Urban redevelopment and expansion of the city centre

Location: Hamburg, Germany

Population: 5,107,429 [metropolitan area]

Climate: Oceanic

Duration: 1997-2011

Sector: Cross-cutting

Funding sources: Public-private

City Networks: Covenant of Mayors, ICLEI

Savings: Energy consumption reduced by 20%.

Solutions: Installation of 100 stand-alone home energy systems.

Multiple benefits: Creation of jobs and residential buildings.

HafenCity is a major urban redevelopment project in Hamburg and it will enlarge existing city centre by 40%. Sustainability innovation is a major factor in this development of the area. New approaches to heat supply, a tailor-made certification system for buildings, sustainable mobility concepts, flood protection and the development of a sustainable urban infrastructure are the examples of the sustainability innovations in the district.

Objective – To redevelop an existing contaminated brownfield site into a fully functioning and sustainable district.

Solutions – Certification system for buildings was developed. The eco-construction certification measures include: building insulation, air conditioning/heating/insulation, energy management and automation. The project focused on establishing a heat supply in the residential buildings: mix of district heating and de-centralised heating plants (cogeneration units, fuel cells, solar panels, waste-to-energy plants), smart grids. Regarding the transport sector – new roads, bridges and metro station were built resulting into a very dense network of routes for pedestrians and cyclists (2.5 times more kilometres of pathways for pedestrians than motorized transport). The district was developed as mixture of different building types (office and public, recreational and residential buildings) in the area, hence it is easy to commute and the distances between different facilities are short.

Funding – A total budget of € 10.9 Bln (USD 131 Bln*). € 8.5 Bln (USD 10.2 Bln*) from private investments and € 2.4 Bln (USD 2.9 Bln*) from public investments.

Innovation – HafenCity is one of the largest urban regeneration development projects [source] with the largest waste water recycling system in the world (waste-to-energy) [source]. Decisions are made not only by the institutional investors – the residents and local firms are also allowed to have a voice in a development process. Balance between housing, commercial, public spaces and office areas make it a short-distance district, meaning that everything is close at hand in HafenCity. Special attention was given to public spaces in HafenCity. In comparison with the hundred year ago built inner city of Hamburg, HafenCity has 21% more of them [source].

Success factors – According to the CEO of HafenCity Hamburg, such complex urban development project was a success because of more than 20 different academic backgrounds of the team members in the HafenCity project, who share the same vision of this project development [source].  A local network was established and the residents of the district are also involved in the development process, where they can discuss critical questions with the experts, developers or politicians. Engaging stakeholders can help in many ways, e.g. gathering innovative ideas, identify and prioritize infrastructural needs, ensure that development of the project is meeting community expectations, etc. The community engagement is considered to be a long-term success of Hamburg’s green agenda. The city of Hamburg has the legal authority to make developers comply with sustainability requirements, when they are buying the land in HafenCity. In fact, the competition is based not only on the price but also on quality and creativity of their proposal. This way only the most innovative and sustainable solutions are chosen.

Significant outcomes:

  • Around 45,000 jobs created;
  • 7,000 homes for 14,000 residents;
  • CO2 emissions connected to district heating networks are 27% lower than city’s average;
  • CO2 emissions with decentralized and modular local heating supply network are 43% lower than city’s average;
  • Introduction of Eco-labelling will also result in significant environmental savings;
  • The use of private cars was decreased, walking and cycling have become the main means of transport in the area.

Synergies with local policies:

Political alignment:

  • Climate Action Programme 2020 contains measures to achieve the goal of 20% GHG emission reduction by 2020 (1990 baseline). The key policy measures include: National Energy Efficiency Action Plan, Strategy on climate-friendly building and housing, measures in transport and energy sectors, etc;
  • National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency includes 3 main cross-sectoral energy efficiency measures: stepping up energy efficiency in the building sector; establishing energy efficiency as an investment and business model; increasing individual responsibility for energy efficiency;
  • Energy Concept sets goals of 20% energy savings by 2020 (2008 baseline) and 50% energy savings in buildings by 2050 (2008 baseline). The key pillars of the concept are intensification of the use of renewable energies and reduction of energy consumption by increasing energy efficiency;
  • Climate Action Plan 2050 provides guidance to all areas of action in the process to achieve domestic climate targets in line with the Paris Agreement. The ultimate goal is to reach extensive greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050.


  • Building owners can use the eco-certificates as a marketing tool for their sustainable buildings;
  • More than 500 companies have moved into HafenCity [source];
  • HafenCity is regarded as a showcase for major international urban development projects [source];
  • Some of the solutions (development of sustainable mobility, electric mobility and car sharing solutions) have a potential to be scaled to the rest of Hamburg.

*The conversion rate used is USD 1 = € 0.83

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