Sustainable construction in Greenland

Adapting sustainable construction methods to climatic conditions in Greenland

Publiceret 20-04-2023

In Greenland, they are currently updating their climate policy goals and principles for sustainability in the construction sector. However, their distinct climatic and geographical conditions pose major challenges to adopting sustainable construction methods from the Nordics.

Issues such as resource scarcity, the weather, lack of reuse as well as global climate changes complicate the way towards sustainable construction in Greenland.

“Climate change poses major challenges and affects the buildings with serious consequences for durability and the indoor climate. When the permafrost melts under buildings and homes, their supporting foundation sinks. This can lead to serious consequences for society and residents,” Mati Frederiksen, Head of Building Authorities at the Government of Greenland, explains. But this does not discourage their work:

“As a society, we must adapt construction methods to local climatic conditions and take the environment into account by building sustainably with energy consumption and the life cycle of building materials in mind.”

Resource scarcity

Besides global climate changes, Greenland faces severe resource scarcity. Due to their climatic and geographical conditions, trees do not grow. So even though they have extensive experience with wooden house construction, they are forced to import wood and all other building materials from the Nordic countries.

“We are experienced in building load-bearing structures, facades and entire house constructions in wood. But we do not have suitable natural resources for building materials other than sand, stone and water for small productions of concrete elements”, Mati states.

The production of concrete elements in Greenland is relatively new and primarily project based for construction of youth housing and dormitories for students. However, the projects have shown to be profitable, and the choice of concrete ensures good work environment conditions, shorter construction time, a better time management of the construction phases in relation to seasons and a lower maintenance cost once built.

Reuse and waste

Another issue is the lack of reuse of building materials and waste management.

“Virtually none of the building materials or building parts from demolished buildings are currently reused, and all construction waste ends up as landfill or is incinerated. Currently, we are working to establish a national waste solution, where we will transport all waste to two waste incineration plants in Nuuk and Sisimiut,” Mati Frederiksen, who hopes for a large amount of reuse of building materials in the future, says.

Looking towards the Nordic countries

Even though Greenland’s goals of sustainable construction need to be considered according to their climatic and geographical conditions, the goals are similar to the sustainability goals in the other Nordic countries. Therefore, they look for inspiration in the Nordic countries:

“In Greenland we are probably 5-10 years behind the Nordics in terms of sustainable construction, circular construction and introduction of LCA in construction. However, we strive to follow from the side lines, monitor what is going on in the other Nordic countries and make use of the experience gained,” Mati concludes.