We sat down with Chief Real Estate Officer Lars Birch from DTU Science Park to talk about the science park’s sustainability goals, how these benefits the companies in the science park, and the challenges of balancing a growing science park and having sustainable goals.
Sustainability needs to be an integral part of a company’s strategy
As the largest science park in Denmark, with more than 300 deep tech companies and 4,500 employees who go to work every day, Lars Birch is very aware that DTU Science Park has a responsibility in terms of making more sustainable choices.
“We need to look at ourselves and ensure that sustainability becomes an integral part of our overall strategy – in other words, becomes part of our DNA – and across all our lines of businesses from acceleration to shared services, community and facility management,” Lars Birch says.
“It’s not a simple or easy process. We need to take one step at a time, so we don’t bite off more than we can chew. Currently, we are working on qualifying for a DGNB gold certification, ensuring that we systematically address 400+ parameters.”
To achieve the DGNB gold certification, DTU Science Park has established a sustainability department. Their responsibility is to run the entire DGNB certification process in terms of collecting and documenting data and initiating a wide variety of sustainability projects. They also offer dialogue and sparring to companies in the science park who are in the process of working with sustainable perspectives in their businesses.
The first in Denmark with a DGNB Gold business district certification
DGNB is a certification system with a holistic approach to sustainability, focusing on buildings and urban districts. In 2021, DTU Science Park embarked on the DGNB certification process in collaboration with third-party consultants from Rambøll.
What is DGNB?
DGNB is an internationally recognised certification system that origins from “Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen”.
It is an ambitious and prestigious certification system that measures sustainability on more than 400 parameters within five main dimensions: social, economic, environmental, technical and processes. DGNB is the leading certification system for buildings and urban districts and is operated, adapted and further developed by Rådet for Bæredygtigt Byggeri. A DGNB certification is an independent third-party certification and is regarded as a quality stamp on the sustainability of a project, building or area (business, city or campus).
In 2025, DTU Science Park aims to be the first in Denmark with a DGNB gold business district certification. Gold is the second-highest achievement within DGNB.
“The DGNB gold stamp has a two-sided purpose. Firstly, it is a future-proof system that ensures we continually and systematically improve on many sustainability parameters. Secondly, we can document that we are working on becoming a more sustainable science park. Working with sustainability will change the way we interact with stakeholders, e.g. customers or investors, but we will also set new requirements and demands towards, for example, suppliers. Overall, we need to be responsible and, e.g. focus on our interaction and impact on the value chain,” Lars Birch states.
What’s in it for the companies?
Having the most important stakeholders – the companies in the science park – involved in the sustainability journey is important for Lars Birch, as he expects that a DGNB certification will be beneficial for the companies in the science park. He believes that a DGNB stamp will showcase that the companies are part of a science park that holistically is working on becoming more sustainable by making more sustainable choices. Lars Birch hopes that a DGNB gold certification will give the companies a competitive advantage in their dealings with customers, investors, and other stakeholders, as well as positively impact their CSR or ESG reporting.
But DTU Science Park is also exploring ways to support the companies in the science park with their sustainability agendas. One approach is through the GreenUP Accelerator programme, which focuses on assisting CO2-reducing startups in developing their products and scaling their businesses.
Additionally, DTU Science Park is keen to learn from established companies with considerable experience working with sustainability to ensure knowledge sharing amongst the companies in the science park.
Balancing growth and sustainability
Despite recent years with one crisis after another, DTU Science Park is experiencing that companies in the science park are growing and expanding. This is a positive development but with challenges as it puts new demands on DTU Science Park to build new and renovate existing facilities. Because how do you balance growth and expansion with sustainability?
“We are very aware that this is a challenge we need to tackle. That is why we last year developed a new local spatial plan with Rudersdal Municipality coupled with our current process of gaining a DGNB certification. We need to look into how we build and renovate to make the least possible footprint combined with a focus on more shared services and facilities. Simply said, we need to build and renovate smarter, and we are on the way,” Lars Birch concludes.