Climate protection is a national goal, and this also applies to the new federal government, whatever it is. But the question of whether Germany will become truly climate neutral by 2045 will not be decided by the constant repetition of strong announcements, but also by the reality of planning and construction in our country. The building sector is responsible for around 40% of CO₂ emissions. Architecture and town planning are based on a pool of knowledge from innovative players in sustainable construction, researchers and courageous builders. But there is a lack of political will and an operationally achievable roadmap that names costs and burden sharing.
In the building industry, however, it’s not just climate-friendly construction that needs to become the norm. In addition, the consequences of demographic change, the crisis in social security systems and the various transformations in economic life must be addressed – at the same time. There are also four interjections.
First: if people cannot be sure that they will be able to afford an apartment with their income even in times of economic prosperity, affordable housing becomes an existential social issue and fundamentally erodes trust in our social order. We all know that it is not the few who are affected, but rather the community in our society. With the proportion of very old people requiring care in the total population, the demand for social assistance, reception structures and new forms of life adapted to the most varied lifestyles is increasing. Housing policy must shape demographic change in a human way.
Individual lighthouse projects are not enough
There are countless examples of types of housing which translate neighborhood solidarity into the future and contribute to the financing of public services of general interest. But individual lighthouse projects are not enough. Climate-friendly and socially resilient construction must become an obligation. After all, an affordable and well-organized life is an essential prerequisite for an affordable social infrastructure. This involves new forms: neighborhood meetings, in which low-threshold local offers, coworking spaces and neighborhood life come together. Because social security will depend in the future on informal solidarity systems.
In order to coordinate these demands and activate the participation of residents, functional neighborhood management and the overcoming of bureaucratic space programs are necessary. Instead of guidelines for kindergartens, guidelines on school building grants, regulations on building houses, space programs need to be made more flexible, creating synergies that can be used to across generations, have an integrating effect in the neighborhood and can be adapted to the needs of a changing society.
Second: The attempt to reinterpret the “equivalence of living conditions” shows how short the political leaps are. Indeed, the urban-rural antagonism in land use planning has been overcome. Today, these are economically strong and weaker regions, central, well-developed and peripheral areas. The country cannot be considered exclusively urban, because many things that are taken for granted in cities cannot easily be transferred to larger forms of housing: mobility is more difficult, public infrastructure and the cultural offerings are thinner, and the differences in broadband and mobile communications are legendary. At the same time, the landscape settlement models do a lot of things that don’t work in the city.
Moreover, density and a classical understanding of centrality are not necessarily factors of economic success. Success can also be at home in the country, as many hidden champions show. Politicians need to understand that this is more than struggles to distribute funds. It is about the connection between different cultural areas, landscapes, identities with a compatible development.
We need a fundamental revision of town planning law
Third: the future of city centers. The importance of the dense European city became more aware with and after Corona. The vision of the mixed-use city only appears if one lives in the city center and city centers, if the coexistence of trade and commerce is permitted under construction law. This is only possible in exceptional cases in so-called central areas. Planning regulations have been changed for decades. However, not all of the changes to the building code and the building use ordinance provide an answer to building in an existing structure characterized by post-war and post-war development plans. friendly city era.
But if the survival of owner-managed retail and the accessibility of land and rents in cities are important to us, then we need a fundamental overhaul of planning law. So far, this has forced building law authorities to block reasonable urban development and, if necessary, allow sustainable urban planning in exceptional cases.
Fourth: Climate protection in the building sector must finally be addressed in the dimension as defined by international contractual agreements. Concepts are needed for the operational translation of climate protection objectives into the reality of construction and renovation. Across Germany we need a billion square meters of photovoltaics, which will change the look of our cities and landscapes. The energy demand of buildings must be massively reduced because it cannot be satisfied indefinitely by renewable sources. By 2045, that is to say within 24 years, thirty million existing buildings will have to be energetically renovated and operated in a climate neutral manner. But the renovation rate is currently only 0.7%.
After all: the general consensus on climate protection is broad. And Germany is strong in innovations in construction technologies, in the development of new constellations of materials. Climate protection technologies are a promising market for German products. The design possibilities that can open up when we are ready to think fundamentally about the fundamental questions of planning and construction are breathtaking. An alliance of the Federal Chamber of Architects, the German Society for Sustainable Construction and German Environmental Aid has therefore formulated a specific work order for the next federal government: by 2025, Germany has need one million climate-neutral renovated buildings per year, one million renovation schedules for non-renovated buildings, 100 percent transparency on the energy efficiency State of all buildings in Germany.
Open detailed view
Markus Müller is president of the Baden-Württemberg Chamber of Architects.
(Photo: Felix Kästle / oh)