2024 Nordic Council Environment Prize to focus on sustainable construction

The focus of this year’s Nordic Council Environment Prize is sustainable construction, with a particular emphasis on transformative (also called adaptive) recyclable architecture and regenerative construction. 

“There are many exemplary instances of sustainable and climate-friendly construction throughout the Nordic Region. The adjudication committee for the Nordic Council Environment Prize hopes that the prize will help put these ventures on the map and contribute to the public debate on the importance of reducing the climate footprint of the construction industry,” says Hólmfríður Þorsteinsdóttir, chair of the adjudication committee for the Nordic Council Environment Prize. 

Construction currently accounts for around 40% of global CO2 emissions. In a time of an increased need for construction, this is an unsustainable situation. In the text describing this year’s theme, the adjudication committee stresses in particular the conditions that we’re going to pass onto future generations.

Read more about this year’s theme below.

Theme for 2024: Sustainable construction (click to read)

This year, the Nordic Council Environment Prize is highlighting sustainable construction, with a special emphasis on adaptive recyclable architecture and regenerative construction. We’re also accepting nominations for both buildings and infrastructure, as well as individuals or organisations. 

As the world’s population continues to grow, new homes and other buildings need to be built, claiming more and more land and natural resources. Construction currently accounts for around 40% of global CO2 emissions. This is unsustainable. In order to address climate change and halt the loss of biodiversity whilst providing future generations with essential conditions for their survival, such as access to clean water, food, and energy, we must change the way we build and live. 

In recent decades, sustainability within urban planning, architecture, and construction has emerged as a way to prevent the overexploitation of natural resources and environmental degradation, incorporating a wide spectrum of sustainability practices. However, new construction projects often aim no higher than making buildings less harmful. Considering that the limits of our planet are being exceeded in various areas, such an objective is insufficient. 

If we’re to achieve the climate and environmental goals of Agenda 2030 whilst promoting social and environmental sustainability, we simply cannot rely solely on building new and environmentally friendly structures. It isn’t enough to maintain the environmental status quo – we also need to reduce emissions, reuse materials, and contribute to renewable resources. Our perspective needs to undergo a fundamental rethink so that regulations and business models support this transformation. Adaptive recyclable architecture and regenerative construction need to be promoted. 

In adaptive recyclable architecture, the use of existing buildings is modified to suit new needs instead of demolishing them. 

Regenerative buildings are designed to minimise negative impacts on the ecosystem and achieve a net-positive effect on the natural environment. This means designing structures that not only use limited resources, but are also reusable. Circular value chains are incorporated from the very outset. Buildings are treated as part of a larger system where resources such as clean water, energy, and food are produced.

The adjudication committee for the Nordic Council Environment Prize hopes that the prize will help to put sustainable construction ventures on the map and contribute to the public debate on the importance of reducing the climate footprint of the construction industry.

Hólmfríður Þorsteinsdóttir, chair of the adjudication committee for the Nordic Council Environment Prize

Anyone can propose candidates

Nominations for the Nordic Council Environment Prize are now open. Anyone can put forward candidates for consideration. 

“We hope to see nominations that encompass individuals, local organisations, and large companies and projects which are prioritising sustainability and climate considerations in their work, either by experimenting with new ways to transform existing buildings and infrastructure, or by building regeneratively,” says Þorsteinsdóttir.

 

The deadline for nominating a candidate is Tuesday, 30 April 2024.

Who can be nominated? 

The prize is awarded to a Nordic individual, enterprise or organisation that has managed to integrate consideration for nature and the environment into its business or work in an exemplary way, or that has made an extraordinary positive contribution to nature and the environment in some other way. The winning entity must have a Nordic perspective and operate in the Nordic Region and/or in relation to parties outside of the Nordic Region. For this year’s theme, it is possible to nominate both buildings and infrastructure.

 

Previous winners

  • 2023 Renewcell (Sweden)
  • 2022 City of Mariehamn for Nabben wetland (Åland)
  • 2021 The Big Climate Database by the Concito think tank (Denmark)
  • 2020 Jens-Kjeld Jensen (Faroe Islands)
  • 2019 Greta Thunberg (Sweden) (chose to decline the prize)

The Nordic Council Environment Prize was first awarded in 1995 with the aim of raising awareness of work on the environment in the Nordic Region. The theme for the prize varies from year to year. In 2024, the theme is sustainable construction. The Nordic Council also awards literature prizes for both adult literature and children and young people’s literature, a music prize, and a film prize. The prize is worth DKK 300,000.