Berlin: Model project of ecological urban renewal in Berlin-Kreuzberg
Zhao Shuang   May 06.2016



Type:Projects, Policies, Concepts


Actors:Local Gov., Regional Gov., National Gov., Private, PartnershipFunding:Local Gov., Regional Gov., National Gov., PrivateTopics:Architecture and construction

Built environment
Information and participation
Urban rehabilitation
WasteObjectives:Improve access to information
Increase public awareness
Increase use of clean technology
Increase use of ecological building materials
Increase use of renewable resources
Reduce energy consumption
Waste avoidance
Waste recyclingInstruments:Demonstration and pilot project

Reason to Be Selected

Since the early 1980s ecologically compatible urbanrenewal has also been a focal issue of urban development in Berlin. In 1987 thenational Ministry of Building and the Berlin Department of Building jointedforces with the tenants and alternative building associations of the cautiousdistrict renewal movement which had actively implemented alternative projectsin renovation buildings. In the Kreuzberg area Block 103 had been selected as amodel for on experimental housing and ecological urban development. The projectis presented as a good practice case for the following reasons:interdisciplinary co-operation between users, planners, and authorities;integrated overall planning philosophy;integrated concepts for all environmental media;consideration of social and training dimension;dissemination of experience and know-how.


In the mid-1970s the threatening depopulation of theinner city and the growing resistance against wholesale redevelopment led to arethinking of town planning policies. In Berlin the new ideas were channelledinto an institutionalised forum when the International Building Exhibition(Internationale Bauaustellung IBA) and the Bauaustellung Berlin GmbH came intobeing in 1979. It should design exemplary architecture under the topic innercity as a place to live. This exhibition should not only present technicalskills but also incorporate the qualities of human living, ecological awarenessand art. The standardised development and repair routines should not be the keyprinciples of planning as careful urban renewal requires individually adaptedformulas and solutions.
Nevertheless, even the individual projects had to havesome common ground and, therefore, twelve basic principles of careful urbanrenewal in Berlin-Kreuzberg were fixed after an intensive discussion processwith the people from the area. In 1982/83 these guidelines were approved by theBuilding Minister and the district parliament. The themes were mainly concernedwith planning procedures: the participation of the local residents, the broadagreement between users and planning bodies, the speed of the renewal process,the maintenance of technical standards, the ecological dimension, publicrelations matters, the social dimension , an open decision making, the sourcesof funding. These topics especially applied to the Kreuzberg district.
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Berlin-Kreuzberg is a densely populated district offormer West Berlin. Especially the area along the Wall, the former border lineto East Berlin, had been characterised by the existence of old buildingstructure and poor housing standards. Before the fall of the Wall in 1989 theso-called SO36 (a part of the Kreuzberg district named after the old pre-warpost code) had been threatened by demolition plans in order to build newexpensive houses and a new motorway by-pass. However, in the second half of the1970s this policy provoked a growing protest in the district as the number ofpeople, looking for reasonable priced flats outnumbered the available emptyapartments. By 1980, the situation escalated into a squatter movement whichspread from the SO 36 (or Luisenstadt as it was also named in the 19th century)to the city as a whole. In that process empty tenement buildings were occupied,roofs and apartments repaired and made habitable again. Finally, the Berlingovernment was forced to stop the large-scale destruction of that part ofKreuzberg. The programme of careful urban renewal was put into practice. Theprojects should cater for the principles of constructional self-help, co-operativeself-administration, living and working in the same area as well as thereconstruction of the existing buildings at affordable costs.

The planning approach is based on an integrated system ofsmall supply networks within the block structure which comprises blocks as wellas single buildings. The scheme is intended to represent an alternative modelto the usual highly technical systems controlled from a distance. On-sitesupply, use and disposal is more suitable to stimulate the users engagement.The ecological redevelopment of a pilot project consisting of a block of oldbuildings originating from the second half of the 19th century, comprises bothextensive heat insulation measures and an experimental local area energy supplyconcept integrating gas fuel boilers with small-scale combined heat and powerstations and solar technology for part of the electricity production.

The overall co-ordination and research support onecological projects was administered by the urban renewal company S.T.E.R.N.which has the responsibility for the whole area (Block 103 and Block 104). Thesingle ecological produce was planned and implemented by STATTBAU. STATTBAUacted on behalf of local people and was found in 1983 as an alternativeadministrative body for reconstruction. The houses were refurbished at theinitiative of the former squatters and local professionals. The projectincorporated not only ecological aspects but the typical demands for self-determination and low rents as well. However, as the success and economicviability of innovative ecological measures depends to a large extent on theusers themselves, and on their environmental awareness and behaviour, theproject had been designed to take into account the wishes of the inhabitants.

In 1987 an agreement between STATTBAU and the BerlinMinistry for Building had been reached on an ecological pilot project for urbanrenewal which should be implemented within the framework of a joint federalprogramme by the national Ministry of Building and Berlin Land programme onexperimental housing and urban development.


In total projects were implemented in 13 buildings with110 apartments and 20 shops the ecological measures had been planned andimplemented according the following themes:

1. Rational energy use

In the energy sector the planning concentrated on fouraims:

Energy savings by thermal insulation;

Reduction emissions from the generation of heat and electricity;

Low heating costs;

Pilot project of combined energy generation from solar energy, combined heat and power, energy from the urban energy supplier BEWAG.

The main power plant is the gas-fired high efficiencyboiler that is linked to two generators for power and heat production with 55kW each. The Berlin power utility BEWAG feeds additional power into the mainplant at peak hours. The photovoltaic technology contains 180 mofsolar cells and generates an annual power of 14,000 kWh.

2. Water saving measures

The water saving concept is mainly directed at theidentification of as many saving potentials as possible. The water charges arecalculated for individual apartments instead of for the whole building. A metershows the consumption of cold water. Water saving equipment was installed insanitation.

In one building grey water from four houses is collected,biologically treated, irradiated with ultraviolet light and purified via avertical biological filter. The grey water from each household is used forflushing of the toilets.

3. Waste collection system

After the buildings of Block 103 were taken over by aco-operative, the residents decided to set up a waste collection system. Thesystem included separate collection for plastics, a bio-waste compost system,separate collection for special waste, and a collection site for all other waste(e.g. aluminium, old clothes etc.). The setting up of the collection system andthe first phase of use was accompanied by a research project from the TechnicalUniversity of Berlin.

4. Green areas

Half of the courtyard area (840 m2), 4,800 m2 on the walls,and 1,232 m2 of the roof have been covered with plants. 574 m2 of the roof areahave been set aside as green terraces with lawns and plants.

5. Environmentally friendly construction materials

The outer walls were insulated with environmentally friendlymaterial and protected with mineralised rendering and silicate-based paint.Ceilings adjacent to the attic are insulated with mineral wool or expanded claypebbles. Where possible, the old wooden floorboards are preserved. Boraxpreparations are used to protect the timbers.

Results and Impacts

1. Rational Energy

The evaluation study calculated that final energy use decreased by 44% and that electricity consumption had been reduced by 7.5%.

The combined heat and power plant covered 56% of the annual electricity consumption.

The solar technology covered 14 to 16% of the annual electricity consumption.

2. Water saving measures

In sanitation the average reduction of water consumption is 20%.

Due to the rainwater collection system nearly 50% less is discharged to the sewage system.

3. Waste collection system

The study on the waste collection system revealed that nearly 50% of the annual cost can be saved.

78% of the inhabitants agreed with a continuous upgrading of the waste collection system.

4. Green areas

At the 13 buildings of the ecological renewal the sealing was reduced to 41%. The sealing of the whole area of Block 103 had been reduced to 63% compared to an 85% average in the Kreuzberg district.

Actors and Structures

The urban renewal company S.T.E.R.N., Gesellschaft fürbehutsame Stadterneuerung Berlin mbH, was founded in 1986. The private limitedliability company is concerned with the programmes of careful urban renewal inBerlin. Its contract with the Berlin government is extended on an annual basis.Currently, S.T.E.R.N. is engaged in the renewal of former East Berlin districtslike Prenzlauer Berg. Its co-ordination, steering and maintenance activitiesincludes block and social planning, infrastructural planning, advice andservice for self-help projects, budget control for modernisation and renovationprojects, and management of annual rebuilding programmes.


The total funds for the Block 103 projects amounted to6,300,000 DM for investment in technical measures and planting, 2,450,000 DMfor evaluation and research support, and 575,000 DM for the optimisation ofinstallations.

Detailed figures have been published for three particularareas:

1. Rational energy use

thermal insulation 900,000 DM

heat and hot water equipment 2,850,000 DM

combined heat and power 682,000 DM

solar collectors 961,000 DM

electrical cables 251,000 DM

2. Water saving measures

Water collection system 188,000 DM

Grey water equipment 381,000 DM

3. Green areas

Courtyard greening 338,000 DM

facade greening 124,000 DM

roof greening 312,000 DM

Source of Information

S.T.E.R.N., (Hg.) 1987: Kreuzberg Kreisläufe. Block103 - ein Modell für umweltorientierte behutsame Stadterneuerung, Berlin

Gelfort, Petra / Jaedicke, Wolfgang / Winkler, Bärbel /Wollmann, Hellmut 1993: Ökolgie in den Städten. Erfahrungen aus Neubau undModernisierung, Basel

Senatsverwaltung für Bau- und Wohnungswesen, (Hg.) 1994:Der Block 103 in Berlin-Kreuzberg. Sanierungsgebiet Kottbusser Tor. Einstädtebauliches und stadtökologisches Modellvorhaben, Städtebau und ArchitekturBericht 28, Berlin

EA.UE, (ed.) 1995: Energy: Urban ecology excursions inBerlin, Berlin










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Berlin :

Berlin has a population of almost 3.5 million of whichapproximately 11% are foreign citizens. The wider conurbation has an additionalpopulation of nearly one million. The city covers 889 square kilometres; 38 kmfrom north to south and 45 km from east to west. 24 per cent of the cityssurface is water and navigable waterways are 197 km in length. In size it isalmost as large as the densely populated Ruhr area in North Rhine Westfalia.Berlin is the largest city in Germany, and one of the sixteen regional States(Bundesländer) of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The unified municipality of Berlin is a decentralisedbody divided into 23 districts (Bezirke). The districts have between 50,000 and300,000 inhabitants. They have responsibilities for local politics and their anown administration. Unlike independent municipalities, however, they do nothave financial autonomy but are allocated funds by the City Government, theSenat of Berlin. The main authority for the City as a whole is the Senat whichis divided into different administrative departments (comparable to Ministriesin other German Länder).

Although Berlin has experienced a steady decline inindustry, there are still over 200,000 people working in the manufacturingsector. Approximately 230,000 of the 1.5 million citizens in the workforce areemployed in trade and about 750,000 people have jobs in service, primarily inthe public sector.

In addition, Berlin is a centre of environmental researchas well as technology and a great number of businesses are engaged inenvironment-related activities. According to a study by the ifo Institute inMunich and the IÖW (Institute for Ecological Economic Research) in Berlin 400companies with 13,000 employees are directly involved in environmentalprotection (engineering offices, and producers and distributors ofenvironmental technology). This number has tripled within the last ten years,and half of the companies have started as new businesses since 1990.Furthermore, Berlin is a stronghold scientific research with approx. 100companies involved in measurement and analytical activities, approx. 80eco-research institutes (including universities), and 45 public administrationand authorities in charge of environmental matters.



Project was added at 27.06.96
Project was changed at 30.07.97

Extract from the database 'SURBAN - Good practice inurban development', sponsored by: European Commission, DG XI and Land ofBerlin 
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