In a previous article on PGi, we applauded the unprecedented cleantech efforts underway in Germany, led by the government’s decision to phase out the country’s nuclear reactors by 2022 and convert their power grid to renewable energy sources by mid-century. Germany’s eco-consciousness extends also to the principles of sustainability being incorporated into their product designs and urban development. In this follow-up article, we review the country’s efforts to include the cornerstones of sustainability—functionality, economic responsibility, consideration of future-generation needs, and conservation of finite natural resources—into current architectural concepts. Germany presently leads the world in sustainable structural design; a few choice examples are presented below.
HafenCity, established in 2008 as a district within Hamburg, Germany’s city second-largest city, is a blueprint for sustainability. Located on the Elbe waterfront, the nearly 400-acre district—once home to Hamburg’s crumbling port warehouses—is now being repurposed for offices, hotels, shops, official buildings, and residential areas. Within the next 25 years, private developers will invest close to $10 billion to revitalize the area, providing housing for 13,000 people and office space for an additional 45,000.
Although a relatively new development, Hafencity already shows signs of its potential as an urban and commercial center serving not only the local community but future inhabitants and retailers. Its central promenade provides breezy access to the many shops and complexes—including schools, the new Hamburg philharmonic complex, and multiple art venues. Once an isolated and decrepit port facility, HafenCity is being refashioned as a model for stylish, efficient, and forward-thinking sustainability development that will serve contemporary and future German generations for years to come—and will hopefully inspire similar designs in other countries.
In Part 1 of this article I commended the creative force behind Duetshe See’s sustainable fish packing crate design. A relatively small but innovative company, feldmann+schultchen discovered a modest, age-worn urban space along the southern coastline that had once housed a custom house. They renovated and repurposed the building according to their company’s mission statement: “We discover and develop the ability of business, brands and products to build an emotional and functional relationship with people and their environment.”
The company’s new offices at once became a retreat, a space that employees coveted, and a venue where clients and creative teams could interact without the typical distractions of typical office settings. The work space is both inviting and demure, encouraging clients and visitors a respite from the predictably stark and formal corporate settings—and a welcome escape from Hamburg’s bustling business district. Chris Turner aptly refers to the gentrified space as “transcendent.”
feldmann+schultchen headquarters is located in Hamburg-Winterhude, actually a district of Hamburg far from the river Elbe and the HafenCity. In 2005, feldmann+schultchen repurposed a former lemonade brewery and represents Germany’s avant garde of sustainability and eco-friendliness, a company that reveres the simple lines and long-range usability of its own building space. The design firm’s efforts in leading Germany toward a sustainability renaissance are both artful and practical, making them one of the world’s exemplars of contemporary innovation and future-generation benefits. Employees, clients, and visitors to feldmann+schultchen’s Hamburg agency can even arrive to the company’s office by tugboat, thereby reducing the carbon footprints of cars traveling to Hamburg’s southern district. And the feldmann+schultchen pontoon on the river Elbe is an additional “think tank” and inspiration room where employees and clients conduct meetings, share in discussions, or simply retreat to think in a separate, calm environment floating on the waves.
The jewel in Germany’s sustainably crown, ECO CITY is a monumental tribute to environmental responsibility currently under construction along the Hamburg-Harburg harbor. The development incorporates environmentally-friendly materials, passive design techniques, and efficient facades, all of which will reduce the city’s energy consumption by 30%. Designed by the international firm Tec Architecture and the global engineering company ARUP, ECO CITY features wind turbines mounted atop high-rise towers that will provide 10% of the city’s power as well as solar water heating to offset the use of natural gas. Because ECO CITY’s design reflects Tec Architecture’s overarching philosophy of social and economic sustainability, most roofs will be covered in living plants that will not only reduce water runoff but will significantly reduce the extreme temperature fluctuations characteristic of metropolitan areas. In addition to roof gardens, more than half the site will be covered with vertical gardens, further minimizing the development’s carbon footprint and maximizing leisure space.
According to Tec Principal’s founding partner, Sebastian Knorr, “ECO CITY represents a synergistic approach to urban development. By working in close cooperation with all the stakeholders and taking into consideration the immediate environmental context of the project, we’ve created a different type of sustainable, creative-industrial complex.”
This amazing city, due to be completed in 2020, has the potential of being the planet’s greenest development and will boast the finest integrated technology, a sustainable urban development that offers a rich mix of classic industry architecture, meticulously restored harbor buildings, and modern architecture.
Germany has established itself as an exemplar of green-consciousness and sustainable practices. The world would do well to adopt their innovative practices and their respect for our planet’s finite resources. Thanks to German insight, the technology already exists for global sustainability, conservation, and eco-friendly practices.
Our headquarter is in Hamburg-Winterhude, which is a district of Hamburg far from the river Elbe and the HafenCity. Since 2005 we have worked here in a building of a former lemonade brewery.