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Bold Businesses wanted for transformative Deep Retrofit – The CBS Student and Innovation House

By Kristjan Jespersen and Anne Marie Engtoft Larsen.

We live in times of change. Society is quickly evolving in every aspect, facing us with global ecological, economic, human and social challenges. To overcome these perils students must play a key role in formulating and developing the necessary solutions needed to curb these complex future challenges. Its is crucial that, during their studies, students are given the tools needed in a thriving, thought-provoking and ambitious framework in which they can question the status quo and develop world-class innovations with long lasting impact.

Why student engagement matters

The Copenhagen Business School (CBS) has a longstanding tradition of such student engagement. Students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels are actively engaged in various ways (internships, community service learning, entrepreneurship, student organisations, research, etc.) with many communities outside the campus. While many activities are formally initiated through university associations, the vast majority of activities are initiated independently. Students build upon the lessons learned in the classroom with such real-world experiences.

The quickly developing student initiative of creating the CBS Student and Innovation House (SIH) builds upon this already established momentum. Emerging from the vestiges of Frederiksberg’s old police station it wishes to solve the grand challenges of our time in a hitherto unseen collaboration between students, researchers, businesses and the public sector. It will challenge conventional thinking and give students the tools to translate their ideas into solutions while giving them the drive and courage needed to take responsibility for the positive transformation of the world we live in.
Central to the house is its engagement with sustainability as practices and outcomes. It aims to extend beyond narrow definitions and in the spirit of the house entail human and societal well being, as well as promoting sustainable practices in business, economics and society. It is intended to supplement existing activities with a set of specific programs to enable students to work with partners, to forge new initiatives and to inspire, support and promote sustainability activities both on and off campus.

The building

Names on the people in the picture are, from left to right, Anne Marie Larsen, Andreas Gjede, Jens Bonde, Christian Refshauge and Anne Katrine Vedstesen.
Names on the people in the picture are, from left to right, Anne Marie Larsen, Andreas Gjede, Jens Bonde, Christian Refshauge and Anne Katrine Vedstesen.

The foundation for the CBS Student and Innovation House is the 97 year old police station designed by the famous Danish architect Hack Kampmann’s, located in the heart of Copenhagen at Frederiksberg at Howitzvej 30. The building is a cultural and historical gem and forms part of an urban space with with a high architectural value. The building has more than 3,100 m2 plus an inward yard and large basement. The beautiful square with the water fountain and the  two colonnades in front of the house creates a peaceful space and ceremonial welcome. From the outside the building represents the students’ great grandparents’ traditional Danish resource: craftsmanship, while on the inside the building will be a testimony of today’s proud Danish resource: creative and smart minds, who dares to think innovatively and challenge conventional thinking.

Building this vessel will be no small feat. The students have to-date raised 52.5 million DKK and they have framed the project as a living laboratory for sustainability.

SIH – an interconnecting test bed for sustainability and innovation

SIH will treat this deep-retrofit project as an opportunity to implement, test, research, and teach sustainability, and in that way contribute directly to the significant transitions required to reach a sustainable future. The unique focus of the SIH’s approach would be its emphasis on the behavioural and business dimensions of the sustainability components and innovative approach to collaboration between private and public stakeholders and students.

To this end, the students propose a retrofit project that supports its sustainability objectives by:

  • Produces a world-renowned building project, that
  • Operates at the frontier of sustainability,
  • Is net positive in both human-well-being and environmental outcomes,
  • Produces a world-renowned building project, that operates at the frontier of sustainability,
  • Is net positive in both human-well-being and environmental outcomes,
  • Contributes directly to the health, productivity and subjective wellbeing of everyone in the buildings, and that
  • Directly supports and is reflected in the social innovation and community engagement activities that go on in the building and the campus community, including
  • An ongoing monitoring and social science research program, that offers the opportunity to implement, test, and teach sustainability,
  • A specific focus on the analysis of behaviour change,
  • The encouragement of innovation for societal benefit,
  • A strong focus on breaking down silos between students, faculty and society,
  • Partnerships with firms and organizations interested in sustainable building and neighbourhoods, that offer the capacity to build a regional scale living lab that focuses on the role of the business sector in the sustainability transition.
  • Exploring possible ways for integrating students drive and commitment in more informal learning ways, such as extracurricular projects, informal collaboration with researchers along with the possibility of internships and for-credit engagement with both on-campus and off-campus partners.

Invitation for collaboration

This project, however, cannot happen without the vision and mission of forward thinking companies, civil society organizations and municipalities desiring to push the limits of sustainability. The SIH calls on the builders, the technology providers, the municipalities, the consultants, the green building civil-society, the innovators and the start-ups to come together and devise the most innovative retrofit solutions for a project that will have lasting and scalable building opportunities. The students place a challenge at the feet of these stakeholders and invite them onboard this transformative task.

For more info, contact Anne Marie Larsen: annemarie@studenthouse.dk


Kristjan Jespersen is Doctoral Fellow at the Dept. of Intercultural Communication and Management at CBS and Anne Marie Engtoft Larsen is Co-Founder of the CBS Student and Innovation House.

Pic by Petra Kleis.

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