The Coordination Wheel: a cooperative platform for sustainable buildings

Colombian context

In 2016, Colombia’s government reached a peace agreement that ended a long civil conflict. The forecast is that this will contribute to a strong economic prospect.  Socioeconomic and political challenges remain, such as high levels of poverty, unemployment, rural energy access and abuse of political power. However, the country is undeniably under an economic, social and political development that positively influences the implementation of sustainable solutions. 

The city is abundant in energy resources, the main one being hydroelectric power. The current government aims to develop a Green Growth Long-Term Policy to drive new sources of innovation, growth and job creation while simultaneously charting the way to achieve its sustainable commitments. This program will set green growth targets in a mid-term timeframe and enable these targets to be reflected in the next Development Plan for the 2018-2022 period.

Our city challenge: Medellín

Medellín is the second largest city in Colombia, located in Aburrá Valley in the central region of the Andes, approximately 1500 meters above sea-level. It homed 3,9 million people in 2019, and shows constant growth in population. 

In the recent years, its administration refocused the city’s perspectives on sustainability. Involving the Sustainable Development Goals, it introduced a Development Plan that includes a work agenda focused on people, prosperity, peace, planet and partnerships, with goals such as inclusive and violence-free society, sustainable city and communities and participation in international cooperation partnerships.

Furthermore, the city joined the C40 Cities initiative taking bold climate action and leading the way towards a more sustainable future as a collective. Medellín is also part of the Net Zero Carbon Buildings, which aims to reduce greenhouse emissions in existing buildings by 45-50% by 2030 and 100% by 2050, and ensure that all new public buildings operate at net zero-emissions by 2030. However, the city is still in the planning stage of reaching its goals developing a guide for actions, monitoring and scheduling indicators and strategies that will help Medellín to increase awareness of the carbon zero strategies as well as the compliance capacity of stakeholders in the local housing, service and commercial sectors.

Goal: public buildings net zero carbon emissions by 2030

New buildings’ lifespan is approximately 50 years. This can have an extensive impact on the environment. Therefore, new buildings must utilize emerging energy technologies to avoid years of inefficient performance. We also decided to focus on public buildings, as we believe that the administration and public sector have the opportunity and the duty to set example for others. Our field-analysis showed a rapidly decreasing poverty rate and urban development projects that ensure steady growth. Thus we believe that both the technology and the demand for energy-efficient buildings exist and the possible obstacles are not skill-based or social, but organisational. 

Main obstacles

Firstly, we identified two possible problematic areas: financing and regulations on sustainable building construction.

However, after further research, our findings indicated that Medellín has the funding. There is an existing incentive system that includes low interests for constructors, VAT reductions and tax benefits; coupled together with private banking giving green bonuses. Furthermore, regulations and laws about sustainable housing are established (for instance, legal disposition 549/2015) and the City Hall has created their own evaluating method to meet energy and water saving parameters. Although the city has established such framework, zero-emission public buildings are still not being constructed on a larger scale. Why? Further research showed that beside culture, social and economic challenges Medellín faces, inter-administrative coordination could be the main obstacle, so we moved on to investigate the organisational aspect and identified the following possible issues regarding coordination:

1.     Improvement of the legal disposition 549/2015

2.     Lack of institutional coordination

3.     Inefficient implementation

These serve as the basis of our hypothesis, which includes the three aforementioned aspects: Medellín’s sustainable building plans lack efficient implementation due to lack of institutional coordination.

Our approach

While our solution reflects on the three issues brought up in the previous section, our main focus will be issue number 2: “Lack of institutional coordination”, as it fits our education and expertise. However, the proposition provides improvements for “Inefficient implementation” as well.

Our solution

We propose to create an innovative digital platform that coordinates knowledge, information and interaction between the administration on both a national and local level, engineers and construction companies and citizens, all stakeholders of Medellín’s C40 City Challenge goal. This platform would serve as a channel for stakeholders to gather and diagnose problems, identify opportunities, find ways to achieve goals, share information and interact with each other.

The platform would aim to create a space where:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Captura-de-pantalla-2019-09-30-a-las-19.24.48.png
The coordination wheel, Medellin’s innovative platform to help institutional coordination for sustainable buildings.
  • All communication takes place. The platform will be a site where all information is gathered, allowing every party to have access to equal information.  
  • A place for two-sided interaction between all parties involved. This could happen through social interaction where e.g. citizens are asked for input or idea sourcing where companies can help with specific expertise.

The platform would have four main functions:

  1. Firstly, for the city administration, it would facilitate easier tracking of processes and progression of a project in regards to communication, interaction and evaluation. 
  2. Secondly, for external stakeholders (e.g. companies, engineers and scientists from different sectors), it would serve as an open source database for whose input could support learning and change of durable, sustainable buildings on ongoing projects.
  3. Additionally, for the construction companies, it would provide information about timelines and deadlines of processes, administrative tasks, sustainability goals and responsibilities. 
  4. Lastly, for the citizens, it would allow them to view each on-going and finished building project in their area and throughout the city.

Our solution and the triple bottom line

Our solution can have a positive contribution to the triple bottom line, which concerns three elements: people, planet and profit. 


We believe our innovative platform will facilitate the implementation process of the C40 initiative by making its coordination effective and streamlined. Furthermore, the citizens will have the opportunity to engage in and view some matters at the platform which will impact the social perception of the projects through transparency. 


The environmental aspects of this platform are not as visible as the social and economic, however, the platform will facilitate the work processes administratively, leading to increased effectiveness and decreased timeframes, which can be argued to have a positive impact on the environment, as zero-emission buildings is the ultimate target.


We expect our solution to spark an economic impact by decreasing lead times between decisions due to shared knowledge and common source of information. 

By creating this platform, Medellín would be able to improve its institutional coordination, which we identified as the main issue threatening their 2030 goal.

Who are we?

We are a group of five students currently enrolled in Consulting for Sustainability course at Copenhagen Business School (CBS). There is a variety of backgrounds within our group: exchange students, Copenhagen-based foreign students, science-oriented non-business students, a Dane and a commuting Swede among us. We received the C40 challenge as part of our examination, but find it highly intriguing to draw upon our backgrounds and personal goals to extend our assignment into a real-life solution.

Irene comes originally from Madrid in Spain, but moved to Copenhagen a year and a half ago to start her Master Programme in Sustainable Biotechnology at Aalborg University, attracted by the city’s privileged position in what the so-called sustainability topic is. During her studies she noticed that there was often a gap between life sciences and technology and business and that is why she decided to take elective courses at CBS. She feels that tackling Medellin’s case from a different perspective that is not on the technical side is challenging but exciting for her!

Wenche comes from Sweden and is studying International Management and Marketing, with special interest on the management part of it at CBS. Interested in the sustainability aspect and how to combine it into the classic strategic management implementation. She thinks that the Medellín case is a fantastic opportunity to test and improve her learnings from university in a real context.

Réka is a master student from Hungary at CBS, studying Strategy, Organisation and Leadership. Her main study focus is strategy, organisation of change and sustainable businesses. While her goal is to work for the sustainable fashion industry after graduation, she finds the C40 Medellín case a fitting test for her current subjects in sustainability consulting, circular economy and creative industries.

Afza is from Denmark and enrolled in the International Business Communication master program at CBS. She has always had a great interest in sustainability and is very much interested in incorporate her great interest with her passion for communication and marketing. Afza is looking forward to embarking on the C40 challenge, where she has the opportunity to bridge the gap between Medellín’s unmet needs and a sustainable innovative solution.

Téjas is a business development student from the Catholic University of Lyon passioned by sustainability issues. His approach to the many issues around sustainability is to find viable solutions mostly through entrepreneurial ideas.

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