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Städtetag NRW

Climate warning

Germany: Urban researchers: "We still give the cars far too much space"

Too much concrete, hardly any shade, no open spaces: many cities become real hotspots on hot summer days. How can these heat islands be cooled? That's what an expert on heat protection advises. The consequences of climate change are already clearly measurable today. Heat waves are becoming more frequent and hit densely built-up cities in particular, of which there are particularly many in NRW. What went wrong in urban planning and how can municipalities take countermeasures in the future? Questions to Jens Hasse from the German Institute for Urban Studies in Berlin. The engineer advises municipalities on heat protection. WDR: Are today's urban heat traps the construction mistakes of the past? Jens Hasse: You have to differentiate: There are neighborhoods that are simply prone to overheating, for example those with residential buildings from the 1960s and 1970s that are simply not heat-resistant because they have thinner walls and poorer windows, for example. But there are also real planning errors: broad streets, highly compacted and sealed because planning and construction was car-centric everywhere, parking spaces – at ground level instead of stacked, asphalted or paved. In particular, these sealed traffic areas are prone to heating up. WDR: Does every era actually have its construction errors – for example trends such as glass facades, which today turn out to be real heat drivers? Hasse: In the 50s, 60s and 70s things had to be built quickly and the standards weren't that high. In the 1980s and 1990s, large windows and south-facing glass facades were popular in order to let light and solar heat into buildings. The large entrance halls behind it heat up a lot because they don't have any shade, at most ventilation flaps through which the extremely heated air can be let out. Large glass facades are becoming fewer again. Today there is glass that can reflect the sun's long-wave thermal radiation. About 50 percent of this is thrown back, for example – with the disadvantage that it heats up most of the public space in front of the building. This type of glass facade was chosen, for example, for the renovation of the main station in Münster. This has only limited negative effects on the public space there, because the station forecourt in front of it is quite well ventilated. Today, however, building owners and urban planners have to pay much more attention to the climatic relationships between buildings and their surroundings in order to avoid overheating. WDR: When did we turn in the wrong direction in terms of air conditioning during construction? Hasse: The preoccupation with urban climate issues has existed in Germany for a very long time - ultimately even since the times of the great construction boom of industrialization. Our big cities grew extremely rapidly between 1870 and 1900, and even then ventilation as a health precaution was already being considered. For example, with the green fingers in Cologne or also in the Ruhr area – i.e. free spaces through which fresh air can flow into the cities at night. The knowledge about climate- and future-oriented building is there, but even today local politicians, builders and project developers often still lack the conviction and pressure from the public and the legislator to systematically operate climate protection. In addition, living space is scarce and prices are high. And so there is a lot of money to be made when you build new residential areas or shopping centers instead of green, shady and therefore attractive inner cities. Inner green belt in Cologne Neustadt-Süd WDR: Are the wrong people in Germany deciding how to build? Hasse: No, you can't say that. The point is that priorities have to be set differently today. We have to create affordable living space and regularly refurbish the old stock, but we also say that it has to be environmentally friendly, climate-friendly and healthy. Municipalities also have a role to play here. If a municipality does not say what it wants, what goals it is pursuing in its urban development, it will never get that from investors either. A good example of how this can work is the "Green Center" in Essen. There they first had the green areas and water areas built so that you could see how it should look, and suddenly investors were queuing up. They all wanted to place their housing projects in the beautiful setting. Green Center Essen residential area Water attracted investors: residential areas

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