HafenCity: A Model of Sustainability

Scene of construction at HafenCity, Hamburg, one of the largest inner-city development projects in the world

HafenCity, Hamburg- The waterfront in Germany’s second-largest city is a sea of construction, filled with concrete grids, huge cranes and trucks. Glazed office towers and massive shells of buildings mark the skyline of HafenCity, Hamburg, Europe’s largest development programme.

The ambitious project, which will be completed by 2025, will add 12,000 new apartments to Hamburg’s city-centre as well as vast quantities of new office space along with shops, culture facilities, a new science center and a shiny new university campus.

HafenCity’s Sussane Buhler believes the project is a model example of ecologically sustainable city development. “HafenCity is a redevelopment area with a finely tuned mix of uses, a high building density and good transport links. The sustainability is social, cultural, economic, but most importantly, it is ecological and environmentally friendly”, she says.

The HafenCity “Brownfield” Development

The new inner city district of HafenCity is being built on the site of Hamburg’s old habour and the area of the city once dedicated to port use and heavy industry. This approach, labelled the brownfield development, focuses on reusing former industrial sites and developing a sustainable city structure that makes responsible yet intensive use of the land.

“Regeneration of this old industrial wasteland means that we are avoiding the use of new undeveloped land but still expanding the area of the inner city by 40 per cent in the process”, says Buhler.

This has also meant improving the ecological value of the old industrial sites. In contaminated areas, such as the site of the old gasworks, surface soil has been replaced by many open spaces providing leisure and recreational opportunities. Twenty-two hectares of squares, promenades and parks will reduce the extent of land surface sealing, despite the density of the built-up areas of the city.

Furthermore, HafenCity will not have a single above-ground car park. There will only be  underground parking underneath buildings, that Buhler says, will make “the most sustainable use of the ground as a resource”.

Osakaallee Street: the first street opened in HafenCity in August, 2007

Urban Layout and Transport System

The location of HafenCity, in the centre of Hamburg, makes it accessible to locals, workers and visitors without the need for a car. Nevertheless, the proportion of private cars to total traffic should be reduced significantly with the introduction of the “2025 Traffic Model”: the high density of construction, the high quality of the footpaths and cycle ways, and the increased efficiency of the public transport system.

A new underground railway to the area is being completed, which will give HafenCity and its estimated 40,000 daily commuters access to the local public transport network. The surface land space used will be less than originally thought, thanks to the decision to create an underground railway line. This will work to improve the air pollution in HafenCity as well as reducing the amount of noise pollution.

HafenCity’s transport links are complemented by the city’s dense collection of shops, restaurants, bars and apartments, which mean that locals only need to cover short distances for their needs, thanks in part to the tightly woven network of pathways.

Managing Director of HafenCity, Giselher Schultz-Berndt, says travel by foot and bicycle is being encouraged with a comprehensive network of cycle ways and footpaths criss-crossing throughout HafenCity.

“HafenCity has 80 per cent more sidewalks and walkways, compared to the rest of Hamburg, and overall longer pedestrian routes than roads. It is hoped that these energy-efficient routes will lead to households getting rid of their second car”, he says.

Marco Polo Terrace. The site of numerous cafes, restaurants and apartment buildings

Sustainable Sources of Energy

Sustainability is also the defining idea behind HafenCity’s energy policy. Buildings in the city are linked to a district heating system, which adding to the heat produced by fuel cell technology and solar thermal power, provides an efficient source of energy.

The maximum CO2 level for the heat supply of HafenCity is in line with internationally agreed climate control targets and will be reviewed annually by industry experts.

“The ultimate goal is to achieve a level of 175 kg/MWh”, says Schultz-Berndt. “It means the local supply of heating will reduce CO2 emissions by 27 per cent”.

As part of the centralised heat supply in HafenCity, a high temperature fuel cell unit has been built as a pilot plant, providing around 200 households with heating and electricity.

Schulz-Berndt adds that these new technologies have not only lowered CO2 emissions but they have also increased energy efficiency. “In the future it will be mandatory for at least 30 per cent of the residential hot water supply to come from renewable sources”, he says. “ There will be solar panels that will be built on the roofs of residential buildings”.

The sustainable energy policy of HafenCity will make a significant contribution to meeting climate protection targets in Hamburg in the short and long term, says Schulz-Berndt. “The fact that Hamburg was selected as the “European Green Capital 2011” can also be attributed to the systematic sustainable development in HafenCity”, he says.

Bergedorf Bille apartment complex. Residential buildings in HafenCity are equipped with solar panels

Room for improvement

Despite its achievements so far, the sustainable potential of HafenCity has yet to be fulfilled, says climate expert, Dr. Gerhard Berz.

“HafenCity has made significant inroads in building a city defined by sustainability and the responsible use of resources. But greater efforts still need to be made to consolidate the achievements made”, he says.

“Further reductions in the city’s CO2 emissions can be made with wider use of renewal energy sources. While environmental sustainability needs to be encouraged further in the planning and construction of future buildings”.

HafenCity- Facts and Figures

  • HafenCity covers an area of 157 hectares, making it one of the most prominent inner-city development projects in the world. The project is considered a  model project of international waterfront development
  • Based on a new concept for urban living, it will increase the size of Hamburg’s city center by 40 per cent
  • 5,500 homes and more than 40,000 jobs to be created
  • A new city with a cosmopolitan mix of residential units, service businesses, culture, leisure, tourism and commerce is being created
  • Currently 35 projects are completed; 32 under construction or planned
  • Investment volume: private investment approx. € 5.5 billion; public investment: € 1.3 to 1.5 billion, of which approx. € 800 million from the sale of land in the HafenCity

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