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Energy efficiency in buildings

Geothermal energy


Harbour Houses

2. June 2022

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ADEPT focus on urban development and building architecture with an aim to push users, clients, profession and the world around us towards a deeper responsibility for the limited global resources. We design holistic and sustainable places, spaces and communities within a wide range of architectural scales - from urban planning and strategic development to building architecture, landscapes and public space.

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262 mixed social housing units for a wide range of residents – young people, families and elderly at the former container harbour in central Aarhus.

How to combine the need for affordable housing with the two contrasting scales of the inner harbour of Aarhus – on one side the large urban scale of the former container terminal with its tendency to iconic architecture and on the other the calm intimacy of the marina? And how to address this challenge while at the same time setting our own goal to design the complex as a zero-energy building addressing both social sustainability, loneliness and the use of resources?


Shared greenhouses on the roofs, large terraces overlooking Aarhus Bay and a protected green courtyard – the Harbour Houses break with both the massive scale of the harbour and the trend towards ‘iconic’ buildings in its surroundings. Clad in brick, the development is divided into smaller buildings, characterized by varying heights and subtle changes in façade expression, as well as different bonds and mortar patterns. The division of the building relates to the human scale and creates a sense of belonging for the individual. The sunny roof surfaces are arranged with greenhouses, common areas and seating terraces with views of the city, the forest and the bay. The remaining roofs are green surfaces that collect rainwater.

The Harbour Houses is a “zero energy” complex, which at the time of construction had the ambition to meet future energy requirements. Among the sustainable initiatives are thermal heating from 21 vertical and 150 m deep boreholes, hybrid panels combining solar panels and solar collectors, heat pumps and energy wells. Grey water is collected for recycling and accounts for almost 60% of the building’s water consumption. At the same time, the homes are built on a slim budget, which allows for low rents that help ensure a mixed group of residents to come together in one complex.



Location: Aarhus, Denmark
Client: Brabrand Boligforening
Program: Strategy and development plan
Size: 13.400 m2
Status: Completed 2015
Collaborators: Luplau Poulsen Arkitekter, Niras, Dansk Boligbyg

Harbour Houses