Berlin's New Climate-Neutral, Car-Free Neighbourhood

Last year, after Berlin’s Tegel Airport had been replaced by a new international airport at another location, workers started clearing the land for a new project: a neighbourhood built from scratch with the climate in mind.


Rendering of the Schumacher Quartier, Berlin
Credit: Tegel Projekt GmbH

Some parts of the airport will be reused, with old terminals turned into commercial space for research and offices for startups. But more than 100 acres will be completely reimagined, with 5,000 new apartment homes built in a walkable, cycleable, carbon-neutral living environment with shops, parks and schools.


“The planning is based on questions such as: How do we want to live and get around in urban spaces in the future? What qualities are important to us as individuals and as a community? And what functionalities can’t we do without?” explains Constanze Döll, press secretary for the Tegel Projekt, which is developing the area, called the Schumacher Quartier.


“The Schumacher Quartier is planned in such a way that the streets and squares belong to the people again, rather than to cars,” Döll says. “We want to let people rediscover the public space . . . for socializing, playgrounds, places to relax and talk. Important locations in the neighbourhood, like the kindergarten, school, bakery, supermarket, can be reached easily by foot.”


The plans call for wide bike lanes and green spaces. At the edge of the neighbourhood, there will be access to micromobility and existing public transit - but the new residential area will be car-free (except for those with special needs).


Aerial view of the Schumacher Quartier, Berlin
Credit: Tegel Projekt GmbH

Another important eco-credential is that the apartment buildings will be built from wood, and when completed will be the largest group of mass timber buildings in the world. “Wood in particular enables long-term CO2 storage, and the use of wood as a building material reduces the consumption of environmentally harmful materials such as concrete,” Döll says.


The team will source timber locally in Germany, and expects to reduce CO2 emissions in construction by 80 percent. The designs will also be ultra-efficient, and all energy will be produced on the site, including solar and geothermal power. A system will also harvest waste heat from adjacent commercial buildings to heat the homes.


The neighbourhood will also include “sponge city” designs that help capture water in heavy storms to prevent flooding. Green roofs and gardens will use some of the water, and some will be stored underground.


“All rainwater is used or stored; nothing is lost,” Döll says. “If the water evaporates on hot days, it cools the surrounding area - and if instead it seeps in, it fills up the groundwater. This self-contained system makes for local climate regulation, aided by many large-leaved, deciduous trees that act like natural air-conditioning systems.”


Interestingly, the plan also includes a concept of “animal-aided design,” developed by ecologist Wolfgang Weisser and landscape architect Thomas Hauck, that incorporates biodiversity. Open spaces and buildings will be designed to support 14 rare species, including broad-winged bats and nightingale grasshoppers, with the goal of helping them permanently settle in the area and attract other species.


In a couple of months time, the project will begin allocating land, and architects will work with residents on the design details. The first buildings, which will include social housing, cooperatives, and student housing, will be completed in 2027.

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