From basements to urbanity: easy-to-understand explanations of the most important technical terms

Glossary A- E

Basement floor

All buildings in HafenCity are elevated on flood-secure plinths. The basements of buildings along quay promenades often also offer space for bars or restaurants. Most basements contain underground parking garages.

Building cooperative

Building cooperatives make affordable accommodation available to their members, who enjoy more extensive rights than ordinary tenants (e.g. in terms of security of tenure). Membership of a cooperative housing corporation is through financial participation and is usually open to anybody. Seven cooperative housing corporations are already active in HafenCity.

Carbon dioxide emissions

CO2 or carbon dioxide emissions are a byproduct of combustion processes, e.g. in automobile engines or some power stations generating power and heat. It is the most significant greenhouse gas and, as increasing amounts enter the atmosphere, a major contributor to global warming.

Combined heat and power unit

A combined heat and power unit (CPU) generates energy and makes use of the thermal energy thus produced by feeding it into a local district heating system, for example. Compared with other types of power station it can achieve especially high levels of efficiency.

Community center

A public place in which social activities and initiatives are concentrated. In the USA, school buildings have been filling this role since the early 20th century. The HafenCity primary school Katharinenschule also makes available facilities such as its gym to clubs from the surrounding district.


Forced movement of people to another place, e.g. a camp. The victims of deportation - in most cases ordered by the state - are usually members of minorities or political dissidents.


Environmentally compatible


Business oriented

Ecumenical forum

The “Brücke” (bridge in German) is a unique project for Germany, bringing together Christians from 18 different confessions to realize an ecumenical forum in HafenCity. At the beginning of 2011, the ecumenical forum plans to open its doors in Elbtorquartier quarter for the first time, offering a place of silent retreat for residents, local co-workers and visitors to HafenCity alike. The “Brücke” already erected a small, temporary chapel in December 2008 in the proximity of the SAP building in order to open itself to the district.

Education program

This term is being used increasingly in connection with classical music, opera or ballet to describe the exposure, e.g. of children or teenagers, to these forms of art.


Discharge of all kinds of toxic substances, such as gases (e.g. CO2) or other irritants, as well as noise.

Empty nesters

Parents (couples) after their children have left home. Many empty nesters experience the period directly after the move as a phase of change: they feel the need to make the most of their new freedoms through, e.g., cultural, social or sporting activities.

Glossary F - H


In HafenCity many uses, such as accommodation, workplaces and leisure, are combined in a confined area, in other words fine-grained. A conscious decision has been made to avoid spatial separation of such uses.

Flood gates

Waterproof doors that are closed when there is a risk of storm surge to protect the areas behind them (e.g. underground parking garages) from flooding.

Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy exploits the difference between air temperature and water or ground temperature (up to 100 meters underground) for ventilation (cooling and heating) of buildings.

Gross floor area (GFA)

Measurement unit to describe the total floor area of all stories of a building. The exterior measurements are what count: areas that cannot be used (e.g. because walls stand on them) are therefore also part of the calculation - contrary to net floor area.

Heat pump

Heat pumps exploit the difference between air temperature and water or ground temperature (up to 100 meters under ground) for ventilation (cooling and heating) of buildings.

Glossary I - M


Today the former industrial boiler house (Kesselhaus) dating from 1886/87 that once fired the Speicherstadt functions as the HafenCity InfoCenter. Inside, a scale model eight by four meters (scale 1:500) documents all the changes in the new inner-city district.

Local district heating

A local district-heating network supplies several buildings with thermal energy, but - in contrast to long-distance district heating - just over short distances. Thermal energy is produced in small, decentralized units (such as combined heat and power units, fuel-cells, solar or geothermal plants) instead of in a central power station.

Long-distance district heating

A long-distance district heating network supplies several buildings - or even whole housing estates or parts of town, as well as towns - with thermal energy. Heat generated, e.g. in a central power station, is then routed through pipe systems to end-users.

Main Hamburg dike line

Hamburg’s main dike protects lower-lying areas against flooding. It consists of 7.2 to 9 meter high dikes which provide continuous protection running along a distance of around 100 kilometers. Although the main dike line can be breached, for example by roads, those can be closed by flood gates when there is a risk of storms.

Mean sea level

Mean sea level defines the median level of water in the North Sea. Mean sea level is also the yardstick in Hamburg for the severity of storm surges.


Meanders are the curving patterns made by a river as it winds its way to the sea. Buildings and pathways that are reminiscent of meanders are therefore described as “meandering” by architects and town planners.


Large or international city. Some definitions describe a metropolis as a city of between one and ten million inhabitants. A megacity is the term - again, depending on the definition - for a city with five, eight or ten million residents.

Metropolitan Region

A densely developed agglomeration with above-average and/or international standing. Metropolitan regions are regarded as engines of economic and social development. In addition to Hamburg itself, the Hamburg Metropolitan Region embraces 14 municipalities in Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. A total of 4.3 million people live and work in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region.

Multi-generational apartment blocks

Buildings in which people from different generations have made a conscious decision to coexist under one roof.

Multi-locality household

Households that occupy several homes for work-related reasons - and therefore have special requirements of their various bases (e.g. good transport links).

Glossary N - R

Pilot project

Pilot projects are used to test resilience and reliability - for instance of newly developed technologies.

Planning principles

Underlying guidelines that apply to planning throughout HafenCity and which therefore influence it to a large extent.

Public appeal

Many ground floor spaces in HafenCity are used for uses with public appeal. Shops, restaurants, cafés, bistros or bars that attract the general public in large numbers have moved into them.

Public rights / Public obligations

In HafenCity, private and public areas are often closely intermeshed. Thus, the public is not only allowed in many private areas at any time of day or night, even wider public use is allowed, such as political, journalistic or cultural activities, and even begging. Those public rights are especially significant in the central Überseequartier.

Rights of way

Many private areas in HafenCity entail so-called rights of way. Building proprietors are obliged to keep such private areas permanently accessible. Passers-by may use them as freely as they do all other public urban spaces.

Roadway elements

Sidewalks, cycling lanes, safety zones, landscaped strips, stopping bays and other areas on both sides of the street, for example green areas.

Glossary S - Z

Shopping mall

Indoor shopping center housing many shops.

Social milieu

Every one of us is influenced to a greater or lesser extent by the social milieus in which we move. A social milieu develops from different influences (e.g. cultural, political, religious or economic), and specific values and points of view always play a part.

Solar thermal plant

Solar thermal plants can make use of the sun’s energy to heat buildings.

Solar thermal power

Solar thermal plants use the sun’s energy to generate heat; in HafenCity this is used, for example, for heating water.


Health and wellness center, frequently found in hotels or as a stand-alone establishment.


Historic warehouse complex built largely in the late 19th century. These listed clinker brick-built buildings cover an area of 25 hectares north of the new HafenCity; together they form the new part of town. Today, the Speicherstadt also boasts museums, eateries and offices.


Sustainability is a description of awareness and care in use of resources to guarantee their availability for the long term.


Surface of an area with its natural or artificial slopes and inclines. The whole topography of HafenCity has been artificially created, in some areas over the course of centuries.


The metropolitan feel of an urban space. Urbanity basically arises from an appropriate urban structure made up of a variety of land uses in and outside buildings, as well as the presence of a large number of people of different types.