Copenhagen Lessons


The UIA World Congress of Architects, held in Copenhagen (Denmark) on 2-6 July 2023 concluded with the “Copenhagen Lessons”. These are 10 principles for a rapid and radical change in the built environment to reach the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Congress demonstrated that the architectural solutions are already here, contributing to sustainable communities and quality of life. However, the built environment is also an active part of the current challenges: a major consumer of energy and natural resources, and a producer of waste – and it can have a huge impact on both inequality and public health. The construction industry alone accounts for 40% of global CO2 emissions and 35% of total waste, which calls for urgent action.

“The Sustainable Development Goals define a crucial global agenda, which the built environment must contribute to. How we act on this must be bold – even radical, compared with current practice. With “The Copenhagen Lessons”, we present 10 principles for what that means when we construct, plan and develop the built environment. The health of the planet and basic human needs are on the line, we have no time to waste,” stated Natalie Mossin, Congress President.

10 principles to build on: 

01. Dignity and agency for all people is fundamental in architecture, there is no beauty in exclusion.


02. People at risk of being left behind must be accommodated first when we construct, plan, and develop the built environment.


03. Existing built structures must always be reused first.


04. No new development must erase green fields.


05. Naturel ecosystems and food production must be sustained regardless of the built context. 


06. No virgin mineral material must be used in construction when reuse is possible. 


07. No waste must be produced or left behind in construction.


08. When sourcing materials for construction, local renewable materials come first.


09. In everything we build, carbon capture must exceed carbon footprint.


10. When developing, planning, and constructing the built environment, every activity must have a positive impact on water ecosystems and clean water supply.