that is Oeko-Tex certified, which means that no harmful substances have been used in its manufacture. The polyester consists of many very fine yarns, which have been woven so that they lie criss-crossed in several layers, thereby excluding 98 per cent of UV radiation.

Read more on (in Danish only)

 Fibertex, textile company: Nanotech nappies

Since the 1970s, textile company Fibertex has specialised in nonwoven textiles. In recent years, nanotechnology has come to play a major role in the company, which they are using to develop the perfect nappy.

Fibertex is collaborating with Aalborg University and Aarhus University to make surfaces even more water-repellent using nanotechnology than is possible using chemical methods. It requires looking on a nanoscale level at a material’s surface and then modifying its topography.

Fibertex gained inspiration from the leaves of the lotus, which are amazingly water-repellent. This is because the leaves have a waxy surface, and also because their structure is far more uneven than the unaided eye can see.

The plan is to make two nanofiber layers in the super-nappy. The top layer will lead the urine safely down into the nappy, and the bottom layer will ensure that it stays there.

The super-nappy is expected to be launched in a few years.



Star of the waves

Just off Denmark’s windswept North Sea coast, a giant robot-like structure towers above the waves. It is the latest addition to Danish wave power development

By Annemarie Zinck

Since 2006, Wave Star Energy’s 1:10 scale wave power machine has been under test in the coastal waters of Nissum Bredning in northern Denmark. It has survived 15 storms, a unique achievement in international wave energy research. But the storms in Nissum Bredning are not severe enough for the ultimate test of Wave Star Energy’s machine.

So in September 2009, a 1:2 scale research section of the wave power machine was installed outside the fishing port of Hanstholm on one of the stormiest stretches of Denmark’s west coast. Followed with great zeal by both the press and the local population, the machine’s four supporting pillars were set in concrete at a water depth of seven metres.

The building of the machine at a shipyard in Poland began in April 2008 with a view to installing it by August 2009, before the autumn storms set in. But building was delayed. And strange as it may seem, the giant machine which needs waves to produce electricity can only be installed in completely calm weather.

Doubts as to whether the installation would succeed were so acute that Wave Star Energy tried to escape press attention, because as the technical director Laurent Marquis expresses it:

”We didn’t want pictures of a capsized machine circulating around the world.”

But on the day itself the sea was mirror calm and the installation passed off without a hitch.

Hanstholm’s new icon arrives in calm conditions on 18 September 2009.

Hanstholm’s new icon arrives in calm conditions on 18 September 2009.

Photo: Wave Star Energy

The Wave Star machine awaits connection to the mainland. A section of the gangway is complete.

The Wave Star machine awaits connection to the mainland. A section of the gangway is complete.

Photo: Wave Star Energy

Well protected against storms

Focus Denmark’s visit to the machine takes place on an autumn day when conditions are anything but mirror calm. The sea is grey and turbulent, clouds race across the sky, and not even the pier leading out to the machine is a safe area. So there is no opportunity to see the interesting machine up close.

But there is lots of activity on the beach by the pier. Sparks are flying around a couple of welders who are building a gangway, which when completed will be raised several metres above the tallest waves to enable visitors to get to the machine even in windy weather. Part of the gangway is completed, but it ends suddenly, some height above the pier.

Despite the lack of access to the machine, the welders are not alone on the beach. Windswept tourists are snapping away with their cameras and mobiles.

The Wave Star machine has been developed by two yachting enthusiasts. Their interest in both the sea and renewable energy gave them the idea for the machine, which slightly resembles a centipede. Each leg is a float that moves up and down with the waves. The movements drive pistons which force oil through
a hydraulic system, which runs a pump, which in turn drives a generator. The power output from the machine increases with the size of floats and wave height.

Photos: Annemarie Zinck

In stormy weather, the entire machine is lifted 10 metres above the surface of the sea, so that only the supporting pillars take the force of the waves. The machine is thus well protected against the destructive power of the sea. The floats were raised during Focus Denmark’s visit. Not because the waves were too high,
but because the concrete that the pillars are set in needs to be completely cured before the floats are lowered into the waves.

How does the power scale with the size of the machine?

The 1:10 scale wave power machine in Nissum Bredning is 24 metres long with 40 floats, each 1 metre in diameter, and operates in a water depth of 2 metres. In 0.5 metre waves (Hs = significant wave height. Measured as the average of 30% of the highest waves) the power output is 1.8 kW.

The 1:2 scale wave power machine (of which a section is now installed in Hanstholm) will be 70 metres long with 20 floats, each 5 metres in diameter, and will operate in a water depth of 10 metres. In 2.5 metre waves (Hs) the power output is 550 kW.

The 1:1 scale wave power machine will be 140 metres long with 20 floats, each 10 metres in diameter, and will operate in a water depth of 20 metres. In 5 metre waves (Hs) the power output will be 6 MW.

A 1.5:1 scale wave power machine would be 220 metres long with 20 floats, each 15 metres in diameter, and would operate in a water depth of 30 metres. In 7.5 metre waves (Hs) the power output would be 24 MW.

Towards the optimal machine

The 1:2 scale machine at Hanstholm has been built as a full section of the final machine, but has only two floats. The first commercial machine, expected to be ready in 2011, will be 70 metres long with 20 floats – 10 on each side – each float being 5 metres in diameter.

The primary test areas for the research section are mechanical reliability, including whether the machine can withstand severe storms, and energy production per float. In addition, various types of paint are being tested on the floats. It is important that the paint does not attract algae and crustaceans, and that the floats are easy to clean. The materials used for the construction of the machine itself are also being tested for weather resistance.

The path to creating the optimal machine is long, expensive and full of tests. The optimal Wave Star machine, i.e. the full scale version, will be 140 metres long and will have 20 floats, each 10 metres in diameter. Wave Star Energy hopes that a test section of this machine can be ready by 2015. This will be placed far out at sea; so it is now, while tests are being carried out close to land, that one has the chance to enjoy the sight of the machine from the beach.

The greatest challenges are to produce sufficient electricity to bring the price per kWh below the price for wind power, and to produce enough machines to get production costs as low as possible. Wave Star Energy’s objective is to tackle these challenges within 10 or 15 years.

Aalborg University in Denmark has been involved in several Danish wave energy projects. One of the university’s experts in wave energy is Peter Frigaard, who heads the Department of Civil Engineering.

Visit the machine

The machine is in operation in the North Sea off Hanstholm. It is located 300 metres offshore at a water depth of 7 metres. The machine can be viewed from the beach, or in calm weather from the pier that leads out to the machine, and is already an attraction for both locals and tourists.

Click ’500 kw test version’ to see movie about the installation.

”Wave Star Energy is today one of the most serious players worldwide in wave energy. The Wave Star machine is a solid product which will definitely have major potential if and when the breakthrough for the wave energy sector comes,” he comments.

According to Peter Frigaard, further development will however require political support, as was the case for Danish wind turbine development.

Wind and waves in harmony

In the lyme grass by the beach, three wind turbines are whirring. Today, power comes from wind rather than waves, but the hope is that in the future, both can produce energy side by side. Wind and wave power supplement each other well, with wave power machines being physically suited to being placed between large offshore wind turbines.

Wind turbines and wave power machines can share many functions such as cabling, foundations, transformer stations and servicing, so there is money to be saved by taking a comprehensive approach to the two energy forms.

Wave Star Energy is collaborating with Denmark’s largest energy company, DONG Energy, on placing a further demonstration machine in one of the large offshore wind farms off Denmark’s west coast. The machine will be a complete 1:2 scale version (70 metres long with 10 floats on each side) and is expected to be ready in 2011.

Design award to a giant centipede

Efficient and good looking to boot! The next Wave Star machine looks like a huge white centipede – 120 metres long and with a capacity of 500 kW to 1 MW. The first wave power machine in the award-winning design will be installed in the North Sea in 2012. The award is given to CBD Design for creating a design that is highly functional and at the same time pleasing to the eye.

One of the key factors when designing wave power machines, apart from being non-abrasive visually, is toughness. The machines must be able to survive the extreme conditions of life at sea.

Wave Star Energy was nominated for “its highly original and striking sculptural design of a wave power machine, which in one single image symbolises and clarifies the huge potential of this renewable energy resource. Its technological qualities aside, the wave power machine constitutes a beautiful pendant to the clear form expression of the modern wind turbine.”

Model of the award-winning Wave Star machine.

Model of the award-winning Wave Star machine.

Photo CBD Design

Do you remember the windmill family?

In the June 2009 issue we brought an article about the Jeppesen family and their windmill. Now you can see the machine and hear an interview with Hans Christian Jeppesen on (LINK will be put it when I get it from Sophie)

In the family’s back garden stands a wind turbine – a Danish produced household wind turbine – which generates almost twice as much electricity as the whole family needs. And quite a lot is needed because in addition to Hans Christian Jeppesen, the family consists of his wife and five children. The wind turbine was installed in autumn 2008 and cost the family a total of DKK 310,000 (EUR 42,000), which they reckon will be recovered in seven or eight years. The wind turbine has a service life of 20 years. The family has calculated that it will save the environment about 20 tons of CO2 annually.

Watch the video:

Photo: Suna Borgaard


ColdCall specialises in B2B meeting booking in Denmark and Sweden as well as international enterprises wanting to gain a foothold in these two markets.

The company takes the sales budget the customers plan and turns it into reality by means of professional meeting booking involving the organisations they want to do business with. In the concept “Pipeline Management” ColdCall undertakes all phases until the relevant meetings are in the bag.

The team consists of mature people with strong backgrounds in training and commerce in the industries with which they work.

At the time of writing, these are mainly:

  • IT
  • Technical advice
  • Advertising / PR / Communication

When communicating with potential customers, ColdCall sets great store by a professional attitude that provides excellent opportunities for returning to them later if it has not come to a meeting in the short term. They never force meetings on customers but find the customers who are in the market and who want to place an order.

Just 10 minutes from the historical centre of Copenhagen, a new city district is rising. Copenhagen Business District has become both a perfect location for businesses and a highly attractive residential area. Employers as well as visitors benefit from the excellent business environment, which is part of the district of Ørestad.

Many companies located in Copenhagen Business District benefit from the great infrastructure of the area. Businesses located in Copenhagen Business District have quick and easy access to several means of transportation: The Metro and the local trains have numerous departures per hour, and the highway is only a minute away. Any modern company with visitors and staff who travel will benefit from the great infrastructure of the area.

The great location of Copenhagen Business District in the middle of the Øresund Region is also closely connected to the great opportunities of recruiting staff, which characterizes the area, too. Companies located in Copenhagen Business District have the opportunity of networking with both employers and students of the metropolitan area and the Øresund Region.

This may result in a positive spiral of recruitment of working capacity.

As Copenhagen Business District is a relatively new district, the premises are state-of-the-art and extremely flexible. A company located in Copenhagen Business District has the opportunity of adapting the premises to the needs of the company: the company will have space to grow in offices which reflect its values and identity.

Furthermore Copenhagen Business District offers the largest shopping and entertainment centre in Scandinavia, Field’s, with more than 140 retailers - 20 cafés and restaurants. The district also has more than 1.000 hotel rooms in the two brand new hotels, Crowne Plaza and CabInn.

Last, but not least, locating a company in Copenhagen Business District means that the company becomes an integrated part of a dynamic and international environment. It is an inspiring environment which hosts some of the most important consultancies, IT and pharmaceutical companies such as Ferring, Accenture, Novo, Atkins, Dell, Sandoz and Zurich.

P, Ernie & Enzo by Kit Kjølhede Laursen

The housing market crisis is abating

By chief economist Steen Bocian, Danske Bank

Just like the housing markets in many other countries, the Danish housing market has been in crisis for the last couple of years. Since the peak in 2007 prices for single-family houses have dropped by 15 % nationwide. And specifically for apartments in Denmark’s capital Copenhagen, there has been an overall price fall of 35 %.

There are several explanations for the precipitous price falls we have seen in recent years. Firstly, interest rates increased markedly from 2005 to the end of 2008; this has severely impacted the Danish housing market due to a very high loan to value ratio and an increasing use of variable interest mortgages. Secondly, unemployment has more than doubled since summer 2008, from 1.7% to 3.9%. Thirdly, house prices increased so significantly before the crisis that it naturally raises the question of whether there was a price bubble before the decline. It is impossible to say with certainty whether this was the case for the market as a whole, but in the case of owner-occupied apartments in Copenhagen, it is probably part of the explanation for the extraordinary price falls that have been seen.

In many countries, stricter lending conditions have also played a role in the decline of prices. Tightening of credit however plays a less important role in Denmark, since the Danish mortgage credit system is fairly resistant to financial crises. Access to loans has thus been reasonable despite the fact that banks and mortgage credit institutions have tightened their credit policy.

Looking at current developments in the housing market, there are strong indications that the crisis is abating. In the 3rd quarter this year, house prices decreased by just 0.8 % in relation to the 2nd quarter. Compared with the fall in house prices during the 1st and 2nd quarters of 4.3 % and 2.8 % respectively, it is clear that the decline in prices is slowing.

Looking at price movements regionally, house prices have actually started to rise in metropolitan areas, while they are still falling in the provinces – an indication that the declining prices, which have been greatest in the metropolitan areas, have largely brought supply and demand into equilibrium.

More important, however, is that interest rates have decreased very significantly in the last year. The rate for short housing loans – with interest fixed for one year – has declined from 5.2 to 2%, while the rate for the more important (in a credit context) fixed-rate loans has declined from 6.5 to 5.25. The Danish housing market is highly sensitive to interest rate changes. Economic models show that a general fall in interest rate of one percentage point raises house prices by 8-9%. So there is no doubt that the Danish housing market is currently receiving artificial respiration.

The low level of interest rates currently being seen is not a permanent situation; there is a prospect of an increase in the coming years. But it is likely that the Danish central bank, led by the ECB, will be very cautious when they start normalising interest rates. The central banks have to take due note that the financial sector and European economies are still vulnerable – so there is no prospect of significant interest rate rises in the next couple of years. But sooner or later, the housing market must adjust to a higher interest rate level. When that happens, there is a risk of a renewed downturn in the housing market. How bad that might end up being will largely depend on whether Danish market conditions improve before interest rates rise. If market conditions improve, then the rise can be absorbed without a significant price fall – but there is a real risk that the market improvement is only of a temporary nature.

In Danske Bank’s view, there is no doubt that the housing market is vulnerable. If you are thinking of buying residential property in Denmark, there is no need to rush due to concerns over price developments. If you are selling, there is still a need for patience. There are many residential properties for sale – so you have to be realistic about the sale price and accept that it can take time to sell your house or apartment.

But that said, there is some cause for joy that the worst of the housing market crisis is apparently behind us.


The first FOCUS DENMARK of 2010 will be published earlier than usual

– at the end of February, and accompanied by a ZOOMING IN supplement Read among many other things about:


The Danish cleantech industry is developing rapidly – and test centres for green technologies are sprouting like mushrooms all over Denmark.


The country has hosted some major events in 2009: Outgames in July, the IOC Congress in October, and COP15 in December. Denmark has demonstrated that it is a well-organised conference destination, with top class accommodation, conference facilities and security.


Examines the hub of ideas from NGOs, companies, researchers and others, in the wake of COP15.


It’s not only the Danish football team that will be going to the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The turf on the pitches will also come from Denmark. Focus Denmark takes a close look at the company that makes the grass grow.


Denne side er Hele publikationen med grafik til publikationen "FOCUS DENMARK 04/2009".
Version nr. 1.0 af 16-12-2009
Publikationen kan findes på adressen


  ©2009 Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark |