Editorial Feature

A Review of Bioclimatic Architecture Strategies in Denmark

A new study published in the journal Buildings reviews Denmark’s current passive heating strategies and examines the suitability of such measures for the design of a future building.

Study: Bioclimatic Architecture Strategies in Denmark: A Review of Current and Future Directions. Image Credit: natalia gh/Shutterstock.com

The average temperatures of European and Nordic countries have been rising since the pre-industrial period, and they are expected to increase even more. The rise in annual average temperature reduces a building’s demand for heating, especially during winters.

However, increasing average temperatures, more recurrent heatwaves, and nights with more than 20 °C will also increase the requirement for cooling to fulfill the thermal comfort of occupants.

The consequent enhanced cooling energy is at odds with the current effort of the EU to gain climate neutrality. Hence, the requirement for actions to counteract such climate effects is obvious.

This paper reviews Denmark’s current passive heating strategies and examines the suitability of such measures for the design of a future building. Further, the result of the study is complemented by analyzing 25 bioclimatic architecture-based building design projects in Denmark to offer an understanding of the real application of the strategies identified in the ongoing practice of building design.

In such a process, the bioclimatic architecture is mainly characterized by detecting the passive heating and cooling strategies. Then, for each passive strategy, search keywords are mentioned and employed to perform the systematic literature study. After which, the bioclimatic strategies implemented in the 25 actual building projects are defined and examined, and finally, the findings are presented and discussed.

Bioclimatic architecture is the design of a building that is made suitable to the local climate with passive strategies in order to gain a favorable indoor environmental quality with the least energy consumption possible.

Strategies might involve passive heating, which is heat retention and heat admission, and passive cooling, which is heat exclusion and heat dissipation, in a bioclimatic context. An outline of the passive cooling and heating strategies is illustrated in Figure 1. The passive strategies are further overviewed, and keywords for consequent literature searches are obtained.

Bioclimatic architecture strategies—passive cooling and passive heating. Based on information obtained from Košir, extended using Lechner and La Roche.

Figure 1. Bioclimatic architecture strategies—passive cooling and passive heating. Based on information obtained from Košir, extended using Lechner and La Roche. Image Credit: Bugenings and Kamari, 2022

After the analysis of the site analysis and local climate conditions, the first step in passive solar design is to identify the building’s orientation. Attention must be given to on-site shading or other aspects, like transparent areas, building shape, or insulation levels that will impact design stages later (see Figure 2).

Building orientation (left) and space zoning (right).

Figure 2. Building orientation (left) and space zoning (right). Image Credit: Bugenings and Kamari, 2022

Defining the shape of a building is a key part of the initial design process. This comprises the compactness and aspect ratio of the buildings. The more compact a building gets, the lesser the heat losses and vice versa (see Figure 3).

Building massing—level of compactness

Figure 3. Building massing—level of compactness. Image Credit: Bugenings and Kamari, 2022

The thermal mass of the building can store or expel heat. Hence, it can be used for both passive heating and cooling. In addition to conventional building materials, phase-change materials (PCM) could be employed to enhance the thermal mass of a building (see Figure 4).

Thermal mass—heavy (left) and light construction (right)

Figure 4. Thermal mass—heavy (left) and light construction (right). Image Credit: Bugenings and Kamari, 2022

One of the important strategies to avoid heat losses is thermal insulation. In temperate and cold climates, previous and current legislation has been concerned to decrease the demand for heating by insulating and air tightening the thermal envelope. It, thus, achieves a low heat transfer coefficient (U)—a measure for the heat loss per area of particular building components (Figure 5).

Thermal insulation

Figure 5. Thermal insulation. Image Credit: Bugenings and Kamari, 2022

Employing solar radiation is the easiest method to heat the building. It can be done indirectly when a Trombe wall or a sunspace is heated up, and warm air is made to circulate through the building (see Figure 6).

Direct and indirect gains—glazing (left), sunspace (middle), and solar/Trombe wall (right).

Figure 6. Direct and indirect gains—glazing (left), sunspace (middle), and solar/Trombe wall (right). Image Credit: Bugenings and Kamari, 2022

Dedicated shading tools are categorized into fixed and moveable shading defined by the color, the material used, and the position that is relative to the opening (see Figure 7).

Solar shading—F.L.T.R. Vegetation, overhang, fixed horizontal slats, external venetian blind, external screen, and internal venetian blind

Figure 7. Solar shading—F.L.T.R. Vegetation, overhang, fixed horizontal slats, external venetian blind, external screen, and internal venetian blind. Image Credit: Bugenings and Kamari, 2022

When the indoors is too warm, eventually compromising comfort, the air circulating near the occupants might be raised. This can be performed with natural ventilation techniques, usually divided into cross and stack ventilation, single-sided, and windcatchers/wind towers (see Figure 8).

Natural ventilation—single-sided ventilation (left), cross ventilation (middle) and stack ventilation (right).

Figure 8. Natural ventilation—single-sided ventilation (left), cross ventilation (middle) and stack ventilation (right). Image Credit: Bugenings and Kamari, 2022

With relatively stable temperatures, the soil might provide a cooling and heating likelihood for a building. Eventually, earth sheltering could cut off outside air infiltration, offer extra thermal resistance, and decrease solar and convective heat gains (see Figure 9).

Conductive heat exchange

Figure 9. Conductive heat exchange. Image Credit: Bugenings and Kamari, 2022

Here, the concrete serves as a sink, cooling the building. Rather than concrete, water bags could also be used (see Figure 10).

Radiative cooling—day (left) and night (right)

Figure 10. Radiative cooling—day (left) and night (right). Image Credit: Bugenings and Kamari, 2022

The technique functions suitably well in hot and dry climates, whereas its efficiency is reduced in humid and cold climates owing to the already increased water saturation of the air (see Figure 11).

Evaporative cooling

Figure 11. Evaporative cooling. Image Credit: Bugenings and Kamari, 2022


Firstly, a literature review is performed to offer an outline of already investigated passive strategies in Denmark. Secondly, a collection of Danish building projects using passive strategies is presented. The literature review findings aim to present an all-inclusive outline of all existing investigations, whereas the presentation of the Danish building projects shows data only from a selection of past years.

Additionally, a citation search of the associated publications was performed. The search is documented with the upgraded PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) flowchart. For every search of a passive strategy, one PRISMA diagram was formed. Figure 12 illustrates one such example.

Example PRISMA diagram for keywords “orientation”, “building layout,” and “space zoning”.

Figure 12. Example PRISMA diagram for keywords “orientation”, “building layout,” and “space zoning”. Image Credit: Bugenings and Kamari, 2022

Only the bioclimatic architectural factors that are specified within the explanation of the project are established. All projects are defined by the keywords.


A total of 49 (from 52 different investigations) publications were identified to be relevant for the examination of Denmark’s bioclimatic architectural strategies.

The reviewed strategies included thermal insulation, thermal mass, and natural ventilation as the most studied passive strategies, and conductive heat and space zoning exchange as the least (Figure 13).

Comparison of the number of investigated and built passive strategies

Figure 13. Comparison of the number of investigated and built passive strategies. Image Credit: Bugenings and Kamari, 2022

Additionally, the review showed that the research interest in passive cooling began in 2007, just after the new Danish building regulations entered into force in 2006 (see Figure 14).

Number of publications per year

Figure 14. Number of publications per year. Image Credit: Bugenings and Kamari, 2022

A total of 25 building projects were reviewed. Space zoning was never examined but specified multiple times as a scheme for built projects. Building massing was examined in the urban context, where the considerable impact on energy consumption was shown.

For new buildings and renovations, windows were studied. Atria were applied for residential as well as non-residential buildings. On contrary, sunspaces were only implemented in residential buildings.

The solar shading effect was examined in terms of energy consumption and thermal comfort for office and residential buildings. Natural ventilation was among the most researched ones. Radiative cooling was researched along with unglazed solar collectors and photovoltaic/thermal panels.


This study showed an elaborate systematic review of theoretical studies examining bioclimatic architecture that is commonly used in the Danish climate, with an outline of 25 actual building projects present in Denmark. The result is that, in Denmark, almost all recognized passive strategies are employed, while the concentration is on passive heating strategies.

The studies about direct and indirect gains, which were investigated and applied mainly in residential buildings, will most probably give attention to attaining a balance between contributing to the reduction in heating demand and an increase in cooling demand.

They may be largely examined and implemented along with solar shading. In addition, their significance to residential buildings will remain the same as today’s, while the significance for non-residential buildings will remain low, as it is at present.

Although the literature search was performed to the best of the author’s knowledge, it would still have drawbacks that need to be recognized when this article into account. The search was performed in English, looking at publications written in English alone. As Denmark is the focus of this study, there is a possibility for identical investigations to be performed in Danish.

Journal Reference:

Bugenings, L. A. & Kamari, A. (2022) Bioclimatic Architecture Strategies in Denmark: A Review of Current and Future Directions. Buildings, 12(2), 224. Available online: https://www.mdpi.com/2075-5309/12/2/224/htm

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Skyla Baily

Written by

Skyla Baily

Skyla graduated from the University of Manchester with a BSocSc Hons in Social Anthropology. During her studies, Skyla worked as a research assistant, collaborating with a team of academics, and won a social engagement prize for her dissertation. With prior experience in writing and editing, Skyla joined the editorial team at AZoNetwork in the year after her graduation. Outside of work, Skyla’s interests include snowboarding, in which she used to compete internationally, and spending time discovering the bars, restaurants and activities Manchester has to offer!


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