Welcome to the 21st century city

HafenCity is setting leading-edge standards for the future through sustainable urban development

As a closely-knit district, HafenCity encourages people to travel sustainably (© ELBE&FLUT / Thomas Hampel) Start slideshow

According to United Nations estimates, three quarters of the world’s population will be living in cities in 2050. In Germany today the figure is already over 70 percent. Urbanization will become the crucial challenge for sustainable growth and transformation world wide. At the same time, urban areas are one of the main emitters of greenhouse gases and also responsible for about 70 per cent of current global energy consumption. Thus cities play a key role in climate change. As the leading global consumers of resources, they could make a special impact through control measures and new urban structures.

Against this background, HafenCity defines a city typology which is meeting the challenges of the future in its own specific way. Because of its large size, the organization of all uses – living, working, leisure activities, plus transport and individual behaviors and consumption – makes a definite impact on Hamburg’s ecological balance. HafenCity also assumes an exemplary function as a role model for a newly built city; it does so in different ways and in different areas by establishing a variety of prerequisites for sustainable city construction, as well as resilient, multi-dimensional urban development. It thus enables sustainable lifestyles, offers opportunities for social integration, and so makes social cohesion possible where cities are often vulnerable to the danger of increasing polarization.

HafenCity is therefore banking on pioneering standards to pave the way for sustainable city transformation. One objective, for example, is the effective combination of a compact, mixed and densely built city environment with high-quality public space, a forward-looking mobility concept, highly efficient energy for heating supply, together with the “green” quality of the buildings.

The development of HafenCity in itself is already an important criterion for sustainability in urban development since, instead of expanding Hamburg into land on its periphery, disused inner-city areas of the port are being regenerated. In addition to recycling of land, HafenCity is densifying the inner city which also embraces many other primarily ecological, as well as economic and social aspects of sustainability. 

Hamburg is growing: where and how is the city growing? 

Economic growth and an increasing population demand efficient management of ground surface as a resource. The development of Hafen-City has enormously enhanced and regenerated old port areas, so-called brownfield sites, to the benefit of integrated space utilization and land use in the inner city, using resources sensibly and productively for the long term. In contrast to the city of the 1960s, 70s, or 80s, in which functions were separated, HafenCity embodies a concept which creates social, economic and ecological synergies out of proximity and neighborhood: a fine-grained, vertical and horizontal mix of commercial and non-commercial uses creates the conditions for economic and social diversity and innovation. Public places encourage social, cultural and political intercourse between residents, the locally employed and visitors. At the same time, HafenCity offers the City of Hamburg the chance to create housing and jobs using space economically with relatively high density in the heart of the city.

In terms of figures, each hectare of real estate in HafenCity accommodates around 354 jobs and 110 residents. This social density does not break with the image of the European horizontally organized city in HafenCity, but it nears the limits of expectation – after all, Hamburg is not Manhattan. In structural terms the density amounts to a floor space ratio, according to neighborhood, of 3.7 to 6.1. Although the degree of density is sometimes felt to be high for residences, it is acceptable or even desirable on the grounds of the central, urban situation of the quarters, the proximity to water, as well as the possibilities for encounter HafenCity offers. Also, water in the shape of “blue open space” creates air and light.

Despite intensive construction, public open space accounts for 25 percent of the land area. In comparison: between the Speicherstadt and Binnenalster in the existing city the figure is just five percent. Added to this is the fact that another 13 percent of HafenCity consists of private open spaces which are publicly accessible. Because of the frequent linear structure of open spaces by the water here, this includes nearly all locations. In comparison to the city center with 42 percent, the space wholly devoted to road traffic is reduced to 24 percent. This illustrates that not only has a mix of uses  been achieved in HafenCity, with a blend of compact living and working and generous public spaces, but that land use is also efficient. By perpetuating this pattern, a marked transformation of the core inner city townscape will be achieved – and not by the new buildings alone.

Landfill instead of dikes: flood protection in HafenCity

Since HafenCity is located in the River Elbe flood zone, a new flood protection concept creates the conditions for urban density, intensive use and the genesis of residential space. It also influences the appearance of the unusual topography of the new city district. The principle is that all buildings are built on artificially structured plinths that are gradually compacted to a height of 8–9 m above sea-level, out of reach of even extreme high water. These “Warfts” interconnect with the new street infrastructure. Streets and bridges are also sited at flood-protected levels, at least 7.8–8.5 m above sea-level, so that even during a storm surge, traffic within HafenCity, as well as between it and the inner city, can flow uninterrupted, bypassing the lower lying Speicherstadt.

As the promenades by the water remain at the previous lower level of the port, residents, local employees and visitors can enjoy the closeness of the water and the views it opens up. Basements in “Warfts” also function as car-parking space, which relieves the streets of a large amount of stationary traffic and keeps parking lots out of the cityscape. This creates cost-efficient, multifunctional infrastructure. At the same time the lower promenades present an overflow surface for flood water, allowing it to disperse harmlessly – an effective way of reducing the flood peak by extreme high water.

The open building coverage of HafenCity and the vicinity of large expanses of water have a positive effect on the microclimate. This results in a reduction of the summer heat island effect, which in turn means less need for air-conditioning in the city and increased comfort for living and working. Nevertheless, because of the closeness of the waterside location to port facilities, requirements for noise protection are particularly high – as eastern HafenCity needs protection from traffic noise. The arrangement of the buildings, the orientation of reception rooms and special window reveals help to reduce the effects of noise. The Hamburg port planning ordinance also sets limits for emissions from the port, which is still in operation to the south of the Elbe.

Sustainable mobility: not only attractive to pedestrians and cyclists

Western and central HafenCity already feature many sustainable measures that make it a “walkable and bikeable city” with short, attractive routes. The mix of uses means that a variety of urban uses – living, working, learning, cultural, leisure and shopping – are clustered closely together. Underpinned by the high quality of design and functions (e.g. street level public amenities), connecting routes are perceived as shorter and topographically attractive, at the same time stimulating people to more active mobility. The six StadtRad bike rental stands  so far (provision to be extended) are an additional encouragement, along with a great public transport system with the U4 subway, the rapid transit connection at Elbbrücken, several ferry stops, and a bus transport system running on hydrogen power. Since February 2012 buses and other vehicles have been able to fill up at the hydrogen gas stations opposite the Spiegel publishing house. And, with its various public charging stations (including Hamburg’s first rapid charging point), HafenCity is a partner in the electric transport model region Elektromobilität Hamburg. Since May 2015, an LNG hybrid barge has ensured that even cruise ships can run on low-pollution liquefied natural gas while moored at the cruise terminal.

Excellent public transport, fine-grained use mixes, high density, good facilities for pedestrians and cyclists, bicycle rental stations: in addition to the typical features of smart mobility, HafenCity has even more to offer on the topic of forward-looking mobility. Europe’s largest neighborhood-based, car-sharing/electric vehicle (EV) mobility innovation is taking shape in the eastern quarters. The aim is not only to cut private car use drastically, but that the mobility facilities in each individual building, as well as for the entire quarter, should be attractively and ecologically designed. Against this backdrop, only 40 parking slots will be available in the area per 100 apartments. One third of them will also be part of a car-sharing system that is planned to consist entirely of electric vehicles (EVs) by 2025. A privately owned car will then become superfluous for many households and locally working people. At the same time, building costs will be lower, since normally a whole story of parking space will be unnecessary. The public sphere will be enhanced by the reduction in parking slots and CO2 emissions. The Hamburg building regulation (HBauO) which limits provision of parking space will also apply especially to the Elbbrücken neighborhood, while electric mobility requirements there (i.e. the provision of charging points) also apply for commercial uses. Due to cost savings on car parking, tenders and the selection of a mobility provider can take place in 2017.

Low-pollution heating power

The sustainability of HafenCity’s heating supply is well established. All buildings in western HafenCity are connected to the cogeneration-based Hamburg Vattenfall district heating network, which is supplemented in Hafen-City by solar thermal power (1,800 sqm of solar thermal systems are installed on rooftops in western neighborhoods, providing 40 percent of hot water requirements there), as well as other CO2-reducing generating plants (such as the steam turbine in the HafenCity heating plant), which together have since 2002 provided an efficient mix of energy with CO2 emissions averaging 240 g/kWh. 

Thanks to its decentral, modular local heating supply network, eastern HafenCity have been able to boast CO2 emission rates of only 89g/kWh since 2009. The decentralized structure of this supply system, which is operated by Enercity, a subsidiary of the Hanover public utility, is designed to grow in tandem with the city district. The first building block in the network is the temporary power plant in Oberhafen. HafenCity’s heating concept features substantial use of renewable energy: 92 percent of all power used is produced regeneratively – except at peak times. The primary energy factor is 0.11.

In future waste process heat from the Aurubis copper refinery will supply eastern HafenCity with heat. The advantage: waste heat causes almost no CO2 pollution and exudes no nitrogen oxide. This obviates the need for HafenCity to have a heating plant of its own. 

A signal to the environment

Since 2007, HafenCity Hamburg GmbH has been awarding the HafenCity Ecolabel, the first certification system in Germany for sustainable construction. Certification has been made a condition for the award of planning options on building plots since 2010. So far 36 buildings in HafenCity have been certified or pre-certified with the Ecolabel. In 2017 the Ecolabel was thoroughly reworked. In future, to bring it into line with the DGNB (German sustainable building council) standard, the “silver” Ecolabel will be known as “gold”, while “gold” will be replaced by “platinum” certification. At the same time, the categories were also partially rearranged, amendments worked in, and the whole system updated to correspond with current statutory requirements and altered standardization, while new standards were also set.

New electric mobility specifications have also been included, for example. But insulation regulations will not be further tightened because of the rather poor overall results. Instead, more (solar) energy entrapment will be integrated, as well as additional building lifecycle approaches. The first concepts for a so-called “cradle to cradle” approach were put into operation – this is standard at the DGNB, of which HafenCity is a founding member. At the same time, energy monitoring was extended to all building types.

Award of an Ecolabel assumes that at least three out of five categories in platinum are fulfilled and the rest in gold. Despite the general binding character, this does allow developers to set accents of their own. Category 1 “Sustainable management of energy resources” is unaffected and remains a mandatory category. The requirements of the uses home, office, hotel, commerce/trade, meeting venues and educational institutions will also be more clearly differentiated.

Osaka 9 – sustainability pavilion

An overview of the entire HafenCity sustainability concept can be seen in the HafenCity Osaka 9 sustainability pavilion on the embankment promenade on Magdeburger Hafen harbor basin. Core topics in the exhibition are sustainable ground use and mixed use city structure, resource-efficient mobility concepts, as well as ecological power supply and “green” buildings. The Info Pavilion is also the starting point for tours and is a popular location for events right by the water.